Welcome to the first in a four-part series featuring an interview with Henrietta Balint, Senior Director, Global Meetings & Events, Radius Travel. Heni gives us an overview of where virtual meetings and virtual meeting technology is at in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we enter August of 2020, are companies planning to have more virtual meetings than in-person meetings?
I think it’s the way of living right now. Initially, when everything shut down due to COVID-19, we saw a lot of our customers scrambling to cancel or postpone meetings, as well as find new ways to plan meetings. Most companies have found themselves having to adapt to virtual platforms in one way or another, some on a larger scale and some on a smaller scale. And we’re seeing companies beginning to plan bigger face-to-face events for next year. We’re all hoping that things return to somewhat of a normal state.
Interestingly, a recent survey showed that 72% of respondents prefer face-to-face meetings over virtual. I think we all know that face to face events are not going away, but it is also extremely certain that virtual meetings are here to stay and will continue to evolve. As we move into next year and beyond, I believe you will see an explosion of hybrid events.
In terms of criteria or factors, what should buyers be considering beyond just size and type of meeting?
I think there are different approaches to this, but ultimately it needs to come back to the organizational objectives and culture. If you haven’t already, revitalize your existing strategy to incorporate the virtual component. Go back to your internal stakeholders and clients to understand their needs and gain their buy-in to create the right strategy and deliver the right solutions and services.
At Radius Travel Meetings and Events, we are doing a lot of consultative work with customers, helping them through that journey. The fundamentals are the same when running an event virtually. It’s about how you can best achieve desired outcomes and support the company’s goals.
When it comes to technology, what kind of solutions are you seeing that’s out there?
There’s a lot of technology out there now. We need to understand the strength of the technology and functionality to apply to the right meeting type and drive the right outcomes. Due to world events, this is a huge growth area and we’re seeing a surge of new entrants into the industry.
We’re seeing some companies who are expanding their capabilities, and other platforms that are changing to accommodate virtual meetings in various different shapes and forms.
One isn’t necessarily better than the other. I also don’t believe that there is one single technology platform that will apply to all meeting types.
I think you would need to use the right solutions for the right meeting type and again, the content delivery and the desired outcomes. For example, if you have a video conference type setting like a Zoom or a WebEx or Teams, it might be suitable for shorter sessions, allowing you to see multiple people in a single frame.
Then you have the other end of the spectrum, such as a big live virtual event on a virtual venue type platform, where you can really drive and customize the attendee experience, have different types of medium, content, engagement platforms as well as integration and customization.
For example, you can visit a lounge area for a one-on-one conversation, create avatars, and go to a breakout session where you might see a virtual stage and a presenter being live-streamed.
There are varying types of technology out there, but it’s about finding the right one that that is going to deliver the right outcome.
There are so many different services and products across the whole spectrum. It’s not one size fits all.
That’s what we pride ourselves on at Radius Travel Meetings and Events. We don’t take set solutions off the shelf and force the customer to fit into it. We really customize our solutions and our services to meet each client’s needs. I believe that’s the right way to do it because no company is the same. We need to respect that and be able to meet the need.
Are you ready for a damn good virtual meetings strategy?
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Senior Director, Global Meetings & Events, Radius Travel
Heni has a wealth of experience in both M&E and transient travel, having spent more than 20 years in commercial travel management company roles covering both sectors. A native Australian, Heni has lived and worked in Europe, Asia Pacific, and North America, and currently resides in the U.S.