Hawaiian-born Kevin Iwamoto has worked in almost every aspect of meetings and events, from procurement to consulting. Spreading the word on the financial impact of the industry and lobbying to protect it is high on his list of priorities for the future.
MeetingsNet: What changes do you think will happen to face-to-face events due to the pandemic?
Kevin Iwamoto: It will definitely change logistics and crowd management for large-scale gatherings. A lot depends on when they have a vaccine or treatment and until such time, all we've got is social distancing, wearing masks, sanitizing venues, and washing our hands constantly. Everything including how we greet one another, how we interact, how we share meals, manage speakers, and organize logistics will change. We will need to modify contract verbiage to address unforeseen cancellations due to epidemic and pandemic outbreaks. We may not be able to bring in speakers and VIPs so easily as some may be reluctant to address large crowds for fear of contracting COVID-19 or another virus.
One thing is for certain post any crisis: The new norm will emerge and whatever that is, we will have no choice but to adapt and move forward.
MeetingsNet: What do you hope won’t happen?
Iwamoto: I hope that whatever the new norm is post COVID-19, it won't stifle event creativity with new regulations and laws that create so much hassle there’s less room for creativity. Worse yet, I hope that people don’t leave our industry because events and gatherings will be reduced or eliminated.
MeetingsNet: What opportunities do you think the pandemic may present to the industry?
Iwamoto: I want our industry to coalesce more strongly and lobby our government with a singular collective strategy and voice. Progress was made by the creation of Meetings Means Business, but we still remain decentralized and depend on the individual lobbying efforts by the airlines, hotels, and other larger suppliers. We need a strategic vision for creating awareness of our collective impact in Congress. The business travel industry is farther ahead in lobbying efforts and representation than the events industry. The time has come for us to stop hoping for help. We should demand it, based on the aggregate dollars we generate on a domestic and global basis. If anything good comes as a result of COVID-19, I hope it is finally the catalyst that drives us together for collective representation.