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Jab by Jab, We’re Coming Back

Consider how much the meetings industry has been through, how it’s adapted, and how planners have grown.

My new favorite thing is a little U.S. map that appears daily in The New York Times. In shades of green, it shows the share of the population in each state that has received at least one shot of a Covid vaccine.

On one hand, the map makes it clear that we have a ways to go—as of early March, only 7.5 percent of people in my home state of Massachusetts are fully vaccinated. On the other hand, the data is enormously encouraging. We’re finally tracking our progress back to normalcy for our lives and our livelihoods.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself—virus variants, a weak economy, and high unemployment present significant roadblocks to that progress. And let’s face it, the vaccine rollout could be going faster. But jab by jab, we're on our way.

It’s too soon to get nostalgic, but consider how much the meetings industry has been through recently and how it’s adapted. New meeting formats, new tech suppliers, new safety guidelines, new internal teams needed to make meetings happen … change and more change. It’s been hard, and staff cuts have been wrenching, but if there is a bright side to this year, it’s that opportunities have surfaced. Meeting planners don’t always get a chance to be tested (can you shift to a virtual meeting in six weeks?) or expand their roles (what’s a “digital event producer”?) in ways that allow them to show the depth of their capabilities.

On a call with the head of safety, security, and resilience at my parent organization, Informa, I asked how the pandemic had impacted his work safeguarding the company’s expositions. Not surprisingly, he said he was more in demand than ever. But beyond that, he believed there is now a greater appreciation of what he brings to the table as an expert and a professional.

Similarly, meeting planners who have managed through the pandemic could find themselves poised for greater responsibility and recognition. The dramatic shift to virtual meetings is likely to create more scrutiny on the merits of meeting in person once that option returns. As a result, planners who can assess meeting outcomes will be in demand, as will those who can design events that are proven to achieve their goals and those who have become crackerjack health-and-safety pros. And, of course, the planners who have embraced virtual and hybrid meeting technologies and produce engaging online events can feel great about their job security. (Read Rob Carey’s feature on hybrid meetings in our March/April issue.)

That little map is getting greener every day. I look forward to seeing you in person once I get that shot myself. Until then, hang in there.

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