A Rise in Hybrid Meetings and Events
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges to the event industry. But, with crisis, often comes innovation. As automobile manufacturers have quickly changed their business model from building cars to building ventilators, the events industry is responding with different ways to use technology to connect organizations and people.
One of the impacts of the pandemic is that people everywhere have become more comfortable with virtual technology. Our children and teachers have adapted from classroom instruction to online learning. Our colleagues kept collaboration and teamwork alive using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, WebEx and a host of other applications. While the Millennial generation has grown up with FaceTime and video chat, now even my 76-year-old mother has become proficient at setting up family Zoom meetings. These new realities are propelling the use of virtual technologies forward.
You may recall after 9/11 and the Great Recession when planners, venues and technology companies expected video conferencing to become a part of the new norm and invested significant capital in that direction. We learned quickly that the industry at large was not ready to make the move to this type of virtual approach. We underestimated the importance of human connection. The ability to read body language and meet face-to-face is important. The opportunity to socialize before and after meetings is crucial. Technology can never fully replace face-to-face communication, but it can become a tool to help us through challenging times, and the answer might just be a combination of in-person meetings connected by technology.
Things are different now than in the aftermath of 9/11 or the Great Recession. Great advances have been made over the past decade in technology, hardware, connection speeds and the use of the Cloud to enable virtual events. Most importantly, meeting and event participants are now more comfortable using technology to connect virtually. COVID-19 has prepared us for a technological pivot in the meeting industry.
Humans, whether Millennials or Baby Boomers, are social people. We must meet, in-person and often to create true connections.
Hybrid meetings allow us to connect event participants while simultaneously providing piece of mind. In-person meetings will evolve to become more inclusive. While just a few months ago, a venue may have welcomed 500 people into a ballroom for a general session, the opportunity now exists to welcome 50 people into a more intimate setting in 10 rooms that can be spread out around the world. Connecting rooms or venues with virtual technology will allow this to happen. It will also allow options for participants who may be concerned about their health or have a pre-existing condition.
Additionally, as small, mid-sized and even large companies have become accustomed to employees working from home, our role in connecting people will be even more important. Square, Twitter and Nationwide are a sample of some of the organizations who plan to continue to offer remote working arrangements. This will present a new opportunity for venues to sell space so that team members of companies who have left the brick and mortar office behind can come together to meet. Working from home can be isolating and the need for team members to create face-to-face connections will increase.
This has created a tremendous opportunity for planners, venues, and technology companies to work together to meet these needs. It is our job to educate the industry about the possibilities of coupling in-person meetings with virtual technology to create hybrid events. Our role in connecting people is suddenly more important than ever. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that even though we can work virtually we crave social interaction. Our job is working together to make that happen for our clients.
What will meetings and events look like following the COVID-19 pandemic?
For everyone in our industry, that’s certainly been the question on our minds. And while it’s easy to say “I don’t know,” the meetings and events industry as a whole is too important to accept that as an answer – 10 million jobs worldwide directly depend on it.
Instead, PSAV and our family of companies, along with our venue and industry partners, are looking to help get the live event industry, event planners, and our teams back to work and begin the road to recovery. In order to do so, meeting safely will undoubtably be our top priority.
With nations and individual states slowly releasing stay-at-home orders, now is the time to envision what our return to live and hybrid meetings will look like. As risk and health are two key considerations for businesses and associations, physical distancing and enhanced cleaning procedures will remain an essential part of making people comfortable with gathering again.
But we can’t go back to “business as usual” right away. An anticipated phase one recovery for our industry likely represents smaller meeting sizes in alignment with evolving government guidelines.
How will meeting safely in the early stages of recovery look?
Working alongside our venue partners, PSAV has designed a series of meeting formats, equipment packages, and recommendations that address how to reduce risk, increase confidence, and promote well-being within the meeting space.
Our MeetSAFE guidelines address examples and options for meeting designs, room layouts, traffic flow, technology considerations and enhanced cleaning procedures, with the goal of making the meetings and events industry stronger and healthier than ever.
We know this is just the first step on the road to recovery, but we also know our industry is resilient. Together, with your support, we’re confident our industry can show great leadership throughout the comeback.
Spread the word about MeetSAFE with our new infographic (click here for full resolution).
As a company, PSAV remains steadfast on delivering incredible experiences that ‘connect and inspire’ people in all of our markets and countries throughout the world.
We want to reassure you that our first focus is, and will always be, the health and safety of our customers, venue partners, and team members. Our team is closely monitoring the situation at hand and is working with industry organizations to stay abreast of the current guidelines.
For the latest updates and industry developments, we have developed a resource page to help guide you throughout health and safety protocols.
For those who wish to speak with us about virtual alternatives to in-person meetings, our team is happy to discuss your needs.
We look forward to serving you as a continued partner along your journey.