On March 10, 2020, my company was wrapping up a 10,000 in-person and virtual meeting. The vibe of the room was ominous. We all knew about COVID that this “thing” was coming or might happen, but none of us knew that when we shut down the restaurant with our clients that night after celebrating success, it would be the last day we would leave our homes for a while. The next day, we closed the office. It was like a light switch turned off our industry.
After two years, if I hear the word pivot, I instantly feel a wave nausea. For two years, we pivoted, twisted turned, planned, canceled, and replanned did this repeatedly. Our days were filled with Zoom meetings and the disconnect that comes with not seeing someone face to face. We learned platforms for all different kinds of online meetings. Then re-entry was rough and slow. We spaced apart in the ballroom, we wore masks, we ate in our hotel rooms and outside and we even wore red, yellow, or green stickers that signaled to others how close you wanted to get to people!
After two long years, we’re back! Full force for meeting with hugs and face-to-face interactions. We’ve been making tweaks to meetings to help make sure that the attendees can enjoy the “new normal” in the world of meetings. Try a few of these ideas to put a fresh spin on your upcoming meetings.
Slow Things Down
After being away from people for a while, attendees are looking for face to face connections. They want time to connect. They want LOTS of time to connect. We’ve adjusted schedules for longer mealtimes, longer cocktail hours, longer breaks and more non-programmed time to have real conversations. Survey results highlight over and over again that this is what attendees are craving. Before COVID, within 30 minutes after a session the prefunction space would be clear of attendees. Now we must direct the attendees to move along an hour after the session ends to send them to dinner. The buzz in the room is exciting. The genuine conversations are amazing and such a breath of fresh air.
Gone are the days when every session was a 45-60 minute presentation. Attendees want bite-size information. Think Ted Talk style. Presenters need to tell attendees what they need to know, provide them with action steps and make it lively. Attendees want to be engaged, entertained, and feel like they couldn’t miss this content. There continues to be new ways for people to learn and grow. With podcasts, YouTube and even TikTok, attendees can find quick solutions and find talks from most major speakers at their fingertips causing competition. Pick the best of the best and nail the content to keep the attendees coming back.
Have you ever asked yourself, post-COVID, is this worth showering for? I know I have! Attendees are more selective than ever about how they spend their time. When they are attending meetings and conferences, they need to feel like they are planned with their needs in mind. Make it good and they will keep coming. Send out surveys, read them and make the changes!
Between recession fears, budget cuts and companies still getting back to normal, attendees and companies are more decerning about how they will spend their money. Find ways to make the meeting cost effective. Sponsorships have long been the leading way to bring down the cost of meetings. When sponsorships can benefit both the group hosting the meeting and the sponsor, it’s truly a win win for all involved.
Spring Break 2023
All joking aside, we have seen a trend that includes higher bar bills in the last year and a half. Attendees want to connect longer, they want to stay, have fun, kick back and relax. We’ve all been inside too long and we’re ready to bring the celebrations back!
Some changes that are taking place might have been warranted and some it was just a matter of time before they happened. Either way, it’s always refreshing to look at meetings with a fresh lens and an open mind.