Welcome to the first episode of the Events > Forward Podcast by Meetings & Incentives Worldwide. Our host, Jeff Naue, Special Projects Marketing Lead, and Mae Ibe, CMP, Director of Conferences and Tradeshows, talk about the development of the Events > Forward Task Force and initiatives underway to better prepare organizations for the safe return of their live “in-person” events during a pandemic. As circumstances change, you’ll definitely want to stay up-to-date with timely, relevant, and accurate information.
Join us for a short, but impactful conversation on actions you can take to move your events forward.
Mae, can you tell our listeners, what exactly is the Events > Forward Task Force?
We all know that in-person events won’t look the same post COVID-19 so we created the Events > Forward Task Force to assist in the development of recommendations, processes and procedures to help with the safe return of events. Our team continuously monitors health and safety guidelines, industry updates, and the ever-changing landscape. We are taking this information to make changes within our company and help our clients move forward with in-person events. Internally, we are reviewing and updating our processes and procedures and making changes to keep our staff safe.
From an external standpoint, we are making recommendations to our clients and managing vendor expectations. Our clients expect us to be their eyes and ears, forward looking, and give them peace of mind. We’ve had several key client discussion sessions, developed benchmark reports and just started to conduct State of the Industry Virtual Roadshows with our clients. Recovery initiatives, guidelines and re-opening of properties & destinations continues to be a moving target with a lot of variables.
Let’s talk about the Events > Forward team. Who is helping with this critical and mighty effort?
We have a lot of people involved. It is a cross representation of all departments, areas of specialty, and different staff levels from coordinators to VPs. All aspects of event management, planning, and even strategy. From procurement, group travel, meeting and conference management, event design, incentives and recognition, onsite staffing, and more. It is a large team as it demands a lot of perspectives, fact-finding, assessment, and communication.
What have you been learning and how does that affect your relationship with your clients and prospects?
A ton! The information changes rapidly and constantly, it’s a moving target. There is a lot of information out there and sifting through it to come up with the best recommendations for our clients is one of our main goals.
Clients appreciate we are staying on top of all the changes, assessing what it means, and keeping them up to date on new guidelines and regulations. Safety is top of mind for everyone. We are identifying what airlines, hotels, food establishments, and other vendors are doing related to enhanced safety protocols. They are anxious to return to in-person events and want to know how other organizations are responding to the various reopening phases.
What questions are clients asking?
One area of interest for clients is how this affects their meeting & travel policies. Clients are asking us to review and/or make recommendations for changes to their Policies based upon what we are seeing across our client base.
We are anticipating a heightened requirement or maybe a renewed emphasis around meeting and event approvals. Just as business travel is seeing a need to approve individual trips based on government, company, and traveler considerations, we expect to see more event justification processes take hold, especially for in-person events. With a concern for liability or a need to more closely manage expenses in a challenging economy, approval protocols and documentation may be necessary for a while.
I agree, what else are you hearing?
Another renewed area of interest is around emergency preparedness. As part of our full event management service, we develop an Emergency Preparedness Plan. However, some organizations are either looking to create a brand new one or update their corporate Emergency Preparedness Plan to ensure they have appropriate safety protocols and measures documented.
We are also seeing clients concerned with how the meeting will flow onsite. How will food & beverage be served to minimize risk? How will we monitor attendees’ health? How will the hotel check-in and registration process work?
Space is a big concern, as we want to provide enough room to adhere to social distancing. We have addressed this concern by utilizing a platform called EventVisualizer. With this platform, we can build their event from the ground up, or we can use the venue floor plans to create the new room sets. Our clients can even walk the redesigned space via 3D imaging. This will give them an idea of what the attendee will experience.
I am sure everyone is interested in hearing where your team is having some success?
The safety of our clients, attendees, and employees has always been a priority for M&IW. Many of the safeguards our clients expect are already been in place. As a process-oriented and technology driving company, we are very focused on updating our own procedures, identifying best practices, and helping our clients to determine attendee expectations around live in-person events and developing recommendations on how they can prepare.
For example, we created an Events > Forward bi-weekly communication for our Strategic Account Managers to email to their clients. That has been very effective in creating some dialogue for us to better understand what our clients need to move forward and where they are running into barriers or have questions.
In what other ways are you sharing this great information and the work of your team?
The creation of this podcast was also an opportunity to create another avenue to stay connected with our clients and industry professionals during this challenging time. We are learning together, putting one foot in front of the other, and moving Events > Forward.