The phrase “new norm” is being used often these days as we all attempt to responsibly restart our personal and professional lives while adhering to coronavirus safety standards. Many professionals and event planners are wondering what the future holds for business meetings and conferences and what role virtual meetings going forward.

At CoLab, our waterfront event room is available for rent for meetings and events with less than 20 attendees so there is plenty of room for safe social distancing. However, for events and conferences with significant numbers of attendees, virtual conferences will be the only option for at least the next few months.

There are some benefits to virtual conferences that may motivate some organizers to pursue that option even after large in-person events are completely safe and socially acceptable. A virtual conference can eliminate travel costs, reduce the price of admission, deliver more targeted event focus, allow organizers to invest more into speakers, and reduce environmental pollution. Additionally, organizers can create unique features for attendees with talks, discussions, and panels to address their specific needs.

The question is how many of these events will permanently move their conferences to a digital platform? If not, is a hybrid conference on the horizon?

Virtual conferences companies are holding now will deliver some highly insightful data points, and businesses will not forget about them. In the end, virtual conferences should be part of all business events. After all, the thought of reaching millions of attendees around the world can’t be ignored no matter how many people physically attend a conference.

Despite the benefits to video and virtual conferencing, studies show there is simply no substitute for the effective experience of face-to-face communications. Many professionals feel that trust and camaraderie build great teams, create loyalty, and are the basis of moving business forward. That trust and camaraderie is built through face-to-face interactions and experiences and cannot be replaced in the same way with virtual experiences.

Once the pandemic has passed, teams will be anxious to convene in-person. They crave leadership and personal interactions. Meetings offer an opportunity for people to add to their valuable network, share their stories and experiences, and most importantly, create new experiences and stories together.

There has been a strong push over the past several years to make sure that content is at the focus of every good meeting. That should not and will not go away, but collaboration will dominate future meeting success. Collaboration, discussion and inclusion are important. These values can be hard to accomplish in a virtual setting, however, and will be critical when in-person meetings resume.

For the next few years, at least, in-person meetings will be more efficient and less lavish than many have grown accustomed to. The value of being together has gone up, and that in most cases is privilege enough in the new world we are in. In general, moderate pricing will be expected. Quality will have to be present, but pricing pushback will be relentless. The highly debated resort fees will now suffer scrutiny of cost, value and perception. Decision makers will evaluate attendance even more closely to make sure only the necessary people are at future meetings. This will help minimize costs and allow people to stay closer to home whenever possible. In the short-term, regional meetings are also likely to be on the rise, as people slowly ease back into travel and departing from their home base.

But this does not always mean attendance will go down. In the quest to include the right people, coupled with an emphasis on collaboration, it may be necessary for some meetings to be even more inclusive. Regardless of the result, the evaluation process will be more rigorous, and invitations will be coveted.

Successful leaders know that people are their most precious resource. Now they are also realizing that those people, meeting with one another face-to-face, is a critical part of business, and more important than ever before.

If you are looking for a great event venue for your small group business meeting or conference in Rhode Island, CoLab’s waterfront event room is available for rent with plenty of space for social distancing overlooking the water in Pawtuxet Village.

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