The meetings and events industry changed entirely in mid-March when it was announced that in-person live events would not be safe due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then, despite many events being cancelled or postponed, the industry has been optimistic and has been rallying towards recovery and a brighter future for event professionals everywhere.
To give other event professionals a snapshot as to what’s in store for the future, Meetings Mean Business Canada hosted a number of panelists for a “Living Room Leadership Chat” to discuss the industry’s plans for the future.
Here are the top three takeaways we learned from the webinar.
Small regional live events should be next on your radar
According to Bettyanne Sherrer, CMP, even though large, live events are still off-limits, you should be prepared to plan and attend smaller regional events, soon. Sherrer said these events will be crucial to the rebuilding of the industry.
“The virtual audience is not going anywhere,” she said. “It is here to stay. So the next step, in the reinvention of our product offering, are small, regional hybrid events. We are seeing these being planned now. We all need to adapt to this new reality. Planners need to continue to build their skills to seamlessly reintroduce the live audience back into the mix of the virtual audience. Marrying both, blending the needs of both groups will be challenging…but we can accomplish this.”
The pandemic has pushed the industry to reinvention
Laura Pallotta, regional vice-president sales and distribution at Marriott International – Canada, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has coerced the industry to be more creative and inventive than ever before.
“In terms of reinvention, if we look back five months ago – look at how quickly the industry rallied to enhance sanitation standards and guidelines, and implement new operational training for associates,” she said.”In the hotel space and in the conference space – we have redesigned food and beverage, we reorganized meeting spaces and public spaces so we are adhering to provincial standards, and we are ramping up new technologies to help our travellers and meeting planners feel more confident.
“A world-class example is the National Hockey League (NHL) bubbles that have been in place in Toronto and Edmonton. This is a great example of all of us collaborating with subject matter experts and working together. Look at what we can do in such a short amount of time that’s world-class and if we can apply those principles to meetings and conferences, we can create mini bubbles in the future.”
Meetings and events can be the key to rebuilding local economies everywhere
Candace Schierling, director of sales for Tourism Saskatoon, said during the discussion that she believes meetings and events will be crucial to the restoration of local economies, especially small cities.
“The world of DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) is more important than ever,” she said. “It has been our job to connect people to have a unified voice for our destinations….now this includes a unified voice on safety protocols. There are [fewer] resources to plan meetings right now for event professionals.
“We have seen provinces increasing the number of people holding more meetings, a higher number of attendees, and all with renewed guidelines. The communication lines are really open. This pandemic has had people looking at our economy locally more than ever.
“We have an opportunity to show how important supporting meetings and events are for our cities. While everyone has their eye on how to rebuild the economy, we have an opportunity to show that this is a great way to prepare for recovery by being able to host events in your own destination.”