For months now we have heard talk about a return to the ‘new normal’ and expectations – or rather hopes – that physical meetings will soon be back on the agenda, perhaps through a ‘hybrid’ mix of in-person and virtual events.
However, with the pandemic persisting in much of the world and uncertainty as to when the vaccines will be out and delivered to a large percentage of the global population, virtual events are here to stay.
The transition to virtual events in 2020 meant huge change for every business, and particularly meetings organisers and engagement experts. In this second part of our end-of-year summary, our staff have shared what the past year taught us and the new skills we learned along the way.
1. Growing and Changing Roles
Jason: My role originally focused on building and running our engagement technology for in-person events. Now that all of our events are virtual, that’s a much smaller part of what I do day-to-day. As well as managing the engagement, I could be hosting the meeting, presenting slides, organising pre-records, or even creating a music video – every day there is a new and exciting challenge.
Isabel: My role is always quite varied, but the specific aspects relating to event delivery have changed since virtual events don’t require any travel and have far more pre-event preparation.
Richard: Since we have increased our number of virtual events, my role has gone from just providing IT support and engagement services for physical events around the world to now being able to handle more events within a day – the lack of travel means there’s no impact on when and where I can run an event.
2. Learning New Skills
Nicole: Actually, we were fortunate as a company to already be comfortable working remotely, so that was quite easy. So many things stayed the same, but we are all learning all sorts of new skills – for instance, I have developed my video-editing skills due to the increased amount of pre-recorded content we have been producing.
Joe: With virtual meetings and webinars becoming the ‘new normal’ we’ve all adapted accordingly, from learning how to use new technology to improving our processes and ways of working to be more effective in this new environment.
Christine: The biggest change for me this year was doing live conferences and events from my desk, instead of being onsite and seeing a physical space be transformed from an empty conference centre to a hive of branded activity. I’ve quickly improved my virtual event management skills but of course I have missed conversing with clients, exhibitors, suppliers and delegates in person.
3. Managing Our Resources
Caroline: Where to start! I’m a technical genius now with a whole new vocabulary. But jests aside, while lead times are much shorter, the core skills of project management – multi-tasking, attention to detail and communicating – are still very much at the forefront of what I do.
Leslie: We were busy pre-Covid-19, and we are twice as busy now. We have become much more consultative, and I’ve had to be nimbler in my approach and working habits, especially when we delivered a virtual conference lasting 18 hours a day, for 5 days, across 3 time zones!
Pedro: As Leslie said, we’re busier than ever and able to support more meetings than ever. Not having to travel and manage the logistics around the physical space allows us to offer our services to more clients. And with the additional demand, we’ve developed our resource management skills to enable us to support customers with last-minute needs. In fact, we’ve become so good at resource management that no matter how busy we are we have never had to turn business away.
Our Lessons from 2020
Our team at Open Audience worked harder than ever in 2020 and dealt with massive change and long hours, but we’ve both shown and voiced our belief that where there’s a will there’s a way.
Here are our 5 biggest lessons from 2020:
1. It’s an old cliché, but take that first step.
Inaction is not an option, unless you are happy to shut the doors. Being adaptable and open-minded will help you to make the most of a changing environment.
2. Be brave and embrace change.
It is easy to become the ‘rabbit in the headlights’ when the unexpected happens, but take that breath, stop and revisit the fundamental skills and knowledge that you have and how these skills can be adapted to a new environment.
3. Teamwork is more important than ever.
When working remotely and running virtual events, sharing knowledge and collaborating with your colleagues will make everyone stronger and more effective.
4. Always have a backup.
Whether it’s a device, team member, internet connection, speaker or recorded presentation!
5. Be willing to adapt to the needs and expectations of clients.
But also be ready to make suggestions and provide advice on what will and won’t work in a virtual setting. Think about the unique strengths of virtual events – and take that knowledge into 2021 as hybrid events return.
Audience Engagement is Key
One of the big benefits of the past year is that there has been a huge leap in the type and variety of virtual offerings that have enabled organisations and individuals to engage, develop and interact with their members in a whole new way. However, irrespective of the format, the principles of audience engagement remain the same: delegates still want great content, well delivered, and they want an opportunity to contribute.
A Flexible Future
Everyone in the conferences and events industry has been touched by 2020. For many, work slowed or even dried up for a period as the industry got to grips with what was happening in the early part of the year amidst global lockdowns. Not being able to hold physical meetings has meant missing the hustle and bustle and the pleasure of spending time with everyone and feeling part of a big event.
However, with creativity, flexibility and by learning new skills, some organisers were able to rise to the challenge that 2020 presented and create amazing virtual events, which lead to other societies and associations being willing to do the same.
Our hard work, imagination, and determination has helped us to thrive at a time when many expected massive retractions and job losses. We’re grateful to our hardworking team and our loyal and adaptable clients for moving forward with positivity in a very difficult year, and we look forward to working with you in 2021!
Open Audience is an audience engagement consultancy that specialises in making life sciences meetings more engaging with more positive, successful outcomes – whether in-person or in the virtual space. The Open Audience team helps to strategise and prepare pre- and post-meeting as well as providing real-time support and guidance during the meeting. Open Audience also offers customisable, multilingual engagement platforms that include interactive polling, surveys, and ideas exchange.