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Will Medical Events Lead the F2F Revival?

Among the first large groups to recommit to meeting in person, The Aesthetic Society has partnered with Miami Beach’s CVB, convention center, and local hotels to execute a springtime gathering.

Touting it as “a huge leap towards recovery following a year of postponed events,” the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau announced in early December that The Aesthetic Meeting 2021, hosted by The Aesthetic Society comprising a membership of plastic surgeons, is the first event booked into the Miami Beach Convention Center since the Covid-19 pandemic began. The scheduled dates: April 29 to May 3.

“Somebody has to be first,” says Sue Dykema, CAE, executive director of The Aesthetic Society (photo below). “In 2020 we were among the first groups to cancel our annual in-person event, set for April in Las Vegas, and less than three weeks later we went live with a fully virtual event. You do what you need to do.”

MM1220Sue_Dykema.jpgTwo critical factors drove the group’s decision to commit to an in-person meeting before almost any other nonprofit organization. First, “as a medical society, many of our members are scheduled to get the vaccine very soon," Dykema notes. "From that standpoint, we are in a better position than groups not in the medical field.”

And second, “the attention to detail we saw around attendee health and safety protocols at the convention center and the hotels was so important to us.” At the moment, the society is limiting member attendance to 600 and exhibitor attendance to 200, and will spread the event’s layout across two of the center’s four 125,000-square-foot exhibit halls and about half of its 84 meeting rooms. Further, the ample amount of usable outdoor space adjacent to the Miami Beach Convention Center (photo below) also provides options for the group to conduct meals, breaks, and sponsor activations safely yet enjoyably.

And because The Aesthetic Society will be the only group in the center over those dates, there is additional flexibility in the case that in-person demand is higher than anticipated. “If we reach our present limit far enough out from the show, we could expand into the other halls and the meeting rooms around them—as long as it is safe to do so,” Dykema says.

MM1220MiamiBchCCoutside.jpgBut what is the general sentiment of the society’s members for meeting in person? After all, most participants will have to fly into Miami, and the risks of contracting Covid and possibly spreading it even if one experiences no symptoms, rises with each public encounter. “Members’ feelings on this are sort of all over the board, depending on their own health history and their family’s health histories,” Dykema says. 

At the convention center, one central component of the event’s Covid-safety plan is a brief health exam for every person coming into the center each day. “We will have wellness stations for people to come through, no exceptions. It might take a few extra minutes for attendees and exhibitors, but it must be done.”

However, for members who might not be vaccinated by late April event or who simply don’t have the time or desire to attend in person, the society is conducting The Aesthetic Meeting 2021 as a hybrid event, using the same provider for the virtual component as last year: Digitell.

“For the 2020 fully virtual event, we got 1,300 members to attend, which was excellent considering the short turnaround time we had,” Dykema says. “In person, we typically get between 1,500 and 1,800. So if we get 600 in person and somewhat close to 1,300 online this year, that would be a great success. We are hoping for that, but who knows what the wider situation will be like and how people will feel about traveling as we get closer to the event date.”

As a result, Dykema came to an agreement with the convention center, the hotels in the room block, and other event vendors and suppliers that March 10 will be the go/no-go decision date on meeting in person. “The convention center is working closely with us. They have been terrific, and all of our contractors and service providers are aware of that date. We are really trying to control costs for everybody in terms of logistics and set-up plans and even things like printing signage. We will decide by that date on going forward with all of that work.”

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