A Meeting Planner’s View of 2021, Part 3

As this year brings its own set of unique challenges to our industry, we asked meeting planners how they’re approaching their upcoming events.

This week, we interviewed three planners: Carol Benavidez, CMP, CMM, Regional Vice President at HelmsBriscoe; Nann Phillips, CMP, CMM, DES, PMED, Founder and Principal at Scurry Street Meeting Management; and Michelle Crosby, CMP, DCMP, Business Development Manager at Brightspot Incentives & Events.

As you plan for this year’s event(s), what are you most excited about?

Carol Benavidez: I am really excited about our industry coming back and for all of us to do what we love best! I have had a few RFPs come in over the last few weeks for future group meetings. It is exciting to start booking NEW meetings.

Nann Phillips: I’m starting to see things turning in the right direction! I know we still have a lot of work to do to bring the industry back to a “normal” level, and in the meantime, I am most excited about helping my clients come up with creative ways to bring their experiences to life – whether that’s in-person, hybrid, or virtual. It’s good to see so many organizations embracing their expanded options.

Michelle Crosby: While we are most excited about live events returning, technology has allowed many of our clients to reach a greater audience over the past year. With that in mind, we are designing memorable moments for both the live and virtual attendee moving forward.

How has hybrid changed the way you design and plan for events?

CB: I haven’t dealt much with Hybrid meetings. In my opinion, they are going to be short-lived.  With vaccine rollouts, and leisure travel coming back in full force, I believe F2F meetings will be stronger than ever.  My understanding of Hybrid meetings is the high cost out weights the ROI in most cases.

NP: In short, it has changed everything. A hybrid event is basically two separate but concurrent, overlapping events. But it’s not the best solution for everyone, and I try to help my clients go into their planning process with their eyes wide open and to make the choice that’s best for their organization and the unique goals of the event.

MC: Hybrid style sales kick-off meetings has allowed our clients the opportunity to reach additional markets than ever before. This has allowed us to get creative with pre-event marketing, gifting, and meeting engagement tools. Not to mention how we communicate the day-of as well as provide follow-up materials post-event.

What types of event technologies are you planning on using? (Virtual platforms, matchmaking platforms, etc.)

MC: Based on our client’s needs, we identify the right audiovisual and production partners to fit their goals and objectives. That may include using virtual platforms that have multi-use capability. Allowing the attendee to participate at the level they feel most comfortable while still providing access to speaker notes, sponsors, tradeshow floors, and most importantly, networking lounges for interacting with both the on-line and live participants.

What do you think is the biggest tool for successful audience engagement? 

CB: I think an overall theme backing up with an experience will be key to future F2F meetings. The experience could be a different meeting set, different exhibit spaces, or doing something outside weather permitting. It could even be a city-specific activity based on where the meeting is happening. The tool could be thinking outside of the box of what the norm use to look like.

NP: Not a tool but a tactic: don’t try to copy and paste your live meeting into the virtual or hybrid environment. People’s minds work differently in the virtual space. Give them white space. Don’t be afraid to introduce a little bit of fun. Give them a reason to stay “tuned in” beyond the content. Create a sense of anticipation – “what’s could be next?”.

MC: Activity! Whether it is with live polling questions, trivia, or raffles, keeping audiences involved in the experience is key. Making them part of the outcome and success of the overall event is even better! If they feel that their thoughts and input matters, then you will have a successful event.