We Asked, You Answered: What Have You Enjoyed About Returning to Face-to-Face Events?

With many organizations hosting in-person events this fall, association professionals shared what they love about getting together with colleagues and members again after months of pandemic-forced solitude.

Sometimes, we don’t know what we’re missing until it’s gone. But as association pros returned to in-person events, many said they quickly rediscovered that camaraderie that you only get when in a room with people, while others enjoyed the chance encounters that happen in hallways. Read on to see what our colleagues had to say.

Maria Thiry

Membership Director, American Association of Textile Chemists & Colorists

Serendipitous moments, when you meet someone you hadn’t planned to meet—or sometimes not even realized was at the event. Impromptu conversations that turn out to be the spark for bigger things. These are things that face-to-face gatherings provide that virtual meetings cannot. Virtual events, by their nature, are more planned and orchestrated and less random. And they are very successful! They are sometimes more efficient than face-to-face events. But, in life, there is always a place and a role for chaos.

Joan Wade

Executive Director, Association of Educational Service Agencies

We held our first in-person event in July, our second one in September, and we will be holding our annual conference in December as an in-person event. We are running about a 75 percent attendance rate compared to pre-pandemic. The best thing about returning to in-person events is the networking and the “buzz” in the room as attendees see each other for the first time. Attendees are excited to be back together to learn from one another and explore the next best practices.

Janet Rodriguez Judd

2021 President, Missouri REALTORS

We were one of the first associations to hold in-person meetings. Members wanted the option of attending live or virtually. That’s what we did. Everyone was happy to see each other, smile, and look each other in the eye while having a discussion regarding an issue. They felt like their voices were heard and their friendships energized by being together. I loved the joy I felt being embraced by people I care about, sharing laughter, eating together, and working on projects together. That’s exactly why we were all there.

Aileen Smith

Director of Programs, American Society of Golf Course Architects

The ASGCA Annual Meeting, our group’s 75th, was an in-person event in Cleveland in October 2021. Planning was very difficult, with constantly shifting protocols for COVID mitigation, so a frazzled staff showed up to the event. The stress melted away with the first interactions with our members when we met for our opening reception at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Except for some awkward initial interactions (e.g., Hugs? Handshakes? Fist bumps? Waves at a distance?), we were—without exception—thrilled to see one another. This is a close-knit group, but the warmth and sincere smiles, and even teary eyes that were part of every conversation surprised all of us. We didn’t know until we were all together how much we missed face to face. Post-meeting surveys confirmed we made the right call to meet live.

Hannah Lorance

Owner & Executive Director, TEAL Management, LLC

Yes, it has been so nice to see my members in person. Still different, and we still need to be cautious, but it seems members are ready to get back to a new “normal” and just be in front of others. I found that those who are still not comfortable in small crowds just stay home, which is why virtual and being more visible electronically is important for still maintaining a connection.

Jamie Graves

Sales Director, Membership Marketing Services

I have enjoyed getting back to personal conversation. Getting to know my peers outside of the digital world. COVID took away the watercooler talk that happened so naturally at events. I finally am getting back to really knowing the people I interact with online.

(Drazen Zigic/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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