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Planners Moving Forward Series- Sydney Dawson

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September 11, 2022
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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: Sydney Dawson

Job Title: Meeting and Event Planner

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?
 
Though the pandemic presented several challenges for the events industry, the reemergence has positioned the industry in an expanded capacity. For me, the pandemic resulted in the need for virtual connection, which allowed me to develop marketable skills as a virtual producer - something I may never have had the opportunity to develop otherwise. In the return to in-person events, the hybrid approach is providing accessibility for all audiences - whether the limitation for traveling to an in-person event relates to Covid safety or just flexibility to maintain the work-life balance that has become even more important post pandemic. The expanded audience that we are now privy to reaching by combining in-person and virtual access, is such a great silver lining to take forward.
 
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?
 
The early pandemic days of turning in-person events into virtual events, taught me a lot about how to make the virtual connection meaningful and I discovered and implemented many digital engagement tools during that time - things like polling, whiteboards, quiz games, networking apps, etc. The return to in-person events proposed a new challenge of maintaining the connection with the virtual audience and the growing comfort with technology and combining it with those who were ready to come back in-person. And now that we know the benefit of tech tools and an expanded audience with hybrid events, there's no going back! This means adapting those digital tools to foster a meaningful connection between those in the room and on the screen. The RFP process has expanded significantly to ensure venues can accommodate the AV that's needed for an effective hybrid model. And incorporating apps and digital resources for in-person participants has also become more of a priority.
 
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?
 
You may be noticing my respect and appreciation of hybrid events already, but I'll reiterate with an example of why they're so great. When I worked on alumni reunion events, and we introduced a virtual component, there were international alumni who hadn't participated in events with their classmates since they had graduated due to the distance and travel limitation. This format allowed them the opportunity to do so. From an engagement perspective, this advantage really cannot be understated. There's also the accessibility aspect that I mentioned before, which makes attending an event possible for those who may not be able to travel to an in-person event due to any number of reasons, related to health, finances, family responsibilities, etc.
 
In your opinion, what do you think the biggest value for your attendees is in regards to returning to live events?
 
The events I've supported most recently have been successful in providing an equitable experience of sharing the structured content to both the in-person and virtual audiences, but there is no comparison to the "hallway conversations" that take place at in-person events. These small and intimate side conversations build connections between peers that can develop into lasting relationships and can be such crucial resources down the line. Though I am always looking for ways to make these connections possible between in-person and virtual participants alike, I haven't discovered an equitable replacement for the in-person experience in this sense, so I'd say that's the biggest value.
 
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 we continue to have the level of understanding and compassion we've gained since experiencing a global pandemic as a society. We have been reminded so clearly that life is unpredictable - things can happen that make contracts and agreements hard to stick to. I've had great partnerships with vendors and hoteliers that have been so forgiving and understanding when events are postponed/cancelled, or when we need to add in AV package at the last minute to accommodate participants who can no longer attend in-person. I hope that doesn't fade away as we return to "business as usual".
 
 

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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