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. Taylor Nicole Abbate, CMP, meeting planner at the American Public Works Association in Kansas City, Missouri, shares her thoughts about the future of the business events industry.
How do you see your job changing as a result of the pandemic crisis?
Pre-pandemic, my role at the association was primarily to plan and execute in-person meetings and events of all sizes. Since the pandemic, my role has changed from planning in-person meetings and events to planning virtual events. Before the pandemic, I never had worked with virtual events aside from being an attendee at a live webinar. I now have been challenged to think of ways to make virtual events stand apart from others and think of creative ways to keep attendees engaged. I think I will switch some meetings and events that I used to plan as in-person to virtual events or to hybrid events after the pandemic.
How do you see the industry changing as a result of the pandemic?
As much as I wanted to believe that this industry will go back to “normal” when this pandemic is over, I don’t think the industry will ever go back to exactly how things used to be. But that is a good thing. This pandemic has made all sectors of our industry reevaluate the way we do everything for our attendees and guests. I see all sectors of the industry making sanitation even more of a priority than it was. I believe as a result of this pandemic, technology will advance in ways that will improve the way we sanitize hotels, convention centers, restaurants, stadiums, etc. The way professionals in this industry think will continue to change as a result of this pandemic. We have always planned for things to never go according to plan, but now we will be even more prepared to provide our attendees and guests with the safest experience possible so they can enjoy their time getting together with their friends and colleagues without worry. As much as the pandemic has hurt this industry, it has made all of us stronger. It has forced us all to challenge ourselves to be more creative in our work and use new technologies. As a result, I believe the business events industry and hospitality industry will blow people away when they once again step into live conferences, meetings, concerts, or restaurants and stadiums.
What new skills has the pandemic led you to pursue?
This pandemic has led me to pursue skills of managing virtual and hybrid events, which I didn’t know anything about previously. There is so much to learn about virtual and hybrid events that I am looking into earning my DES certification from PCMA in the coming months. I believe that virtual/hybrid events will be a part of this industry moving forward on some level, so it is important to know how to select the best technology, reach large audiences with interactive and engaging experiences, and market them the best ways possible.
What creative initiative or innovation have you seen this year that you believe should remain after this crisis passes?
I have heard of and seen many different sanitation innovations and initiatives to keep employees and attendees safe in stadiums and convention centers. These initiatives I think should and most likely will stay around after this crisis passes. Recently I have stayed at hotels that used to serve a complimentary breakfast, but now provide breakfast goodie bags as a grab-and-go option, which I think is very creative.
Another creative initiative I have experienced is a virtual site visit at a convention center. My coworkers and I were unsure of how effective this would be, as we like to walk the space when we do site visits. We were all pleasantly surprised at how well the city and convention center produced this site visit. I think virtual site visits can be a great initiative to keep around after this crisis passes. There are many more initiatives and innovations to come and I am excited to see what they are and what sticks around after the pandemic ends.