Time and time again, our species has escaped existential threats by reinventing ourselves, finding new skills not coded in our genes to survive new challenges not previously encountered. – David Grinspoon, astrobiologist
The meetings and events industry has had to rapidly adapt the skills and capabilities of its personnel to cope with the new demands of the virtual world.
From what we have witnessed, how the industry has responded has varied quite significantly.
Some businesses have found a way forward, whether by adapting internal skills, bringing in individuals with specific expertise, often through consultancy contracts, or adopting off-the-shelf solutions with technology support. Some organisations have established new partnerships, bringing together those on the production side with businesses that have stronger logistics and project management skills. Others, unfortunately, have shut up shop, hoping to ride out the lockdown, only to find virtual is likely here for the long term. And other competitors have skilled up and are now better equipped to meet the “new normal”.
I would put ourselves among the last category although we were fortunate in that we already had a reasonably high technical skill set and knowledge, with a team of people who are proficient at managing tech. So, whilst our skill set pre-Covid-19 had mostly been focused on building engagement during in-person meetings, adapting to this “new normal” was much easier for us than for many others.
We could quickly upskill the team.
We knew where to begin in terms of technology and process and we understood what research we needed to do. We knew what tools were out there to support the transition, and which tools to use to serve different client needs, budgets and lead times.
Shifting the Focus
For our team, it has been less about bringing in new skills and more about a change in focus. Whereas before COVID-19, managing presentations was the main priority for many of us, now we’re asking our people to do pre-recordings of presentations, video editing and production work.
We have brought in freelance staff skilled at building microsites, because we’re not managing venues, we’re managing virtual spaces. We have helped all our staff members who were more comfortable working in the physical world adapt to the virtual world by having them collaborate with team members on the technology side.
This has helped to broaden confidence and given clients the expertise they need in all aspects – technology innovation and engagement expertise.
Like most meetings-focused businesses, we initially saw a drop in business as the world largely went into lockdown. As organisations settled into the “new normal”, they recognised that they needed to press ahead with virtual for both their internal and external meetings. So, they turned to platforms, engagement partners and others to get those virtual meetings off the ground. Suddenly, virtual meetings took off amid a realisation that it was far easier to bring people together virtually than physically. The result is, we have found ourselves perhaps busier than ever.
As with everyone in the industry, we continue to learn new techniques and adapt our skills to deliver engaging, slick and fun virtual meetings.
Our skill sets have evolved but ultimately what we do – drive audience engagement – remains the same.
Caroline MacKenzie is the operations director at Open Audience, which specialises in making life sciences meetings more engaging with more positive, successful outcomes. 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, multi-lingual engagement platforms that include interactive polling, surveys, and ideas exchange.