The Future of Face-to-Face Events in 2020 (Part 2)

future of face to face

This week we continue to delve into the questions and answers surrounding the future of face-to-face events in 2020 with MTA’s Chief Experience Officer (CXO) Meredith Shottes, CMP. To read Part 1, click here.

Will it be easier to plan events in 2020 or will more expertise be needed?

I don’t think that in the history of the events industry that there has been a more important time to have an expert event team help you navigate the challenges of COVID. I think there are a variety of ways in which this manifests. The first is, of course, safety. Experienced event management teams know how to access the resources that will help you understand if the country, venue, vendor, ground transportation, or off-site restaurants are safe enough for you to use. You need expert voices to be navigating those channels with you to not just look at what is the pricing or is it a beautiful view, but to ensure the health and safety of the attendees at the event. 

I think with regards to event expertise in this time as well, technology is key. It’s nearly a full-time job to keep up with all of the event technologies that could apply to your event. Whether that is a content engagement platform, an event app, or simply a mobile registration tech check-in desk, you need event professionals to be able to navigate the waters with you, to understand the intention of your event and then pair the technologies together for you in order to ensure a very contact-free, seamless and engaging experience for your attendees during this time. 

And last but not least, I do believe that, for example, working with Miller Tanner, provides you with additional expertise and security which will enable us to quickly mobilize to support your events around the world. And so relying on an event team that has experience working in the region and that can easily and quickly move to regional meetings is a key value at this time.

How will attendee engagement be redefined?

We’re working with clients right now on a variety of interesting projects, like how do you redo your gala dinner, which is an experience that is designed around being completely face-to-face with very little virtual interface.  And so I think what’s exciting about this time and what we’re going to see is that our clients are going to get extreme clarity on their intention and their needs for their events. 

What factors will determine when face-to-face events should be scheduled again?

There are a variety of factors that are going to impact when face-to-face events should be scheduled again. It will largely depend on the region of the world in which those events are intended to take place. We look at a variety of resources and making those decisions. So we would certainly be reviewing scientific data from the World Health Organization and the CDC as well as other reputable scientific organizations like Johns Hopkins. And there is a tremendous amount more that we look at that is more specific to countries and regions of the world. Secondarily, we do work with risk management companies that provide, even during our normal business times, the latest safety data and medical information about the areas of the world in which we are operating programs.

What contingency plans does Miller Tanner implement when planning F2F meetings this year?

What Miller Tanner has valued throughout the years is redundancy within our events. All of our face-to-face events have redundancy systems both on the logistic side and on the production side. All of our virtual events adopt that same process by which we always have redundancies in order to protect the virtual event that’s going to be delivered. And the same thing is true for emerging into the new COVID landscape of face-to-face events. 

We’ll be requiring all of our face-to-face events, as they begin to go live this fall, to have a fully-produced and ready-to-go virtual event set up and able to go live at the same time that the face-to-face event goes live. And that’s for a few reasons. One, we have seen during many of the shutdowns around the world how quickly governments have mobilized to close down events. We, in fact, were on-site for an event. As governments in Europe closed down the ability to have meetings and events and just before the attendees arrived, we had to remove our staff from on-site and cancel the event; so we predict similar situations this fall with regards to the potential for areas in which we may be conducting events to have very immediate closures that are unpredictable. So we’ll be ready to go with a virtual event.

Another scenario in which we may need that redundancy system is quite simply if there is a key opinion leader, speaker, or a guest at that event and suddenly due to their own personal health or health of their family, is unable to travel but still wants to either speak at the event or be a guest of the event. We need to have that system up and running so it can go live at any moment and so that is what’s going to be one of our best practices moving forward. Every single face-to-face experience will automatically have a full virtual event set up and ready to run.

Can any face-to-face events be transformed into hybrid or virtual?

Yes, I am a firm believer that every single experience can be transformed into a virtual experience as long as you are really clear on your mission and your vision for what you want to accomplish.

What’s been the most surprising element that MTA has experienced during this time?

I think the most surprising element that MTA has experienced during this time is an incredible increase in transparency with our clients, our vendors, and our partners. We’ve been so grateful during this time for this because it has not only helped us deepen existing relationships with our clients, but also develop new ones. It is incredible to have clients come to us and say, “I don’t understand how to do this at all”. That offers us the opportunity to educate, to problem-solve, and brainstorm in ways that we’ve never been able to do with clients before because there’s been this expectation of everyone knows how to do everything perfectly and it’s been incredible for our clients to be transparent with us. 

