Evolution is a natural part of life. As a result, so is extinction. In the natural habitat of the meeting and travel planning of any corporation, this process is no different. Process and technology are continually evolving, which means that the old, outdated way is constantly being placed on the endangered list, and eventually becoming extinct altogether.
As 2020 comes to a close, we are left with no shortage of questions when considering what the future holds in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The specific details related to timelines, long-term impact, and industry trajectories, in many cases, remain relatively unclear. However, one thing is sure: the events and meeting landscape is forever changed, but not forgotten. While this has been a notably difficult year for everyone that relies on in-person, high-traffic experiences, the importance of in-person gatherings in a corporate setting is well understood across businesses that are now making safety-conscious plans for 2021 events and business travel. The demand for events and meetings has not dissipated; their proposed design has simply received a makeover.
In the coming months, companies must consider their meetings and travel programs under a new, more proactive lens while relying on travel and meetings management technology that can help to simplify and ameliorate the event planning process.
A Hybrid Experience
A recent survey revealed that 63% of planners predict that their companies or clients will host in-person meetings and incentives sometime in the first half of 2021, provided that destinations allow gatherings and health protocols are in place. The design of events will focus on small gatherings at local and regional destinations in favor of large meetings, with attendee and staff safety considerations at the forefront of the planning and implementation process.
The rise of hybrid events that welcome attendees in-person and online presents new engagement opportunities across meetings and events. With the right approach and technology in place, companies now have a chance to expand the reach and impact of their events while connecting with new audiences. With this in mind, convention centers such as Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center have already begun adding hybrid-meetings studios to their venues.
A Closer Look at the New Normal
In the American Express Meetings and Events 2021 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, respondents made a note of the following considerations when deciding to hold an in-person event:
- Confidence in attendee health and safety components (63%)
- Flexible cancellation and attrition terms (59%)
- The capacity to accommodate social distancing (77%)
- Disinfection protocols (52%)
As attendee health and safety concerns and the demand for social distancing remain paramount, venue spaces must offer enhanced transparency and personalization when working with planners on future events. For corporations, a venue's COVID-19 risk-mitigation policy should guide the vetting process for future events. Corporations will require enhanced visibility and streamlined workflows throughout the process.
Technology to the Rescue
There is now a global push from organizations of all sizes for a structured meeting management program to be in place - taking a closer look at the policies and procedures they have in place. Technology is the key to helping companies implement a program and initiate a level of compliance, management, and oversight that may have been on the back burner before the pandemic.
Even though COVID-19 cases are once again starting to rise in the U.S. and abroad, airline and hotel industry executives are saying that seven months of pent-up consumer demand bodes well for the future of the struggling travel business. To rebound and recover safely, companies will have to adhere to new standards in regards to formalized meeting policies, best practices, and cohesive event planning strategy empowered by travel and meeting management technology. What begins as a hybrid of virtual and small in-person events at select, non-traditional venue spaces will gain momentum. Ultimately, the pandemic will likely mean an influx of meetings and events as corporations hit reset in 2021 and strive to make up for lost time and lost opportunities.
Necessity has always been the mother of invention, and technology has always been at the helm of solving problems and improving our daily lives. Over the years, we've seen Netflix replace Blockbuster Video, Uber disrupt traditional taxi services, and Amazon online shopping has completed transformed the retail space. And yet, before the COVID-19 pandemic, certain industries remained stuck in the past, defined by technology which no longer served them. Specifically, the meetings and events industry that was in dire need of an update would help streamline and simplify planning corporate events and meetings.
Now, as the industry braces for recovery in the coming months, we realize that the path forward demands the long-awaited functionality of self-service meeting management technology.
The Old World of Meeting Management
Traditionally, larger corporations comprised entire teams dedicated to planning travel and venue accommodations for meetings and events. Without the corporate infrastructure to dedicate a whole team to such efforts, smaller companies often relied on a manager who helped oversee and manage upcoming events and travel while working closely with travel agencies specializing in business travel. With expensive and over-engineered technology systems designed for meeting management, the process of planning and facilitating events and meetings (regardless of scale) was often complicated and rife with delays and managerial headaches. Without the appropriate manpower of internal teams or external support from travel agencies, the administrative and logistical demand associated with event planning would make the process, simply put, extremely difficult.
Moreover, events and meetings can occur in any department. Those companies which have never allocated an internal role for event planning often found themselves in a predicament. If an HR manager had to plan a training event somewhere but didn't have the tools or training required to facilitate such a process seamlessly, what did that look like? Similarly, if a Sales Manager has to plan a sales meeting, how can they approach the planning process in an informed and efficient manner (especially in a post-pandemic world) without having any appropriate experience?
