Event Operational Changes & Technology Strategies: A Buyer Discussion

In this pandemic period, hosting meetings comes with a new set of event complexities – whether in-person, virtual, or a hybrid of both. For this week’s Collaboratory 2020 buyer webinar, made possible by Citi, Kathy Grau, Vice President of Program Operations at The CM Group and a member of the GBTA Meetings & Events Committee, hosted three distinguished panelists: Karen Bond, Card & Travel Manager at HNTB Corporation; Jennifer Kowal, Director of Corporate Meetings & Events for Aon Service Corporation; and Carmen Smith, Senior Manager of Travel & Events for ICF.


All shared recommendations on making quick operational changes to support hybrid and/or virtual meetings and insights on how to best develop, expand and implement a robust technology strategy to support this immediate corporate need.


  • Use this period to become more engaged with partners and stakeholders: For Carmen Smith, this has meant joining a COVID working group at her company that includes IT, the Contracts department, Marketing and Communications, Legal, and other cross-functional teams. This has allowed her to become more engaged with the company and learn ways the teams can work more collaboratively to find solutions and meet challenges.


  • Companies are creating a crisis and risk management plan or making theirs more robust. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the need for risk management plans or has brought forward gaps in already-developed plans. For Jennifer Kowal’s company, this has meant expanding their plan so it’s truly global and offering the same level of metrics and support across the entire international firm, not just in some areas of the world.


  • The hybrid meeting option may be the “sweet spot:” Virtual meeting technologies have been around for a while but the pandemic has accelerated their use. According to Karen Bond, offering a hybrid solution – a combination of in-person and virtual meeting components – could be a spectacular option because it allows companies to welcome those who are comfortable to the in-person experience while widening your reach to those attending virtually from any location. Plus, the digitization of having the content recorded and available for later viewing offers even more opportunity for engagement.


  • Technology needs to provide a “wow” experience: Whether fully virtual or hybrid, technology needs to not only be user-friendly, but able to keep attendees engaged. Panelists mentioned Cvent and Meetings Evolution as examples of platforms they have found to fit this bill. While some of these platforms may be costly, panelists noted that funds typically budgeted for in-person meetings, particularly for food and beverage, could be shifted towards securing a more attractive virtual meeting platform.


To view a recording of this, and other past webinars, visit the Resources section of the GBTA Member Hub.


Upcoming Webinar Topics:

Nov. 16-20: Sustainability

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