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Planners Moving Forward Series- Sierra Smith, NIRSA

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January 11, 2022
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Reading time: 2 min

This post is part of the HopSkip Planner Spotlight Series where HopSkip spotlight's planners across the industry to bring awareness of how they adapted to COVID-19, communicating and lessons learned and sharing how they are viewing the meetings and events industry in a post-pandemic world. 


 

Name: Sierra Smith

Company Name: NIRSA

Job Title: Director of Events & Experiences

Years of Experience: 16

How do you think you are positioned, after months of persevering with the pandemic, to take advantage of our new and disrupted meetings/events landscape?
 
I think the learnings over the last 20 months have been extremely helpful. Though its not been a situation we ever would have wanted to find ourselves, the results from having to rethink how we reach our members have proven to be successful. Being open to new ways to connect and educate has allowed me and NIRSA to do the work better and reach those that may not have always been on our radar. 
 
As our community moves forward with planning in person meetings, what new technologies or processes are you implementing that you may have not looked at before?
 
At NIRSA our budgets won't allow for livestreaming our in person events. But the ability to record in person presentations and then repackage for purchase into our LMS system will offer us a way to bring in new revenue streams and reach a wider audience. The use of virtual event platforms, with their networking options and sponsorship opportunities will be something we continue to utilize. 
 
As we see virtual meetings transition back to face to face, hybrid meetings are beginning to be the vehicle to return to normalcy. What are your thoughts on hybrid meetings versus traditional fully in person meetings?
 
Hybrid can mean many different things to different people. The virtual event will not be going away. I think that by utilizing the virtual event landscape over the last two years we have realized that the audience that can be reached is much wider than it ever was with in person events. There are many things that may limit an attendee from coming in person be it cost, ability to travel, time away from the physical workplace etc. While we may not be running a true hybrid (livestreaming an in person event on a virtual platform) at NIRSA we will be utilizing live virtual events much more often to meet our membership wherever they may be.
 
In your opinion, what do you think the biggest value for your attendees is in regards to returning to live events?
 
Person connections. A virtual event can never replace that feeling of connection that comes with talking to another person in the flesh. Though we have had some really successful virtual networking events via zoom, that spontaneity of conversation cannot be replaced with an online platform. The physical/emotional connection is what so many of us have missed and what our attendees are craving right now. I anticipate a lot of smiles and elbow bumps and excited faces when the in person events start to return on a wider basis. The glow of meeting new people and connecting with old friends is something we are yearning for right now. 
 
As the pandemic fades away and we return to face-to-face events what do you hope changes, either for planners or hoteliers, in the traditional RFP and proposal process as a result of all of the learnings from the last 20+ months?
 
I hope that the clear communication and feeling of working for the same goal can be the main focus during the process from here forward. We both want to succeed with our meetings. I want to hold a successful meeting and they (hotels/venues) want to fill their spaces and hit their quarterly goals. If we can communicate our needs clearly throughout the process and be honest about where we can give and take I feel that we can continue to see success on both sides.
 

This post is part of the HopSkip Planner Spotlight Series where HopSkip spotlight's planners across the industry to bring awareness of how they adapted to COVID-19, communicating and lessons learned and sharing how they are viewing the meetings and events industry in a post-pandemic world. 

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