The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence opened its application period for the Crystal Awards in June. When I read that there are two new categories focused on motivational virtual events, and that the association will once again have the category introduced last year, Most Creative Solution Deployed at a Time of Crisis, I cracked a smile. My thought: Oh boy, SITE is going to get swamped.
That’s what happened to MeetingsNet. We put out our call for Changemakers nominations in March, asking people to tell us about colleagues who have worked toward significant change in their organizations, their professional communities, or the meetings industry as a whole, and got a flood of responses. We’ve been honoring Changemakers annually for more than a decade, and we always hear about a lot of interesting initiatives and challenges—but this year was special.
We had well over double the number of nominations that we usually receive, and the quality of the entries was remarkable. As you might guess, many were nominated for their leadership, innovations, and exploits as they worked to salvage what was lost when meetings and travel shut down. Clearly, it was a year like no other, and meeting professionals had to work quickly to upskill their teams and rethink their roles to create virtual meetings that supported the training, selling, networking, and other goals of their organizations.
Meeting planners have learned a tremendous amount about virtual meetings over the past year. According to survey results from Hubb, 45 percent of planners in May 2020 had some experience with virtual events, but by March 2021 that figure had jumped to 83 percent. In addition, 20 percent now consider themselves “virtual event experts” compared to only 4 percent who said that last year.
It seems likely that more challenges are in store as organizations work to figure out how this newly acquired expertise and the increasingly robust virtual-meeting platforms fit into an overall meeting program. No one doubts that face-to-face meetings are quicky—and joyously—coming back. But what about the expanded reach of virtual events, the data collection, the time savings for attendees, and the environmental benefits?
Deciding how to meet is an increasingly important consultative role for strategic planners. For a given event, which format is most effective—in person, hybrid, or virtual—and why? And if the choice is virtual, which platform is most appropriate? When it’s time for next year’s Changemakers nominations to roll in, I’ll be surprised if we don’t hear about meeting leaders who have worked out smart policies for triaging their organization’s events to make sure the medium fits the message.
Those 2022 nominations might not have the heroics of the quick pivots to virtual seen this year, but I think everyone is ready for a little less drama.
I want to congratulate all our nominees and point you to our profiles of the 21 impressive individuals we selected as 2021 Changemakers. (View them in the digital edition or online at MeetingsNet.)
By the way, SITE’s nomination window for the Crystal Awards closes July 27. Go ahead and swamp them; you deserve to be recognized!