While many professions have altered business practices to meet challenges imposed by the pandemic, few have modified their usual operating procedures as much as those in the meetings industry. Despite the obstacles, planners quickly found their sea legs and continue hosting dynamic events to both in-person and virtual audiences.
Global event marketing company, GES, tracks the size of global events in key cities. Although most major locales aren't hosting large-scale events, many domestic planners are safely managing smaller ones with virtual attendees.
As the industry evolves, so do the needs of event planners. Four experts in the field in the share their experiences and advice as they navigate this new environment.
Liron David, Founder and Executive Producer Eventique
New York City, NY
Established in 2006, this live event production and creative agency prides itself on being "magic makers" for an extensive list of notable clients. Eventique seeks aesthetically-pleasing venues that cater to both in-person and virtual audiences, striving to ensure remote attendees feel present. David pursues “…venues with built-in production capabilities: basic audio, basic lighting, projection, a plasma screen on-site for teleprompter—not having to rent everything. The greater the number of production-related vendors planners are required to contract, the increase in workload, responsibility, liability, and budget.” David underscores venue collaboration. “Venues should prepare to be partners in the process,” he asserts. “Venues have to be proactive, coaching planners on how to utilize spaces effectively and safely.”
RS Event Productions offers event management and design in the heart of Texas. When assessing venues, Steinhart declares flexibility a top requirement. “I steer my clients to venues that offer flexible audio-visual options for virtual events.” Steinhart prefers venues that permit external vendors for equipment needs. She adds, “At this moment, outside vendor pricing seems to be a way of saving my clients money. Normally, there are not any service fees on top of the rentals—unlike using in-house audio-visual.” She recommends Wi-Fi be complimentary and suggests planner allow adequate time for rehearsals and set-up.
Sarah Cattel, SVP, Director of Production
Tim Wong, SVP, Director of Technical Services Jack Morton Worldwide
A marketing agency with proficiency in exhibits and trade shows, Jack Morton Worldwide has streamlined their delivery of content for virtual audiences. Wong stresses the importance of expediting a seamless event for attendees. "It’s essential to connect the virtual participant with the live event so they can have an equal experience. That experience needs to have some level of interactivity or the viewer experience is limited." Cattel asserts, "Transparent communication and clear safety protocol plans need to be in place so that planners can know what already exists, and what needs to be supplemented."
Both Cattel and Wong highlight the imperativeness of permitting enough rehearsal time for technical checks and, should issues arise during the event, having a contingency plan in your back pocket.
William Milligan Events offers clients a full-range of services in the DC-metropolitan area as well as cities across the country. Milligan echoes the sentiment of his peers regarding hybrid events. "All events, going forward, will require some type of virtual experience. It will be reflected in the budgets, set up, size of venues, and most importantly, the caliber of your audio-visual vendor and their technology." He adds, “In the past, we judged the success of an event by the quality or size of the attendance. Now, through smart invitations and promotions, you can have a 100 people in the room physically and 500 virtually."
A recent survey conducted by Business Travel News indicates that 73% of meeting planners believe hybrid events will become commonplace in the industry. Establishing communicative partnership between planners and venue facilitators are essential for the delivery of successful events.
Regardless of location or client, the consensus is clear: the industry necessitates venue flexibility, safety protocols for in-person attendees, and on-site rehearsals to ensure technical ease for virtual audiences. Incorporating these approaches sets the stage for an engaging and impactful event experience.