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 Diane Dukes, CMP, VEMM, VP of Meetings & Events for the Professional Liability Underwriting Society, and the team at Kinsley Meetings.
How are you planning for your 2021 events? What format(s) are you anticipating?
DD: All of our events in the 1st half of 2021 are going virtual. PLUS often hosts webinars and podcasts, so that is not changing, but 3 in-person Symposia have moved to a virtual format this year. We are currently under contract with the E-Attend format for all 3 events.
KM: We are currently looking at several virtual programs through the spring. Our first face to face program is possibly in June with another in July. For the most part, our clients are craving the return to face to face meetings. There are a couple of exceptions that will continue with virtual through 2021.
How do you feel your team and your clients have adapted to virtual events?
DD: Our team adapted to virtual immediately, in March 2020. We had to cancel an event scheduled for Orlando less than 2 weeks before the event. We decided to record all our educational sessions and then hosted the content complimentary for 3 months. We had more people watch the content virtually than would have been able to attend in-person, and almost all of our sponsors continued to support the new format, so that was a success.
KM: Our team is amazing. They all jumped into virtual with both feet, and have been able to provide guidance for our clients on the strategies, platforms, and support that matches our clients’ audiences and objectives in the virtual event world. We will definitely be adapting what we’ve learned about virtual, and applying to hybrid as we move forward. The technology and connectivity of digital opens so many avenues to enhance face-to-face meetings.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give someone planning an event this year?
DD: Do your homework, especially if planning on hosting an in-person event. The capacities are considerably reduced, the way in which food can be presented has changed along with increased labor, and not all states follow the same guidelines. Things are changing rapidly, so communication with the venue is even more critical. It appears most of us are planning some kind of hybrid event(s) for 3rd and 4th quarter 2021. This means budgeting and planning two completely separate events, so it will take more resources as well.
What safety measures are being implemented for onsite audiences this year?
KM: Allison Kinsley has been very involved with the Events Industry Council Business Recovery Task Force and the Meeting Design guidebook produced on questions and considerations for moving back to face to face programs with safety and health protocols in place. We are following those guidelines – and others as they come out - which are even more stringent than the CDC guidelines.
What’s your prediction for our industry in 2022 and beyond?
DD: I am not 100% confident we’ll be back to ‘normal’ in 1st quarter 2022. I am wondering if we will still be hosting hybrid events through the 1st half of 2022 as well. There is so much misinformation out there about the roll out of the vaccines, and when/if we will reach herd immunity this fall, and what impact all of this will have on our attendees’ travel budgets. Will they be allowed to travel? Will there be restrictions? There are so many unknowns, that we have to take it as it comes. It will be interesting to see if they decided to hold the Summer Olympics this year in Japan. Big events like that will lead the way for the rest of us.
KM: We feel that 2022 will be the year that meetings return to near pre-pandemic levels. With virtual/hybrid meetings being thrust upon us in 2020, we feel that omni-channel programs will become more prevalent in 2022 which will lead to larger audiences for meetings – face to face/hybrid will expand the audience of the future and include those now that were unable to attend the face to face program in the past.
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