Association meeting planners are known for their attention to detail and their penchant for leaving nothing to chance. Making plans in a constantly shifting landscape has not been anyone’s ideal way to work. Throw in more than a year of nonstop curveballs and it’s time to take stock of what works best in two worlds that no one saw coming: virtual meetings where it’s often harder to connect with others, and in-person events where attendees need to be kept safe from COVID-19.
Associations continue to hold meetings despite the challenges—some all virtual, some in person, and many others a hybrid. Along the way, they’re learning how to find the sweet spot where they can deliver a great experience, no matter how their members attend.
Bring in the Fun
The Heart Rhythm Society kicked off its annual meeting, Heart Rhythm 2021, virtually on June 30 with on-demand content and in person on July 28 in Boston. HRS wanted to get people to the virtual platform early and keep them later, so it was open 30 days before and 60 days after the in-person meeting. Allowing them early access gives them a chance to try out the platform, review the content, and interact with exhibitors. Last year’s meeting was all virtual, but this year, about 2,000 attendees were virtual and 4,000 were in person.
“What was surprising is how enthusiastically people wanted to return to in person,” said Ken Demith, HRS’s chief experience officer. Getting away from routines, being around peers who are experiencing similar challenges, and reconnecting with their professional community were all paramount for attendees. HRS members often say they like coming to the annual meeting because it’s dedicated time away. “When you come in person, people are leaving you alone for a few days. They know you’re out of the office,” Demith said.