The Future of Face-to-Face Events at IEEE Convene 2021

October 27, 2021 by ekurzawa
Filed in: Virtual & Hybrid Event Case Studies Tag: Case Studies

On 21 October, IEEE Meetings, Conferences & Events (MCE) brought together 135 attendees virtually at IEEE Convene, the annual gathering of IEEE’s conferences and events communities. Participants included conference organizers, leadership, IEEE professionals, and external contributors. The theme of this year’s program is top of mind for many within the community: a return to live events.

IEEE Convene’s program featured keynotes, panels, and a destination showcase designed to paint a picture of what to expect when resuming in-person gatherings. The MCE Digital Events team planned and produced the virtual event. IEEE Convene was hosted on the Engagez platform, enabling live video, on-demand content, chat, and community polling. In one Convene poll, forty-three percent of participants said they are ready to get back to once again meeting in person.

Bin Zhao, Chair of IEEE Conferences Committee, kicked off the day by discussing how IEEE Conferences accelerate technological innovation and drive change. Bin shared that despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, IEEE Conferences have made incredible contributions, including sending record numbers of papers to IEEE Xplore®. Bin thanked the event’s participants including, the IEEE Conferences Committee, speakers, contributors, and the IEEE professional team.

Bin introduced an uplifting video produced by MCE highlighting several recent IEEE hybrid events. Participants got an inside look into events like the 2021 International Microwave Symposium (IMS), the 2021 OCEANS Conference and Exposition (OCEANS), the 2021 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), and the 2021 IEEE Intelligent Vehicles Symposium (IV21). IEEE Conference Organizers are thinking outside the box to make the dream of in-person events a reality once more.

Marie Hunter, Head of IEEE Global Meetings, Conferences and Events welcomed participants to the event. Marie thanked the community for their herculean efforts during the pandemic and celebrated the return of IEEE Convene. Marie discussed the impact of the pandemic on the events industry and looked ahead to what is on the horizon.

Aileen Crawford, Glasgow Convention Bureau; Robin A. McClain, Destination DC; Shawna Wellman, Travel Portland; and Sabrina Pergass, Business Events Montréal, discussed how their cities pivoted during the pandemic and offered insider planning tips in an enlightening panel session. The panel discussed the importance of learning requirements for entering your event’s country and local guidelines regarding masks and proof of vaccination. The panel suggested asking your local partners about the availability of ground transportation, restaurants, and venue staffing in your event city. Panelists also recommended right-sizing your in-person or hybrid event to streamline costs and optimize the participant experience.

Through a series of destination showcase videos, participants could embark on virtual journeys to each of the four cities represented in the panel. Each video transported participants to a future where we can embrace traveling to new locations and resume our work face-to-face.

Sherry Russ Sills, Director, Event Operations, IEEE MCE, and a panel of experts shared how organizers can team up with partners to create safe and engaging event experiences. The panel emphasized communicating expectations upfront with participants and vendors to build trust and minimize conflicts. Jonathan Wiggins, Chief Privacy Officer, IEEE, discussed the importance of following local guidelines at your event and being transparent with participants about compliance. Rocco LaForgia, Director of Sales Worldwide Accounts, Hilton, Inc., shared how Hilton’s CleanStay Program is keeping guests safe and how they will work with organizers on creative solutions like outdoor dining.

Dahlia El Gazzar, Tech Evangelist + Idea Igniteur, DAHLIA+Agency, discussed how creating emotional connections and mind stamps boosts participant engagement. Dahlia recommended leading with your event strategy and then supporting it with the right technology. She challenged participants to be creative and try new formats like rapid-fire chat with subtitles and new technologies like Clubhouse to stand out from the crowd. Dahlia also discussed how to reuse and monetize “snackable content” following your event.

Ben Chodor, President, Notified, an Intrado Business, shared how as an events platform provider, they pivoted in response to the changing landscape and worked to address the needs of planners and participants. Ben discussed how to use virtual events to create bespoke experiences for each participant. When planing hybrid events, rather than live streaming your in-person event to your virtual participants, Ben suggested tailoring the experience specifically for each audience. He recommended including a virtual component in future events and called on participants to “fail forward” by trying new approaches to see what works best.

At the exhibit hall, participants engaged with IEEE Convene’s over twenty speakers and contributors. Participants chatted with representatives from Convention and Vistors Bureaus and hotels about upcoming events and what to consider during the planning process.

Dave Weil, Business Development Executive, Hall-Erickson, Inc., shared what it has been like to be in the trade show business during the pandemic. Rather than recreating tradeshows virtually, Dave suggested focusing on content partnerships that might include video, case studies, and demos. Color-coded wrist bands can also communicate participants’ comfort levels with social distancing at in-person events. He also suggested right-sizing your budget based on expected attendance and including line items for hybrid staffing and safety measures.

Rich Jannuzzi, Director – Business Operations & Intelligence, IEEE MCE, led a panel discussion on mitigating financial risk in uncertain times. IEEE Conference Organizer, Dr. Nancy Frost, suggested developing strong partnerships with exhibitors and sponsors and aligning contracts accordingly. Patrick McCarren, Society Executive Director IAS & Special Projects, IEEE, said to anticipate potential last-minute cancellations when employers get cold feet about sending their employees to your event.

Danny Asling, Head of Marketing, Gleanin, asserted that trust is the cornerstone of effective marketing. Danny discussed the recent digital shift to communities as the sources of trusted information. Peers, content creators, and stakeholders are the new “influencers” for marketing your event. Research tools like SparkToro and Brandwatch can help you get to know your audiences. Platforms like Gleanin can help you leverage the marketing power of your community.

A series of “Quick Tips” punctuated IEEE Convene with helpful considerations for planning your upcoming events. Participants learned findings from a recent survey of IEEE events led by the IEEE Conference Revenue Opportunities Ad Hoc Committee. They also discovered ways to turn speakers into advocates like making assets available, leveraging marketing and technology tools, and tagging speakers and companies.

Susan Root, Senior Director, Conference Business Services & Strategic Programs, IEEE MCE, led a closing panel with Marie Hunter and IEEE Conference Organizers Fred Schindler and Hausi Müller. Panelists shared their top learnings and outlook for the future of events. Drawing on their experiences, the panelists shared tips like having a clear strategy, leveraging your recorded content after your event, and considering various hybrid event models. Above all, the team advised leaning on available support systems like MCE for guidance.

The event closed with a networking session held on the SpatialChat platform, enabling participants to chat with fellow participants in the Social Lounge. The community was ecstatic to connect once again to catch up and share stories about their planning pursuits.

IEEE Convene offers a platform for gaining fresh perspectives and exchanging ideas within the conferences and events community. Marie Hunter shares, “it was a joy to see our community joined together once again and hear from so many incredible speakers at this year’s event. Our organizers have done such a phenomenal job over the past year and a half. This experience has taught us so much about being nimble and responsive to changing environments and audience needs. We are already planning next year’s Convene event and will carry these learnings forward to continue advancing our knowledge as a community.”

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