Is it time to dust off your suitcase? Probably not yet. However, the desire for live events and the chances of hybrid deals with various destinations, make associations increasingly aware of this fact. On the other hand, event planners are still keeping up with the speed of change, in an industry that is still groping in the dark. We asked David de Alves, executive director of the International STEM Council, about the risks of this digital world and the new requirements that destinations must take into account in their next bids.
1) What were the impacts and consequences that the pandemic brought to your sector? How did you manage to connect with your members?
The impacts can only be described as “total” – it required a reset of aims, goals and indeed pathways to get there. We focused on engagement as the human need to connect, and engage is really what academic conferences set to achieve no matter what the circumstances. Knowing this and making proactive efforts to support and engage our members, came with a balance to ensure that our outreach was supportive rather than detracting to their own local issues and needs. Surveying and outreach demonstrated that members preferred to engage at the international level when there was a demonstrated need and one that was going to present opportunities and futures pathways for them personally.
2) What do you expect from an event destination when faced with upcoming post-pandemic events? How will COVID shape your events?
Good will, the best of faith and deeper relationships. While contractual flexibility and good faith terms are key to be able to plan and transition back, the biggest factor is one that hasn’t changed pre or post COVID – relationships. The relationships that are formed with destinations, convention bureaus, event groups and others need to be deep. They need to inspire faith that no matter what happens each party has each other’s backs to produce something that will be successful for all.
3) What do you think 2021 and beyond holds for your association? What are the new demands of your organisation's board?
On a board and organisational level, there is very much the requirement to make sure objectives are sustainable and realistic in a world landscape that can change from day to day. The need to experiment and adapt dynamically will be the greatest challenge. The future is indeed a test of the past as much as the present. The many years of good will, the relationships formed and all the work of the past. It’ll both be a nervous but thrilling ride. I’ve have always been inspired by the many who have each other’s backs – we may just need to move towards ‘holding hands’ and go down this new phase of the journey together and stronger.
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