Book a Demo
Start Free Trial

Planner Spotlight Series- Andrea Rouse, Merchant Advisory Group

co-calendar
December 30, 2021
reading-time
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: Andrea Rouse

Company Name: Merchant Advisory Group

Job Title: Director, Conferences and Events

Years of Experience: 15+

How were you able to adapt during COVID-19 when the meeting and events industry got disrupted?
 
Like most other planners, in 2020 we had a real-life, crash course into virtual events! Prior to Covid, all MAG conferences were held in-person at different venues around the country. Without that option in 2020, we pivoted to the virtual event space and quickly learned how to execute our conference that way. To do so, we identified the overall experience we sought for our attendees and which features of our in-person events were key to translate into the virtual experience, such as networking and a robust exhibit hall. Our goal was to create an engaging environment where attendees were able to easily access all content, interact with one another, and felt comfortable navigating the platform. Transitioning to virtual was further complicated because we were simultaneously renegotiating established hotel contracts. This type of rapid-fire, high-stakes negotiating was also a new learning experience. One key to overcoming these obstacles was a conference planning team who put in long hours and jumped in wherever possible to research platforms and other tools, worked with speakers in this new format, and educated sponsors on new opportunities. Another key to success was an engaged and supportive leadership team who trusted our expertise to make the best decisions possible with the information we were learning along the way. Fortunately, it all worked out well, despite so many complex moving pieces happening at once. We hosted a successful virtual event and have since done another virtual event, as well as our first hybrid conference.
 
As a planner, what was the number one thing you learned over the past year?
 
I have learned the importance of staying fluid. There are simply times when timelines and due dates must be flexible to meet attendees’ needs and to accommodate shifting policies. It was also important that our staff possessed the necessary skills to recognize, react, and adjust to reasonable changes. While this is a traditional strength of most planners, the sheer number of nuances, shifts and special requests - in a short period of time - admittedly was a bit tricky.
 
Is there anything you are changing in your planning process moving forward as a result of the pandemic?
 
I want to take a longer-term approach to building relationships with hotels in select cities for the MAG. The pandemic magnified the need for solid relationships with these key industry partners. Also, I am instituting processes and procedures that will address the domino effect of short notice changes to the program, registration policies, and other elements of conference planning. Finally, I will lean more on our committees and other key stakeholders to identify new and creative ways, outside of annual conferences and webinars, to meet the needs of our sponsors and members.
 

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. 

Like the post?  Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed on the latest news and trends in the meetings and events world.
Sign up

You may be interested