By Matt Hirschland Ph.D. and Mike Antonczyk
As is often the case in the lead-up to spring, the world begins to come back to life. We see similar signs of life as our clients begin to consider and plan for in-person gatherings. For the many who are suffering from ‘Zoom-fatigue’, the notion of meals and experiences with colleagues is more than welcome. As one New York based C-suite executive recently quipped to us: “Call when the group is gathering in-person!” Judging by the inquiries we are receiving, that time is now.
In the spirit of this opening up, here are some of the things we see working and the counsel we’re providing as this transition back to in-person plays out (hint: what is old is new again).
While it is great to see so many of those you may not have seen for some time, executives value a gathering of peers above all others regardless if virtual, hybrid or in-person.
Let your invitees/clients be the featured speakers, guest of honors, and stars of the show. The benefits that accrue to you are powerful. As one global consulting Practice Leader recently told us: ‘the best way to sell, is NOT to sell’.
The “Age of Zoom” has provided more than its fair share of webinars. Now that we gather again, place a premium on discussion – go for a dinner party vibe not a conference vibe.
Assuming you have delivered on the points above, clients who join are thrilled to gather and don’t need or expect a lot of production value; focus energy on identifying what they care about most and facilitate a conversation around that.
Few things are more powerful than sharing a meal to catch up. Spend extra time finding the right venue and the right menu to celebrate noting that many of your previous ‘go-to’ venues may have cut staff or closed all together.
Some are proceeding cautiously while others are booking venues again and moving out. Don’t dawdle as those that move first will have the advantage here.
Expectations for a new era of hybrid experiences that offer the option of in-person and virtual are high. Hybrid has its place but is still unable to offer an experience that approaches being truly together. Use hybrid wisely for portions of proceedings such as key notes and high-profile panels, however, for breakouts and other discussions consider turning off the simulcast and focusing on those in the room.
Hopes are high for a return to in-person. Doing so also comes with the threat that we may move backwards should public health mandates and attitudes shift again. Let’s hope that is not the case as we embrace the beauty and power of gathering together again!