Planners Moving Forward Series- Jaclyn Rosenberg, The Humane Society of the United States

Jaclyn Rosenberg, of The Humane Society of the United States, brings 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.



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: Jaclyn Rosenberg

Company Name: The Humane Society of the United States

Job Title: Manager, Conferences and Events

Years of Experience: 5

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?
The pandemic forced us to learn how to do virtual events, and learn it very quickly. Hybrid events were an emerging trend in the industry two years ago, and we had considered attempting it but hadn't yet tried it. As we slowly return to in-person events, there's now an expectation that events moving forward will be hybrid to allow for people to attend on their own time even if they can't afford to, don't have time to or don't feel comfortable traveling. The crash course we all took over the last years in virtual will serve us well to create hybrid events moving forward. We now know the platforms that are out there for virtual/live streaming and their capabilities (and many of our attendees are now well-versed in those platforms as well), we know what we need onsite from our AV provider to record the sessions, and we are better prepared to handle the balance of in-person and virtual sessions run concurrently. We feel we have a much better grasp on how to do it, and our attendees understand what to expect from it. 
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?
With hybrid being the new normal, finding effective live-streaming technologies has become essential. We need platforms that can stream live content, house recorded content for later viewing, allow for audience interaction via both live chats and Q&As with presenters, and even house exhibitor and sponsor imagery and information. On the live event side, it's not just new recording/streaming equipment we need. We also need to look at sound and lighting equipment (that we may have used in the past for general sessions, but never for breakout sessions). We need to make sure the speakers we're recording can be seen and heard not just in the room, but also on the computer. And one other big thing we need now--internet access. While most conference centers and hotels offer internet, it's usually at a very high price point. As part of the nonprofit world, if we want internet provided by the hotel, we'll have to sacrifice to make that expense work for us. But there are other options out there. We were directed to a company that offers 5G and LTE solutions for a fraction of the cost of onsite internet fees. Using data rather than onsite internet can be a difference-maker in terms of what we can afford to do and make hybrid events much more accessible to everyone regardless of event budget. 
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?
I personally will always be partial to wholly in-person meetings, as I do think you do lose a little in terms of engagement when you view a conference virtually. Not to mention that hybrid events come with higher price points and a significantly increased workload, as you're trying to (in some ways) put on two events simultaneously. That being said, hybrid meetings do offer some significant benefits. Virtual events (or virtual options for hybrid events) often come with cheaper registration fees. That coupled with the lack of flight and hotel costs mean organizations can register more employees. Essentially, your event is much more accessible, so you may be able to draw in attendees who have never been able to attend before. You'll likely see higher attendance overall, increasing awareness around your event. Recording of sessions allows for a self-paced conference where attendees can view any/all sessions even if their live times overlapped with other sessions or if they have to work during the live time. I do think a turn towards hybrid events is great for the industry and great for attendees, even if I will always opt for attending events in-person when I can. 
In your opinion, what do you think the biggest value for your attendees is in regards to returning to live events?
Virtual events are great when your organization can't afford to send you to a conference or you don't feel comfortable traveling, but virtual simply can't compare to live events in terms of networking and engagement. I have seen a lot of creativity around the industry to find ways to engage virtual attendees, but being able to walk through an exhibit hall and speak to exhibitor face-to-face, ask a speaker a question into a microphone during a session, or to stop and talk to someone sitting next to you about their own experience with the topic at hand is invaluable. We try to recreate some of this experience by allowing for video chats in virtual exhibit halls or un-muted microphones during a Zoom Q&A, but many people don't feel comfortable in the virtual environment to be on camera or speak on a recording. There's a comfort level when you're in person that I don't think is easily recreated virtually. And some events, such as small group breakouts, are super easy to do in a conference room but require a huge amount of coordination and planning to do virtually (and often still go wrong despite the planning). You also get to do engagement activities in person that do not work nearly as well virtually. When you have a happy hour on site and you can give people drinks and hors d'oeuvres and they will mingle and network and have a good time. Virtually, telling people to make themselves drinks and snacks and sit in front of a camera and try to chat in a Zoom room full of 100 people doesn't have nearly the same effect. Attendees love parties with live bands and dancing, but you can't do something like that virtually. Ultimately, there are some aspects to live events that do not translate to virtual, and so I feel that a live event experience will always be preferable to virtual. 
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 moving forward, both planners and hoteliers take a more collaborative approach to the traditional RFP and proposal process. In my experience, the RFP/proposal process has always been very cut and dry, which has worked because, in general, our needs remained the same year after year so we knew what we needed. With hybrid becoming the new normal, there are a lot of great technologies and creative approaches to session set-up out there that we as planners may simply not know about since we've never needed them before. It's a situation where we don't know what we don't know. But AV companies are often familiar with emerging technologies that may not be mainstream. And hoteliers are helping to put on conferences from all different types of organization and groups so they can see what new things are being tried. So while my RFPs may look similar to how they've looked in the past, with some added requests for livestream technologies, the AV companies and hoteliers may be full of great ideas that they've already seen in action. If we allow the RFP/proposal process to be more of a collaborative conversation, with planners taking the time to have discussions of things we want to do and what might be possible, and the AV companies and hoteliers making suggestions based on those discussions, we can put our best foot forward on hybrid events right from the get-go. We won't have to experiment as much to find what works since we can just ask the people who know what's out there and what's been tried before.

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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