Let’s talk about a Post-apocalypse/pandemic meeting environment. As vendors that supply services nationwide, we have been fortunate to work in many industries, and for hundreds of clients both small and large. Based on observing patron and vendor interactions for over a decade, and actively participating in meeting industry associations, we can weigh in on some key issues in the not-to-distant future.
While the economy will undoubtedly come roaring back, most agree that it will never return to “business as usual.” In the new normal, the businesses that we count on for attendance and participation in the Meeting Industry will likely have two considerations at the top of the list:
Are we ready yet?, and, Is it worth the investment right now?
Are we ready yet?
When businesses open back up for real, there will be both a backlog of work and a delay in getting new work. Cash reserves will be strained, and management will be taking a hard look at what they learned from this forced remote-workforce environment. For some, this may trigger permanent changes in how their business is staffed. For others, there will be a whole new adjustment to being back in the office.
While all of this is getting sorted out, sending employees and executives out of the office for conventions and meetings will seem like a strain on resources. So we have to make a compelling case for WHY they should attend NOW. This means that content needs to be timely and relevant.
Our guidance is to look at your speakers and tracks, and make sure you have content that addresses:
- Remote workforce technology
- Remote workforce management
- Emergency response planning
- Health issues
- Security (active shooter, disgruntled terminations, cyber security)
- How to maximize in-person time
- How to network
- How to conduct in-person meetings
- How to keep on track in meetings
- Mission Critical information that cannot survive multiple levels of delivery. Hearing the CEO deliver her/his vision in person is urgent and worthwhile, for example.
Bottom line, your meeting needs to deliver content that is more important than the inherent issues of getting back to business.
Is it worth the investment right now?
Put yourself in your attendees’ management’s shoes. What would persuade you to pay to send your employees away to attend this meeting?
Here, we actually have an opportunity. Everyone, from the top to the front line workers, have been isolated and need interaction. We have thousands of people, interacting, by default. We as an industry absolutely cannot disappoint! The traditional “learning tracks all day, happy hour and hosted vendor dinners at night” probably won’t be enough. Let’s get creative and give value at the same time.
Here are a couple of our ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Pub crawl/scavenger hunts: How about having multiple vendors hosting receptions at local venues, and patrons moving from spot to spot on a schedule? Vendors would have the total attention of multiple smaller groups, patrons would get to sample the local culture, and the experience could be enhanced with a competition of sorts.
- Facilitated networking: Facilitated networking is the business version of Speed Dating. But rather than doing it in the stark, daytime environment let’s think about doing this at an evening event. Real connections are made, even by people who aren’t skilled at networking.
- Speaking of nights times, If we turn night time entertainment events into content delivery events as well we can drastically improve the experience, participation and value. Rather than simply spending huge amounts on parties, can we deliver valuable information while people are having fun and get more ROI?
- Entertainment: Sure, we all have some sort of entertainment for the one big night party. Buy why is that all? Did you know that a guitar player, magician, human statue, or other eclectic performers in the hallways during breaks not only perk up the spirits, but facilitate conversations between the people as well? Let’s wake them up and send them back in ready for more!
- Headshot Lounge: Chances are very good that the majority of your attendees do not have a current headshot. Provide a way for them to get a fresh, professional image at your event!
- Food: Sometimes we are at the mercy of what is available at our chosen venue. But within those constraints, let’s deliberately choose food that enhances the experience. Let’s find ways to minimize time standing in lines to buy food that will put patrons to sleep. Let’s ask about lighter, fresher options that are available readily. Are beverages available at all times? How about fresh produce and low carb options?
- Physical Environment: One of the most common comments we hear from staff, vendors, and attendees is that they are exhausted from sitting all day and not getting enough sleep. Here’s a thought – Let’s work with our furniture vendors to get a variety of learning spaces. Stand-up desks, bike desks, lounge seating, and movement areas are all easy to incorporate. If you wonder what some of these spaces look like, here’s a link to a video by EdSpaces (the Educational Market Association convention for learning environments):
Our industry has to make a compelling argument to prove that getting back to attending and participating in Meetings is vital. We have to revamp the status quo of conventions, trade shows, and meetings to appeal to the new normal.
We’ve been in the business of making Conventions, Trade Shows and Meetings more engaging and successful for over a decade. Our clients count on us as a trusted member of the creative team, in addition to providing our core services of photography, videography, entertainment and security. We’d love to talk if you want help or are looking for fresh ideas!