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Carol McGury, Executive Vice President, Event and Education Services, SmithBucklin

An Insider’s View of 2021: Association Management

SmithBucklin’s Carol McGury expects that the virtual-meeting knowledge gained in 2020 will pay off in 2021.

MeetingsNet asked 21 events-industry thought leaders to weigh in with their predictions and perspectives for 2021. Find all the commentary here.

Carol McGury

Executive Vice President, Event and Education Services


In terms of virtual learning and networking events, the key lies in getting the design right for your particular audience. We’ve done about 60 such events so far, for groups ranging in size from 100 to 100,000 across many verticals. In 2020, the technology, design, and format demands of virtual experiences required us to develop new skills and resources to ensure effective delivery to specific attendee sets, and we’ll take that new knowledge into 2021 and beyond. Planning teams must keep bringing innovation to the table, then capture learnings from it and share the lessons.

Further, we continually assess our technology partners because the platforms are evolving based on customer feedback and with new features added regularly. So, we are getting more efficient even as we get more creative with our virtual delivery. As for virtual exhibitions, our sales team knows it must stay on top of the needs of associations and their partners. We know quite well that a virtual exhibit hall might not be the perfect engagement solution for a given association’s partners. Because of this, we suggest approaching those partners with a holistic, consultative approach. We look for a virtual-experience design along with other association assets that can provide the right opportunities for partners to engage with attendees. So, engagement could come through online focus groups, social activities to targeted groups, content hubs, or one-to-one interactions through speed networking or matching.

Overall, creative approaches are what give an association’s partners the reasons to continue spending their marketing dollars with that association.

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