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Embracing Digital First

We can build a better future by embracing and supporting a digital first mind set. What is a digital first mindset? As defined by Wilson Fletcher Consultants, “digital-first means approaching any new opportunity, or problem, with the assumption that the solution should be as digital as possible”. It sounds scary and some are opposed to this theory, but most of our daily lives already revolve around digital technology! The opposition is change and change is good.

Thinking back to the March 2020 shutdown, there were thousands of events unable to host in-person and being unfamiliar with the virtual alternatives caused a ripple effect of devastation. Associations and organizations who pivoted survived, while others closed indefinitely. Learning from our mistakes, our industry is now making the transition to hosting hybrid events and rebuilding our risk management plans. It is important that we adopt the digital first mindset as it will future proof our business by forcing us to prepare for all possible outcomes.

If we have learned anything over the last seven months, its that nothing can fully replace the in-person experience, but technology can certainly keep us connected and moving forward. Let’s continue to innovate and find creative ways to improve our industry through the use of a digital first mindset. It can be as simple as always having a webinar scheduled as back-up, digitizing all files or utilizing online tools for marketing and communication. There are many steps we can take. Its important that we just start.

Bonus Definitions As we find more ways to support this mindset beyond beyond the zoom room, here are three acronyms that are used interchangeably yet are very different.

  1. Virtual reality (VR) is when a person is completely immersed into an artificial world. Think about being in your living room then putting on VR goggles to be in the rain forest. All you see is the rain forest with no signs of your living room.
  2. Artificial reality (AR) is when technology overlaps the real world. Pokemon Go is the perfect example of AR. You can be hiking up a mountain and be next to Cubone…even though you can’t touch it. If Pokemon Go wasn’t your style, think about when you are looking for furniture online and can “place” the couch in your living room to see how it looks.
  3. Artificial intelligence (AI) on the other hand is technology that can think like a human. It can answer questions, solve problems, make predictions and replace mundane tasks. Siri and Alexa are examples of AI. How many times a day do you ask Siri a question because you don’t want to research it yourself? The greatest event AI I have seen over the last few months is translation AI. This allows anyone to translate the presentation into their native language. This is fantastic for event producers as they can now reach a much greater audience, have a more diverse group of presenters and create a more inclusive experience.

Hope these bonus definitions help clear up any confusion!

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The Core of What We Do

During the last few months, the hospitality, meetings and events industry has taken a huge hit with many individuals losing their jobs and even closing their businesses. Being apart of an industry that never seems to have a slow season then abruptly shuts down can shake even the most organized and veteran meeting professionals. Prior to COVID-19, we were busy planning in-person meetings at hotels, huge conferences at convention centers and maybe even a few video calls; but in the back of our minds, we knew that hybrid events were slowly entering the market and would eventually become the norm. Ready or not hybrid events were the future…COVID-19 only helped speed up the process.

By being thrown into the fire, most of us learned on the fly adapting and making changes along the way. However, change can be hard to accept in any situation whether in your personal life or professional career. YOU have to decide how you are going to move forward. Will you rely on returning to the past or what we think of as “normal”? Or will you refocus your energy, learn a new skill and develop a creative strategy that will lead your team and clients into the future? When I see these two questions, there is only one answer.

As meeting and event professionals, what lies at the core of what we do is bringing people together. We bring people together to celebrate, collaborate, decide, educate, network and inspire. Whether it is through an in-person, virtual or hybrid event, it is our mission to deliver an experience that brings people together. Yes, it may be a challenge to pivot to virtual especially when we have postponed taking the time to educate ourselves and even have these conversations with our clients; but, we are the kings and queens of problem solving! This is what we do! We are constantly planning, recreating and finding solutions based on our clients needs. Yes its a challenge, but its nothing we can’t handle.

Stay positive. Stay focused. Stay true.