Event planners discuss digital, flexible thinking and share ‘survival stories’
Panel sessions and forums offer an open exchange of ideas and challenges.
“While it’s always been useful to learn from each other, the need is now amplified.” ASAE President and CEO Michelle Mason pinpoints exactly why IMEX’s dedicated day of education and connections is so crucial for event professionals from across the world.
Event professionals from agencies, associations and corporates gathered for tailored sessions the day before IMEX in Frankfurt.
‘We’ve had no roadmap for the past couple of years’
It has never been more critical for association professionals to come together, as Michelle Mason explains: “We’ve had no roadmap for the past couple of years and even as we now build towards business recovery and growth, no single organisation has all the answers. Sharing knowledge, experiences and best practices gives association leaders the greatest opportunity to innovate, enhance member engagement and position their organisations for continued growth and impact.”
Alongside sessions on building a community, strategic governance and DEI, which pinpointed elements of ASAE’s Conscious Inclusion Strategy, was The Association Workplace of the Future: A World Reshaped by COVID. The panel session explored how the pandemic has prompted many associations to take a fresh look at their mission and member value.
Amy Hissrich, VP, global and web strategy & communications at ASAE and a panellist for the session, said: “I think what’s been most important through this crisis – and ultimately, what is most encouraging for our future – is that association leaders have been forced to be extremely adaptable in our thinking and our planning. There have been so many daily operational challenges throughout the past two-plus years that have challenged us to be nimble. Out of sheer necessity, associations are becoming extremely responsive and innovative as they seek to meet the rapidly evolving needs of their members.”
Sharing ‘survival stories’
Global agency professionals from countries including Australia, Canada, Dubai, Egypt, India, Mexico and the US gathered for an open exchange of ideas and challenges at the Agency Directors Forum. The Forum brought together agency planners from organisations including Maritz Global Events, MCI Middle East and NextStage, who between them create and deliver corporate events, conferences and incentives for sectors including technology, healthcare and the public sector.
In an afternoon of discussion moderated by Angeles Moreno, director of strategic alliances and business growth at TCD Strategy Consulting, they shared experiences and ‘survival stories’ as Karen Soo, CEO of Meeting & Exhibition Planners described it. Discussions centred around sustainability, new trends in human behaviour and purposeful business.
Data is a must-do
At Exclusively Corporate, Mindset Coach Paul McVeigh introduced his audience to the ‘thinking cycle,’ urging them to plan their personal lives as much as their professional lives. When asked what they ‘don’t want more of’ in 2022, the majority answered ‘stress, burnout or pressure.’ The counterpoint – ‘what do you want more of in 2022’ – was happiness. As McVeigh cautioned, though, unless you clearly define what happiness means, you’ll never achieve it.
“Don’t be fooled by how simple this sounds,” he said “Very few people ever take the time to think this through or define it clearly.”
Picking up on the theme of radical change in the global events industry, facilitator Patrick Delaney quizzed Stephanie DuBois, head of event operations at SAP. She explained that experienced and long-service staff found it hard to ‘let go of live’ when the pandemic hit.
“We had to move away from everything that was comfortable and familiar, but we knew we had to adapt,” she said. “And the way we convinced internal stakeholders of the need to invest in digital or multiple local events for example was data – you simply must have data now to prove your point.”
The day’s programme was dominated by several strong themes: planners being expected to deliver virtual events to TV production standards without enough talent, time or budget; employee wellbeing; transferable skills and long-term staff development and the fact that the new event cycle has changed completely. Sponsors, attendees and other participants all need 10 times more touchpoints to engage and, even then, commitment can be very last minute.