As this year brings its own set of unique challenges to our industry, we asked meeting planners how they’re approaching their upcoming events.
This week, we interviewed Nancy Touhill, Director of Meetings and Events for the Wireless Infrastructure Association and Lyn Maddox, VP, Meetings for the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
How are you planning for your 2021 events? What format(s) are you anticipating?
NT: We are planning for several different scenarios and should know where we will land in the next few months. Scenarios include – full in person, hybrid indoor, hybrid outdoor and full virtual. Regardless of the format for our large annual conference, we will have some virtual programming in the months leading up to the event.
LM: We are anticipating holding an in-person meeting with hybrid aspects for our Annual meeting being held in November.
How do you feel your team and your audience have adapted to virtual events?
NT: There was an initial steep learning curve for both internal and external stakeholders, but I do think that all have adapted well to the new virtual world. We are all looking forward to the time when we can be back together in person but are making the best of the circumstances.
LM: I think after a year of being exposed to virtual (like it or not) most have adapted.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give someone planning an event this year?
NT: My best advice is – BE PREPARED. Last year, the rug was pulled out from under us so fast that we spent most of the time reacting to circumstances. In 2021, however, we have the opportunity to prepare and plan for various instances which is what I have spent most of my time doing recently. We all want to be back together in person, and we hope that will be possible later in the year, but we have to prepare for a variety of circumstances.
What are the most important considerations for your event planning this year?
LM: Budgeting and being able to pivot at any time during the planning of our hybrid meeting. In other words, be prepared for in-person with hybrid aspects as well as plans to go virtual.
What are the biggest challenges you and your teams face this year?
NT: The unknown is frustrating and challenging. We all would like to know where we will be by the time our annual convention rolls around in August (moved from May), but we just don’t know at this point which is challenging. My crystal ball needs a recalibration.
- Not knowing how many people will attend in-person
- As speakers begin to plan their talks when we will be able to tell them if they should prepare to record or be in-person
- Will the venue have enough space to hold our meeting taking into consideration state rules regarding how many people are allowed to gather and social distancing.
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