As event professionals take stock of a taxing 2020, closeout yearend budgets, and look toward 2021, one common trait defines all that we have seen and what every client, planner, venue and vendor expect: adaptability. Timelines are ever-changing, calendars are torn apart and rearranged, and levels of expectation soar. More than any other time in the history of our industry, everyone must adapt, often at moment’s notice.

With 2021 around the corner, we must hone and perfect our adaptability by observing methods proven successful thus far as COVID-19’s effects on meetings and events force our hands. This need to adapt is most prevalent in the meeting format. Programs large and small endure overnight shifts from live to virtual, live to hybrid and any permutation between. In assessing what we see work best, we stay ahead of evolving transitions by sharing common missteps and best practices. 

Many in the industry brought rich experience in virtual meeting and production services long before the unfortunate ramifications of COVID-19 became day-to-day realities. Now, various scenarios demand meeting planners to alter course overnight from either live or hybrid to full-blown virtual meeting formats. As a live or hybrid meeting shifts to a virtual configuration, many corporate event teams and meeting planners have a strategically mapped process to follow as ownership changes hands and deliverables take on a different shape. Companies and agencies alike adapt via cross-team functionality; the virtual team must be able to communicate and hand off seamlessly to the hybrid or live meetings team and back again. This joint effort involves constant communication amid transition, laying out step by step what the strategic map dictates. Potential pitfalls abound and the ability to navigate a client through potential perils is vital, i.e., negotiating housing and equipment cancellation fees, overhauling the attendee management process, and oversight of the implementation of different virtual technology platforms. The ability of teams to understand one another’s core strengths and function as one has proven successful since the dawn of the global pandemic. The onus is on us to share these learnings and recommend the best paths ahead.

As virtual and hybrid meetings shift to live attendance configurations, stakeholders must wield fluency in contractual obligations from rescheduling penalties to force majeure application. Seeking legal counsel early in the contract negotiation process alleviates murky situations before they materialize. A strong grasp of where you stand contractually regarding equipment and room space is paramount. Additionally, as program formats shift to and from live attendance, the ability to rely on local, vested meeting professionals gives any team a leg up in the realm of meeting space and lodging viability. Local talent brings an awareness unavailable from afar.

We all have a full plate with 2021 on the horizon. But with intelligence on how to maneuver meeting formats, reconcile contractual applications and obligations, and adapt in the moment, we will all stay ahead of the game most efficiently. Even if the rules change tomorrow – only a mutually shared bank of learnings, that which we’ve seen work so well in the meetings industry in times past, can help propel us all forward.