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Planners Moving Forward Series- Sabriya Dobbins, Passport LLC

January 20, 2022
Reading time: 4 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: Sabriya Dobbins

Company Name: Passport LLC

Job Title: CEO/Founder

Years of Experience: 3

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?
This pandemic has changed how we do everything down to our interactions with others, how we shop or purchase services, and how we see the world as a whole. The most important focus right now is versatility and flexibility. People want to know they have options and that we can pivot quickly when necessary. This will be the new landscape of meetings and events, customized yet evolving. At Project Passport, we are an activity-based company, therefore we have poised ourselves to have modifications in place for each of our individual services and activities that can be reflected in the virtual, hybrid, or in person space. At any given moment, an event can be moved online and we are prepared with content that is just as engaging as the on-site experience if not more. We believe that the majority of events will have a hybrid appeal so it is important that clients have the technical resources to facilitate this unique style of interaction. In order to ensure everyone has everything they need, we are prepared with the recommendations, tools, resources to help them adequately prepare for hybrid sessions. It is also important to consider accessibility. At Project Passport, we believe mental wellbeing is a right of every human being. We are constantly working with partners and within our resources daily to find ways to make our experience easier for participants of all abilities to utilize and to truly engage with and enjoy. Including programming aspects like closed captioning, sound adjustments, and accessible PDFs can make the difference for our clients. 
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?
We are constantly staying ahead of the new meeting platforms in place in order to ensure that we are providing the most engaging experience possible, even virtually. One of the things we do is check in on the platforms similar to Zoom but offer more features such as Butter, Swapcard, and other event experience software. However, it is not always about finding the fanciest technology, it is about maximizing client experiences through using the technology at its highest potential. We are constantly keeping up-to-date on new features of our existing platforms to quickly take advantage of them at our events. What makes events truly great are the people, the connections, and the harmony. We are focused more on training our staff to be intuitive on event experiences so we can pivot mid-event as needed with simple changes such as music, vocal tone, and even activity breakouts to ensure that people are feeling engaged and connected. People are seeking community and they are seeking a level of communication greater than what we had in the past. Our goal is to facilitate these spaces of energy and trust because once we do that, it is less about us as a team driving the event, and more about giving clients what they need to be well, mentally and emotionally. They begin to help drive their experiences with us as we flex to the need. People often focus on the bells and whistles but I whole heartedly believe we ARE the bells and whistles. Less is more in this new world as people seek ease and accessibility. 
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 meetings can be extremely beneficial to distributed teams and for individuals who may not be able to access physical spaces due to various reasons. If executed with care, planning, and a great set of hosts, the hybrid event can go really well. It is important to have a host that is focused on the interests of those on site as well as a host that is focused on the interests of those who are remote. Then, there is a beautiful harmony in ensuring both populations are acknowledge and everyone has a voice in the event. The worst thing you can do is make virtual people feel left out or less than all because they could not be there in person. Both types of events have their benefits, however with in person, everyone does not always have the luxury to be there. The pandemic has truly leveled the playing ground so everyone gets a card to play. 
In your opinion, what do you think the biggest value for your attendees is in regards to returning to live events?
Of course the most important value for attendees is connection. A hug, a nod, and smile all make a difference when you are face to face with someone. With in person, it is easy to manage the audience in regards to breakouts and it is more feasible to move them around in the space as we believe in really using the room. With virtual, we have to instruct people to use their own space which may not always be easy. People who attend in person have the chance to tangibly utilize tools and resources we provide them on retreats and in events rather than having to utilize digital versions or depictions. It is not always practical to mail things for virtual events and therefore, on-site events break these barriers. You can tap into all senses of participants and you have the ability to shape the room's experience and energy. With virtual, we have no idea what distractions people may face which impacts their individual energies and experiences. 
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?
It is so important that these new proposal and RFP processes open their horizons up to modified experiences and alternative options. With the uncertainty of the future as new challenges are bound to arise, we cannot do things the old way forever. This pandemic let us know that nothing is guaranteed. We learned this the hard way when we were dead set to take our retreat clients to Kenya in 2020 and had to cancel it all. Thankfully we received grace from our hotel and travel partners but it was not without a lot of back and forth. There needs to be room for nuances and Plans C-G if needed in proposals with flexibilities in acceptance, modification, and cancellation policies. For example, an event may have to flip inversely whereas event hosts and staff have to use hotel spaces and guests have to remain at home rather than everyone being on-site. There needs to be grace and planning for this change. Bottom line, all individuals in the planning process have to provide a sense of safety and peace by being open to multiple different versions of the same event. Companies need to feel confident that they won't be surprised with unexpected rates and pricing because they possibilities have been already considered and laid out for them.

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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