Then also for us to be able to return the favor and be transparent with our clients has created an incredible level of discourse. It’s really the truth that partnership in business is both sides. Being able to be fully transparent with one another about the challenges and the gaps faced, and then working together to find a solution that enables both to provide the other with an incredible resolution. 

For more information about how Miller Tanner Associates can help navigate your events in 2020, please contact us!

The Future of Face-to-Face Events in 2020 (Part 1)

Since February, the landscape of in-person meetings and events has shifted dramatically. MTA’s Chief Experience Officer (CXO) Meredith Shottes, CMP shares her insights in this in-depth discussion regarding the future of face-to-face events in 2020.

Are face-to-face meetings and events dead?

No, they are not dead. Definitely not. They are alive in larger ways than we could have ever anticipated. I think more than ever, it clarifies for people the value of a face-to-face experience. We have always known that face-to-face experiences were valuable and now that they have been completely taken away, it has shown their true value in terms of return on investment, connection for learning models, and how to truly make relationships, business, and education grow. They are vital components of events. It’s a vital component of being a human being to be able to connect with people. That can happen virtually and we have many dynamic and wonderful solutions to help you make the most of your virtual experiences. But also know that live events are not dead – they’re just on pause for the moment.

What do face-to-face events and meetings look like moving forward in 2020 as a result of the global pandemic?

I think what we’ll see with regards to face-to-face experience is a modified experience where small groups of people will gather together to have experiences that might look like smaller multiple events instead of one large event. You may have regional-specific events or country-specific events. You’ll likely have a virtual component to each of those events where there’s a connection between the live events that are happening. And of course, I think we’ll see a tremendous amount of shift in the way in which that attendees interact. I think this is actually probably one of the most exciting times with regards from an environmental perspective and from an efficiency perspective, with the adoption of technology that allows more paperless and touchless options. 

What are some of the challenges and what key areas will be impacted?

I think the biggest challenge that we’re facing right now, and it’s an understandable one, is fear. We don’t know everything about COVID at this time. And so for attendees, meeting organizers, event creators, and our clients, it becomes paralyzing to begin to try and make decisions on events six months down the line as we are continually learning new things each day. So the real challenge for us right now is not the practical logistics or the required cleaning schedules of any given venue or how to distribute food; the real challenge for the industry is fear. And we have to find a way to help our attendees and meeting organizers, event organizers, and our clients overcome that fear when it’s safe and responsible to do so by using the best data and the best science that the world has to offer to help us make educated and informed decisions.

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What trends are you seeing this year given COVID-19 challenges?

I do think that the first trend is, of course, technology in the face-to-face experience and to have a more contact-free event. I also think that for all of our face-to-face events, we are all going to build off of hybrid technologies, meaning that more and more face-to-face events will have two audiences – a large portion of the audience in-house at the face-to-face event and a large portion of the audience in a virtual stream. And so what you’ll need to develop as a meeting and event organizer is to ensure that the content is appropriate to both of those streams, so that both audiences feel like they’re engaged, and that there may be differences.

We need to ensure that the virtual audience has as much opportunity to participate as the face-to-face audience does. What that looks like is networking opportunities and leveraging technology platforms that allow collaborative interaction to build the same rapport and connection with both audiences.

I think we’ll hopefully be seeing, as another trend in events in 2020, the huge environmental impacts that will come out of the event industry. For example, if you can use facial recognition technology in order for someone to enter the meeting space instead of producing a name badge for them, you have just reduced your name badge needs completely, which provides a huge environmental impact. Also, in this short term, I do think we’ll begin to find new ways both in hotels and restaurants to offer more choices and thus have an impact both from a financial perspective and from an environmental and food waste perspective.

Is Miller Tanner planning any f2f events in 2020?

We are planning face-to-face events in 2020! I think what is really clear about this time period is that there are incredibly different experiences of every single human being on the planet with regard to COVID-19.  I personally happen to live in New York City, so I have been on one of the most extreme lockdowns that the United States has experienced, but I have colleagues that work in Hungary on our team where they have had very little exposure to COVID-19 in their communities and in their country at large. And so with regards to face-to-face events, we are seeing events confirmed in regions that have not had huge amounts of impact by COVID-19. And those regions we are supporting with our local teams to produce at the request of our clients and where we believe it’s safe to operate at the right time.

To read part 2 of our interview with Meredith Shottes, CXO, click here.