ENGAGE webinar: Has video killed the meetings star?

Eloise Hanson Eloise Hanson Uploaded

The latest in a fortnightly series of ENGAGE webinars for travel buyers and suppliers of accommodation to corporate travellers was hosted last week by Mark Harris of the Travel Intelligence Network.

Like the curated ENGAGE event itself, the webinars bring together the very best from across the travel-buying industry and provide a no-cost digital platform for industry leaders to engage, look to the future and challenge the status quo with their peers, through the sharing of knowledge, live debates and Q&As. The topics offer a snapshot of what’s to come at the live event, hosted as part of the Urban Living Festival 2020 on November 25-26 at Tobacco Dock in London.

The latest session, titled ‘Has video killed the meetings star?’ Harris was joined by Paul Hussey director of The Conference Doctor, Steve Jones managing director of Wyboston Lakes Resort, and Kate Ray head of events at Chartered Governance Institute, ICSA.

Harris kicked off the discussion asking whether enquiries and bookings are starting to come through. All contributors agreed, with Jones stating he is beginning to bring back staff from furlough to meet the demand. Hussey added that bookings are taking place, however they tend to be postponed. 

When asked about bookings for face-to-face meetings, Ray mentioned that her organisation made the decision to make all events virtual until the end of the year. She explained: “The main reason was the uncertainty at the time (this was before the government announced that we could start running events) but as a member institution, we needed to let our members know what we were doing.” From February onwards, Ray is looking at whether venues can offer a hybrid solution. “A virtual event can’t replace that face-to-face network, but we’re doing what we can,” she added.

Harris wanted to know whether the move to virtual is a result of the covid crisis, or whether it was a trend in play before lockdown. Both Ray and Jones said that that current climate has merely accelerated what was happening within the sector already. As such, the needs of agents has shifted. Hussey explained: “Every agency has formed some alliance with a partner who can provide assistance to produce hybrid events. Some agents want venues to offer that… others see it as a revenue stream.”

Questioning whether there’s a fear factor amongst attendees for face-to-face meetings, Harris asked how the sector can collectively restore confidence in event goers. Jones said: “We can easily put 50 or 60 delegates into a setting far safer than [a restaurant]. As an industry, we can do it and we are ready do it, but operators need to be able to demonstrate that. Some of that is through accreditation, but the rest is through physical demonstration… as soon as there’s confidence, we’ll see the demand for face-to-face.”

Hussey added that virtual and hybrid events are lacking in network opportunities. “If you go to a larger event, the value to an attendee is as much from who they meet in the corridor. [Virtually] you’re getting strict business done, but you’re not getting the oil that makes business work,” he said.

In terms of what organisations are now looking for when sourcing venues for events, Ray specified the “added extras” and “thoroughness in safety” is absolutely key. As a venue operator, Jones added that for events spread across several days, permission will be requested from the organiser to police policies around social distancing.

Click here to watch a recording of the webinar.

The next ENGAGE webinar takes place on Thursday 6th August at 11:00 BST. It is titled ‘Hotels, serviced apartments, coliving / BTR, short term rentals - what’s the best option?’ and will cover: 

  • The differences between hotels, serviced accommodation, student housing / co-living, hostels and short term rentals
  • Where each option could fit in your accommodation programme
  • Where to find them
  • What accommodation offering provides the ideal environment for co-working

Click here to find out more and register.


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