Jennifer Glynn, CIS, CITP, is a managing partner at Meeting Encore Ltd., and the new president of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence. Last year she was honored as a MeetingsNet Changemaker for the creation and rollout of SITE’s new Certified Incentive Travel Professional designation.
As Meeting Encore celebrates its 30th anniversary, she describes how both she and the company are coping during the COVID-19 epidemic.
How are you advising your clients?
Like most of the industry, we have been advocating the "postpone, don't cancel" approach and many clients have adhered to this principle. Because of the specific nature of some meetings or events, though, some have been forced to cancel outright and we have helped clients mitigate costs. For us, it's like a marriage: for better or for worse. These are hard times for clients and we want to be there for them as they too battle the impact of Covid-19. Having lived through 9/11, SARS, and recessions in the past, we know it's all about relationships. We're in it for the long haul and to support both our clients and our suppliers.
How long are you postponing events for?
This is directed by our clients, but most have postponed through the end of June. We are encouraging customers to wait and see with events beyond May, but it depends on the type of program and the destination.
Are you transitioning any events to virtual ones?
Some meetings are moving to virtual while others are supporting online learning versus in-person education, using Zoom and Microsoft Teams. So far, meetings moving online have averaged between 20 and 40 people. Thankfully, technology today allows us to communicate more effectively than ever before with our loved ones, manage teams remotely, and keep our SITE members up to date. For the short term the technology allows us to do this, but in the long term face-to-face meetings will return.
How soon do you think meetings and incentives will return after the pandemic?
Companies will need to get their teams together for product and initiative kickoffs, board meetings, re-launches, etc. Realistically, given the lead time required, incentives will be slower to recover. The time frame required to organize and launch an incentive travel campaign will mean that programs will only be delivered at the back end of 2021. But at the same time, some incentive programs have been rescheduled into early 2021 so that will help our industry globally. There will certainly be casualties in our industry, with many businesses not able to recover. The decisions of today will affect tomorrow and beyond.
Is there anything a meeting professional can do now, during the downtime, to prepare for next year or even later this year?
I totally understand how hard it is to stay positive with all the media out there. I am encouraging everyone to try to do one thing every day that brings joy. I would encourage people to keep in contact with their industry-based associations, i.e. SITE, Meeting Professionals International, Professional Convention Management Association, and many more. Our SITE family has been such a support network for me.
You can also work on personal education, such as industry certification training or learning a language. I am trying to learn piano online, although I’m not seeing much improvement yet!
As a business owner, this is an opportunity to reimagine your business services, work on the marketing plan, and take on other projects that you never get time for. Most important of all, keep in touch; set up virtual coffee breaks and social hours. Call your clients—but now is not time for sales calls. Simply thank them for their support. We are all dealing with unprecedented times, and we will come out stronger together.