In what will come as a surprise to no one, Convene’s most-viewed stories of 2020 centered on the COVID-19 pandemic. Readers sought answers about legal questions arising from canceled events, tips for working from home, and advice on proper protocol for social distancing and hygiene at face-to-face events. As organizers turned their in-person conferences and conventions to digital and hybrid events, they sought inspiration from each other about surmounting challenges and engaging stakeholders in virtual environments. And they found real-life examples in Convene.
Here are the stories that resonated the most with meeting professionals.
After being grounded this year, many of us are itching to travel, so perhaps that can help explain the enduring popularity of this story. Originally written in October 2019 but updated throughout 2020, this top-read story spelled out the Oct. 1, 2020 deadline to get REAL ID identification cards or driver’s licenses in order to be allowed to fly domestically in the U.S. The REAL ID deadline was delayed 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we reported later in the year, citizens now have until October 1, 2021, to acquire a REAL ID.
“When face-to-face events return, some attendees will still want to shake hands,” we wrote in June. “Others will want a six-foot bubble around them.” Social Bands, color-coded wristbands that show the wearer’s preference for making physical contact or not, was a big hit amongst our readers. The bands take a cue from traffic lights: Red for no contact; yellow indicates an elbow bump is okay; and green means a hug, handshake, or high-five is welcome.
In March, many in business events were trying to figure out how to market their changed events during a pandemic. In a monthly Convene column, Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, chief marketing strategist at marketing firm mdg, offered some sound advice that makes sense even outside of crisis times.
“Meeting professionals should closely examine their organization’s contracts, insurance, and communications for upcoming meetings and events.” That was the advice of Barbara F. Dunn, Esq., Barnes & Thornburg LLP, in February as event strategists began to face the reality of the pandemic — that face-to-face meetings would have to be canceled or postponed. Legal topics were top of mind for event pros in 2020, from comments about negotiating contracts in our surveys to Catalyst conversations about when the force majeure clause can be invoked for 2021 meetings.
Our readers and others in the industry have made their voices heard in our monthly Recovery Dashboard surveys. A total of 1,776 people responded to our first survey in late March, before we had given it the Dashboard moniker. At that time, 87 percent of respondents said they had canceled — and 66 percent had postponed — events as a result of COVID-19. Those percentages improved over time, but only because more events moved online.
In April, a member of PCMA’s Catalyst community asked the forum for ideas on how to social distance at face-to-face meetings. The answers, including creative room sets and wider aisles, have been refined by many throughout the year. Event companies shared their visions for live events, while other solutions just seemed strange (hello, Microshell?). There now is even an interactive tool to help determine indoor risk factors.
7. WHO Issues COVID-19 Coronavirus Event Planning Guide
We wrote about the World Health Organization’s nine-page document outlining key recommendations for those planning “mass gatherings” first in February. The document has been updated several times since, so we began sending readers to our Coronavirus Resources & Insights page.
When lockdowns became a thing around the world and people began working from their couches and kitchens, Convene editors — the majority of whom have worked remotely for years — shared their hard-earned insights for getting things done at home.
Networking expert J. Kelly Hoey, author of Building Your Dream Network, offered her ideas about networking during a time of social distancing. “Everything we do right now — from sending emails to making calls to sending texts — is more important than ever,” she said in April. “How we make people feel now is going to linger longer than these turbulent times.”
The timing of the business events industry recovery is going to be dependent on consumers and businesses having confidence that our cities and venues are safe again, wrote Convene columnist Dave Lutz, CMP, in late March.
Here are 10 more of our top-read stories:
Curt Wagner is digital editor at Convene.