The New Era of Meeting Management
In a post-pandemic world, the internal infrastructure of corporations across industries has abruptly changed. Most companies are now relying on fewer resources and an increasingly limited budget. With fewer people in the office and a growing virtual workforce, most businesses simply don't have the means to support teams dedicated to corporate meetings and events. Those administrative efforts, most likely, have been transferred to someone else who, up until now, was entirely unfamiliar with the events and meetings landscape. As these individuals most likely lack dedicated planners' expertise, they don't require the complex tools or resources leveraged by professional planners. Instead, they need user-friendly, intuitive online tools that simplify the process of venue shopping, requesting proposals, booking venues, and booking travel.
Groupize is the most-loved solution of choice for Fortune 5000 Companies. As the industry's all-in-one platform for travel & meetings, Groupize provides an entry point for corporations to manage expense, travel & risk for all meetings, events & guest travel. We are proud to work with:
Megan DiNush is a senior Hospitality Management student at Endicott College, located in Beverly, MA, who joined the Groupize team in September as a Sales intern.
Why Professionals say Groupize is the Meetings, Travel, & Risk Management Solution of Choice for your Program.
Virtual meetings and events, a critical component to a Strategic Meetings Management strategy and program, provide an organization with expanded options to communicate and broaden a meeting planner’s toolbox of viable delivery solutions. By definition, a virtual meeting provides for live or archived communications, education, and gatherings among small to large, local to global attendees connected through digital technology(s) to accomplish a common goal. There are no limitations on virtual meeting types; in fact, even an incentive meeting may include a virtual gathering leading up to an in-person meeting.
The benefits of using virtual technologies for meetings include scalability, work/life balance, access to experts, replay opportunities, immediacy and reach to broad audiences, multilingual capabilities, carbon emission reduction and cost avoidance, and return on engagement and investment metrics.
Content engagement is best designed by either an expert in adult learning, e.g. an instructional designer, or a virtual meeting storyboard expert who can create the best experience for the participants. Hybrid meeting success is often measured by keeping attendees engaged by the use of an emcee so that the remote attendees have the same experience as the in-person attendees. For hybrid or all-virtual meetings, this can be accomplished by the use of:
• Highly engaging, great speakers that vary intonation
• Question and answers via surveys or polling
• Videos that pertain to the content of the meeting
• Application sharing and demos of product or service
• Virtual break-out rooms that reconvene with each team sharing the outcome of the break-out
• Whiteboard exercises and annotations among participants
• Gamification, including participant voting for escalating topics during meetings
As well, expected virtual meeting outcomes and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to maximize efficiency and value include:
• Increased number of touchpoints with participants
• Knowledge improvement
• Level of success of meetings
• Cost avoidance and carbon emissions reductions
Three tiers of virtual meetings, categorized by complexity, return on investment and engagement, content storyboarding, and support required, offer a framework for designing the right delivery configurations, preferred suppliers, and a rate card “buffet” for stakeholders to choose from based on their requirements and budget. Each tier may include multiple live, on-demand, and simulcast configuration options that can all be priced in-advance with a consistent pricing methodology and rates for the duration of a supplier’s contract, i.e., 3 years, globally, regionally, or locally. As such, the service fits into the Strategic Meetings Management solution as another option for planners to offer their meeting stakeholders and can be sourced every three years through Procurement.
Virtual meetings have emerged into our day-to-day business and personal routines. Use the right supplier, in the right virtual meeting tier, for the right use case, at the right price in your Strategic Meetings Management program, and your organization will experience a highly valued delivery solution that complements the in-person meetings.
To learn more about the new normal and how to prepare for the changes in travel, meetings, and events worldwide, download the complimentary titled, Prepare for a Changed World, which delivers timely peer to peer advice from leading travel managers, meeting planners, procurement, TMCs, and industry partners.
While legacy event planning solutions have been consolidating, new players are emerging that allow for new functionality and allow for more cost-effective licenses. If you are looking for event technology, do your homework. There are many options, and it can be overwhelming. Talk to you TMC (travel management company), MMC (meeting management company), or industry colleagues for advice and assistance.
Ultimately, there is no one size fits all solution. The first thing to do is to identify the gap you are looking to fill and make a list of what’s important to you. Here are some things to consider:
Overarching funding options for meetings management programs can be summarized at the highest level below:
Most TMCs support hybrid models of self-service and full service. Find a partner that can give you the most bang for your buck while making you successful. Define your roles when it comes to strategy, implementation, additional services (such as room blocks, registration, air), negotiating, contract supervision, supplier optimization, reconciliation, and data. Utilizing a third party planning company gives an organization’s meeting planner time to handle the meeting content while outsourcing the tactical details of the meeting. These companies and individuals become a consultant or trusted advisor based on their experience and industry relationships. They work with a variety of organizations and gain insight into locations, vendors, experiences, and events. In addition, they develop best practices by working with other clients and can bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to a company’s event.