. How to navigate an uncertain present and build a better future | Meetings & Conventions Asia

How to navigate an uncertain present and build a better future

Charting a clear path forward for meetings and events remains difficult, but some key trends are emerging.

As the pandemic stretches toward the one-year mark, charting a clear path forward for meetings and events is proving difficult, but there is some light.
As the pandemic stretches toward the one-year mark, charting a clear path forward for meetings and events is proving difficult, but there is some light. Photo Credit:Getty Images

It's 2021, but still feels a lot like 2020. As the pandemic stretches toward the one-year mark and uncertainty lingers, charting a clear path forward for meetings and events is proving difficult, but there is some light — as evidenced at the recently concluded PCMA Convening Leaders conference. Here are some future trends from leading industry voices:

Demand for sustainable meetings will increase

[The pandemic] raised questions as to what we were doing to the planet, questions which have existed a long time. [Covid-19] will force acceleration, change the whole travel industry around tracks that are more responsible, sustainable, and bring authenticity back to experiences by sourcing locally, and incorporating CSR elements.

Markus Keller, senior vice president, sales & distribution, Accor

Create modern work cultures

Lots of talent has been lost as a result of the pandemic. We need to focus on creating great places to work, with modern working cultures, to attract the next generation of talent.

Selina Sinclair, CEO, REALM

Tech-savvy audiences will demand more from virtual events

We are now entering the second phase where technology has to be at the highest level. Instead of relying on Zoom, bring your speaker to a green room — I know it’s complicated and very expensive — but...we always [need] someone [to be] the trailblazer. Hotels and venues must collaborate: In AV, basic facilities, and be on the same level of technology-readiness.

Moving forward, technology and emotion will go hand in hand. To transfer emotional through technology — that’s the challenge I see for the future.

Annalisa Ponchia, director of innovation & customer experience, director of international congress development, AIM Group International

Industry leaders in APAC walk the talk with a 'hybrid' discussion panel that included in-person and virtual speakers.
Industry leaders in APAC walk the talk with a 'hybrid' discussion panel that included in-person and virtual speakers. Photo Credit: PCMA/GPJ

Transform think tanks into 'do tanks'

Some associations are now hosting poster sessions and knowledge-sharing sessions online, before their in-person meetings, so that the meeting is really focused on problem-solving and having collaborative conversations.

 — Karen Bolinger, managing director, PCMA APAC

Create inclusive environments

[There's still the challenge] of a divide in technology and bandwidth in everyone’s homes — that changes your experience…[not just] in the US but across the globe. How do we level the playing field? There’s a lot for us to work through in 2021 with our partners.

Julie Coker, president & CEO, San Diego Tourism Authority

More multi-hub meetings

Multi-hub events are reaching an Olympic Games-level of coordination. Not just with regards to technology, but also fleeting from one venue to another, with some attendees in the physical venue and the rest of the audience virtual.

The other difficult part about hybrid events is the degree to which [the online audience] can interact with those who are physically at the venue. For those who are [connecting] virtually, there's a time lapse and it's never a great experience.

Markus Keller, senior vice president, sales & distribution, Accor

In-person meetings will never truly go away

Our highest attended meeting so far was virtual. [However], there is still value in physical events. Our need for personal interaction can't be replicated from a virtual standpoint.

Lisa Astorga, director of meetings, International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH)

Rethink space

Hotels have been quick to transform empty guest rooms into co-working spaces, but there’s a lot of meeting space in hotels that might need to re-purposed in the long term. If we're not expecting large meetings to return, then transit these places into broadcast studios in order to professionalise hybrid or digital events.

Markus Keller, senior vice president, sales & distribution, Accor