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Planning an Event Post-Covid: Challenges and Opportunities

Man in front of virtual event video wall

Military personnel, airline pilot, newscaster, public relations executive, and event planning professional.  What do these careers all have in common?  The answer: In 2020 (prior to the start of the pandemic), these professions all ranked among the ten most stressful jobs in the world, according to an annual report.  For those who plan large events, the pressure and challenges of preparing for as many possible scenarios, outcomes and situations imaginable is a daunting feat.  Add a global pandemic and increased demand for previously underutilized and unfamiliar virtual technology, and that stress score only increased in 2021.  However, as we begin to gather in-person again for conferences and events, how will the experience, and the planning, be different for AACTE’s 2022 Annual Meeting?

Recently, I presented as part of a panel discussion at Destination International’s 2021 Annual Meeting, which is a conference for convention and visitors bureaus from across the United States and internationally to learn more about the various markets they serve.  In our session, senior planners and executives discussed trends that are emerging post-Covid for both corporation and association conferences and events.  Some of the significant findings include

  • Smaller associations with budgets of $5 million or less, similar to AACTE, will remain virtual until the beginning of 2022. There are a number of factors influencing this decision, including member budgets, increased costs, and pandemic uncertainties.
  • Corporate events and larger association conferences are grappling with safety concerns in their return to in-person convenings this fall. Most have chosen to use CDC guidelines to inform their attendee policies and practices. Smaller associations, such as AACTE, are watching these early adapters to inform their decision-making for this fall.
  • Most associations will continue to include some form of virtual participation in their conferences. However, full virtual participation is not occurring, given technology requirements, production costs, and double the staff needed to plan and execute both components.
  • Recent state legislative actions, combined with both corporate and association focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, are redesigning conference models. As a result, most associations and corporations are expanding advocacy training and information at their meetings, incorporating more social responsibility and community outreach activities, and broadening the scope of their programming through multi-association collaboration initiatives.

Look for many of these changes, and more, as AACTE prepares for its upcoming 2022 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, March 4-6.  Content and sessions for the event will be unveiled in September, all of which will support the conference theme of “Rethink, Reshape, Reimagine, Revolutionize: Growing the Profession Post Pandemic.” And of course, you can save your seat at the 2022 Annual Meeting by registering today at our early bird rates.

I look forward to seeing you in New Orleans!

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Matthew Wales

Vice President, Member Services & Events