On November 10-11, 2020 more than 8,000 meetings, events, and hospitality professionals virtually joined the industry event Cvent CONNECT Europe. Technology provider CVENT, brought together thousands of industry professionals with their own virtual event solution, the Cvent Virtual Attendee Hub®, to power the two-day conference, which is also available on-demand.
The event saw a more than 400% increase in registration over 2019’s in-person event, highlighting the desire for meetings and hospitality professionals to hear from industry leaders and learn how to prepare their organisations for the future. Session topics included virtual and hybrid events, MICE and transient business recovery, event programme design and event marketing strategies, hospitality and travel trends, and delegate safety, security, and privacy.
Jean Squires, Global Enterprise Account Manager, Cvent
1. Can you explain the concept for strategic meetings management in one sentence?
In a nutshell, strategic meetings management (SMM) is a systematic way to manage all your organisation’s events, planning processes, preferred vendors and meetings data.
2. COVID-19 is causing a changing landscape for meetings and events. What does the “new normal” mean in general for “strategic meetings management”?
In the new normal, it will be rare that anybody will attend a meeting or event, large or small, without the explicit knowledge of the company they are travelling on behalf of. As planners look to mitigate risk, health and safety are a top priority. Therefore, it has never been more important to know how meetings and events are actually being managed and understand who is travelling where and deploying an SMM framework provides a comprehensive and transparent approach to do exactly that.
The new normal presents a huge opportunity to take stock and re-evaluate whether current SMM processes are robust enough and fit for purpose. And if not, to challenge the status quo. “Start with the end in mind” is a mantra I subscribe to. Applied to SMM, planners shouldn’t try to fit their processes into models; rather SMM models should be used as a guide to inform their own thinking about what the end goal is.
3. Can you name the most important “new” factors (safety, health, flexibility etc.) that meeting planners should take into account?
The basic tenets of SMM: cost savings, ROI, sustainability, duty of care, data security and risk mitigation still remain. What’s new? Planners and organisations now need to redefine and reprioritise what these objectives mean to them, in order to build up their SMM strategy so that’s fit for purpose. A good place to start is by asking why you hold meetings, why people attend your events and what has changed in response to these questions in light of the pandemic. By truly understanding what needs to be achieved and why, the SMM strategy can be aligned to support the new order of priorities and deliver on objectives.
4. Physical meetings sometimes can take place, sometimes not and often there are last minute cancellations. Is it smart to plan events considering every possible eventualities? Or would it be better to concentrate on the most probable realisation of an event which means virtual?
This is a really good question. The power of the human connection and enduring value of in-person events cannot be ignored. Face-to-face meetings are more important than we ever imagined and the pandemic has proved this as organisations have felt the impact of fewer business opportunities and a reduced sales pipeline. You simply cannot achieve everything in a virtual environment that you could in an in-person one. Saying virtual is the only viable option for the foreseeable future limits the horizons too much. I advocate for where you need face-to-face interactions, plan the event as a hybrid event because you’ll have the virtual element created and if need be, you can revert to virtual only. However, there needs to be an understanding of what it takes to switch the in-person element to online. This is where planners need to make use of their technology supply chain and partners to help them make the most of both experiences.
5. Should I consider changes in terms of organisation/line-up of my meetings team to be prepared for the new challenges?
Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay as part of a more well-rounded total event programme, and planners need to understand what the technologies are, and how they can help them reach their event goals. My advice for organisations is to expand meeting planners’ skillsets and knowledge organically, build on their expertise and provide them with access to education and training that will enable them to deliver compelling events in 2021 and beyond.