After a trying year for event professionals. members of PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties class of 2021 have proven resilience is a key skill in their toolkit. Marcus Urquhart, CMP, Event Marketing Manager at Georgia State University, Robinson College of Business in Atlanta, shares how he sees the pandemic changing his job and the business events industry.
How do you see your job changing as a result of the pandemic crisis?
My job completely changed overnight. Prior to the pandemic, my role was mainly about how to leverage KPIs with in-person events — from small, 10-person events to semi-annual events with more than 8,000 attendees. Now, my role has been finding ways to adapt those in-person events into online-engagement initiatives and measuring the effectiveness of those. So, the pandemic has given me the ability to flex my creative muscles and transition from a tactical assassin to a strategic powerhouse.
How do you see the industry changing as a result of the pandemic?
The industry will, I believe, forever be a hybrid. Now all aspects of the industry will have a virtual component, while cherishing the in-person experiences that were previously the norm. This will not only propel the need for innovation but give a new meaning to what a planner is and does. I have been excited to see the creative ways we have adapted to our “new normal,” not only with virtual events but drive-in events and socially distanced experiences. The industry has always adapted, pivoted, and thrived, and the pandemic has forced our industry to do so again. This will not be last time, but it does create a playbook we can use to continue the business of connecting people.
What new skills has the pandemic led you to pursue?
The pandemic has led me to pursue many new skills, one being a black belt in Lean Six Sigma — a fact-based, data-driven philosophy of process improvement — and strengthening my virtual event skills. As a planner I have a passion for process improvement, but I am now able to take process improvement and apply it to events. Minimizing errors and being more efficient is vital in any role but especially in events. I like to say that putting an event together is similar to putting a puzzle together. You have to be quick and efficient, while staying on time, on budget, and ensuring stakeholder satisfaction. Further, entering the virtual event world, I had some skills but not as strong as they should have been. After a lot of trial and error I found my stride through webinars and reading from organizations like PCMA. It took some patience and practice, but now I have a skill level I am proud to show and currently looking to expand it even further.
What creative initiative or innovation have you seen this year that you believe should remain after this crisis passes?
I have seen a lot of innovation and creativity from my peers. Something that comes to mind is virtual conferences. While they were around before, they are now scalable and more affordable. Further, there are so many different formats that work for different event types. Whether a convention or a commencement, they can have all the elements of an in-person event. I would love for this to stay and continue to innovate our industry, especially as AI grows and becomes a bigger part of our lives. Sharing content is the key mission and the more we can get the content out the better our reach and impact. Long after the crisis is over virtual conferences will be here and better than they are now.