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. Stephanie Geddis, Business Development and Client Marketing Manager at ICC Belfast in Belfast, Northern Ireland, shares her thoughts on what the pandemic fallout has taught her about the business events industry.
What has this year of disruption taught you about the industry?
Whilst event organizers held the key ingredients to make an event a success, suppliers had the technological advancements to embed these key ingredients and create virtual events that were interactive and almost as engaging as being there in person. They created virtual means that allowed thousands of international delegates to tune into keynote speeches, participate in Q&A sessions, and meet exhibitors who could provide solutions and services to help grow their businesses during their greatest time of need.
The power of collaboration between organizers and suppliers truly showcased their resilience in turning around an industry that was deemed “impossible” during these unprecedented times. What this has taught me is that the power of collaboration surpasses working in isolation every time, and the events industry is here to stay regardless of the formats used.
What new skills has the pandemic led you to pursue?
When faced with a global pandemic earlier this year, we found ourselves in fight-or- flight mode, navigating the way in an industry that was completely disrupted. In my role just weeks before the pandemic hit, I was operating as the key contact for clients with scheduled events. Therefore, my response had to be rapid. I was galvanized into action and assembled multi-disciplinary teams to create “survival kits.” The objective was to safeguard the revenue from these events by understanding the key conference objectives and provide expert advice and practical support from the ICC Belfast team in the areas of logistics, technical needs, and marketing.
During my COVID-19 client outreach, I received feedback showing the demand for meetings was still out there. To overcome the difficulties that staying safe by staying apart posed, I monetized the ICC Belfast Hybrid Studio that was built by our technical production team. This allowed me to diversify my skills by generating a new revenue stream for the organization. Furthermore, our innovative solution has allowed us to help clients stay connected with their members, employees, and key stakeholders, and it also affords ICC Belfast the chance to showcase our capabilities in delivering an event experience like no other.
How do you see the industry changing as a result of the pandemic?
Over the past few years, we’ve seen virtual and hybrid solutions increase in popularity. What may have been considered innovative previously will now be the minimum expectation. Organizers, destinations, and venues will have to find other ways to differentiate themselves. Delegates will be looking for quality over quantity and we’ll need to provide them with an experience that rewards their decision to attend in-person. It’s an exciting prospect for Belfast as we’re still considered to be a “new” destination within the European market. We can satisfy the curiosity of those business travelers searching for unique experiences, which can be provided in a very safe and cost-effective way.
What creative initiative or innovation have you seen this year that you believe should remain after this crisis passes?
The electric energy you feel in a room full of people at an awards ceremony is inimitable. However, the incredible effort that’s been made to create a multi-sensory, virtual experience is amazing. Technical production elements including impressive sound and lighting will elevate events in the future, adding professionalism in a way that communicates key messages seamlessly to the target audience.