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Virtual and Hybrid Events

How Tech Has Created a New Meeting Venue

Michael Pinchera

Senior Editor, Meeting Professionals International (MPI)

The myriad ways in which meeting and event professionals have embraced or been forced to interact with new — or “new-to-me” — tech during the pandemic have been especially notable. From evolving a staid mindset to learning new skills, always-agile meeting pros are bombarded with input and options while looking to grow.

“Many of my peers may not like to hear this, but I believe the challenge is not the technology, but the changing role and, more importantly, mindset of the event professional,” said Hugh Lee, president of Fusion Productions.

Meeting professionals may groan about the time commitment to keep up with the latest tech, or get lost in the sea of digital platforms while simply seeking an avenue to replicate what should have been an in-person gathering but online.

Shifting business

However, Lee warns, “The business itself has evolved. The biggest challenge facing event professionals is understanding that digital has moved events into the business of content, community, connections, engagement, and commerce. Event professionals should be asking what are the best and brightest ideas and technologies that drive and leverage the above, not what platform will help me mirror my event online until we get back to face-to-face events.”

That’s one of the key points Brandt Krueger expresses during the six-week Virtual Event and Meeting Management certificate program, presented by the Event Leadership Institute and Meeting Professionals International, an online course that helps professionals maximize the business tool of digital events to deliver on organizational growth and objectives.

“For reasons I can’t fully explain, the job of choosing platforms and things like that just got dumped into the laps of planners themselves — people who would frequently not describe themselves as being ‘techie’ in any way, shape, or form have been launched into this digital world,” said Krueger, the program’s instructor.

Help available

New and additional skills have proven mandatory in the current environment. Like it or not, many meeting professionals have found themselves in a situation in which they’ve had to learn additional skills as quickly as possible. Even with signs of recovery visible across the industry, the need to evolve knowledge will persist. Thankfully, there are many educators stepping up to help.

Jessie States, CMP, CMM, director of the MPI Academy, closely follows industry trends and other factors that impact the work life of meeting and event professionals.

“The pandemic accelerated something that was already happening — the addition of the digital environment,” she said, citing the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Work” report to underscore digital literacy as a bucket that encompasses many of the essential skills meeting professionals must learn to remain effective and employable moving forward. “These new skills are needed to exist in what the job will look like in 10 years, when so many of the day-to-day things will no longer be a part of what a meeting professional does.”

States has seen relationships between many planners and tech suppliers become stronger during the pandemic, spurring much-needed conversations — conversations that probably should have already been taking place.

“And that’s a really good thing; it’s like we’ve evolved into really understanding that they aren’t tech suppliers, they’re really our partners in the creation of an engaging and changing experience,” she said. “The conversations are richer and much deeper because of that.”

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