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Planner Spotlight Series- Julie M. Sullivan ASIS International

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August 20, 2021
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Reading time: 3 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: Julie Sullivan

Company Name: ASIS International

Job Title: Account Manager

Location: Alexandria, VA

Years of Experience: 15+ Years

How were you able to adapt during COVID-19 when the meeting and events industry got disrupted?
 
2020 was not a year for the faint of heart for professionals in the exhibitions and events industry. At the onset of the year, the future looked very bright and business opportunities presented themselves everywhere. I was working as an Account Manager on the Business Development (BD) team at ASIS International and had just stepped into my role as Past-President and Director of Industry Relations for the Association for Women in Events (AWE).
 
By year-end, however, just about everything I worked on either morphed into an abbreviated version of itself or completely vaporized as the global pandemic dragged on into December. At ASIS International, I sold exhibit space and sponsorship opportunities for our annual meeting Global Security Exchange (GSX) and our Chief Security Officer (CSO) event. The BD team had long since completed exhibit space allocation for GSX 2020 at our 2019 show. 300+ exhibitors had already contracted and deposited on space and hundreds more looked to secure booth space and brand exposure for our 20,000 in-person events in late September in Atlanta.
 
As the pandemic unfolded and became a central issue in everyday life around the world, our leadership, business development, and marketing teams worked in tandem to communicate with our partners within the global security community about the necessity to honor our long-term relationships with exhibitors and sponsors and give them flexibility on what to do with their investment(s). By mid-June, our board of directors announced ASIS International would rebrand its week-long annual meeting to GSX+ and incorporate a virtual marketplace with exhibits and sponsorships designed around the reformatted event. The next 3 months became a real-life case study on how to pivot a large face-to-face event to an online experience in educating and engaging its attendees and stakeholders and conducting virtual business. While leadership decided upon a platform for GSX+ and what components to include, the BD team looked to re-negotiate all of its contracted live space and sponsorships for virtual ones or move their fees to GSX+, sponsorship, digital advertising, move them to GSX 2021, refund part or all of their money, or a combination of these options. Come mid-July, the BD team was actively selling virtual exhibit space and sponsorships for GSX+ and conducted Zoom demos walking prospects through the technology and matchmaking capabilities of the platform. By mid-August, much of our sponsorship inventory closed for fulfillment, so the BD team became well versed in selling and closing contracts for virtual space and became technology experts conducting platform demos and matchmaking training sessions.
 
As the show went live in late September with 5,000 attendees, 80+ exhibitors in the marketplace, and four contracted general session sponsors, the BD and Operations teams focused on troubleshooting with exhibitors. Mid-October into November, the BD team began space allocation via Zoom calls walking them through the 2021 show floor and reserving exhibit space for GSX 2021 in Orlando, FL. Unfortunately, my position with ASIS was eliminated in mid-March 2021 due to the direct, financial impacts of COVID-19 on the organization. The Association for Women in Events (AWE) was formally dissolved in April of 2020 due to the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19 on the global organization, its members, sponsors, donors, and the events industry as a whole. I am investigating full-time and independent contractor opportunities at the time of writing this spotlight for HopSkip.
 
As a planner, what was the number one thing you learned over the past year?
 
 Expect the unexpected.
 
Is there anything you are changing in your planning process moving forward as a result of the pandemic?
 
Face-to-face events will happen and exhibitors and sponsors want to do business now. Global partners are TBD but the next two months will tell the real story of how successful the industry is in getting face-to-face attendees engaged.
 
 

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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