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!

Meredith Shottes