Hybrid meetings: embracing innovation is key to unlocking post crisis growth

Even as countries and economies open up, hybrid meetings are here to stay as they harness the benefits of in-person and virtual meetings, opine Millennium Hotels and Resorts' vice president, sales, Asia, Paul Er

The unprecedented pandemic has turned our lives around completely and there were, and still are many norms we must get used to. Everything changed overnight – work went remote, while activities such as shopping, entertainment, and even getting basic medications went online. Everyone became heavily dependent on technology.

Event planners will continue to expect venues to offer the option for virtual and hybrid events

Undeniably, the pandemic has presented an unprecedented challenge to the entire MICE sector and the segment has been forced to adapt. The nature of MICE events itself involves the interaction between people, and the involvement in having to form as many connections as possible. Unfortunately, due to safe distancing measures, large-scale events were all cancelled and we were only limited to going out in pairs.

As a result, many resorted to virtual conferences, while some have shifted towards a hybrid of both physical and digital means.

The physical presence, sense of belonging and the building of trusted relationships when meeting in person is irreplaceable. As countries and economies open up and restrictions are lifted, face-to-face events, with the opportunity for in-person networking and an atmosphere that is difficult to replicate online will flourish.

However, next level hybrid MICE concepts such as multi-location hubs featuring speakers and attendees in physical locations as well as those dialing in virtually will be popular. This allows event planners to harness the benefits of in-person meetings along with the scale and huge savings of virtual events.

Prioritising innovation today is the key to unlocking post-crisis growth. Venues will be expected to offer the option for virtual and hybrid events with enhanced technological infrastructure and flexible rooms.

Event planners and delegates will have higher expectations of events in a post-pandemic world in terms of cleanliness, safety, hygiene and of course experience.

Flexibility and an ability to deftly navigate between the digital and physical realms will help define the new normal.

Beyond getting back to where we were, we want to break new ground and establish a new level of experience that we can provide for our customers. After all, why return to normal when we can return fully entrenched in a winning position?

Paul Er is the vice president, sales, Asia at Millennium Hotels and Resorts. He is armed with 34 years of sales and marketing experience, and cut his teeth at some of the most reputable organisations such as American Express and Hilton Hotels. He was previously regional director at Marriott International where he handled global sales and oversaw South-east Asia’s US$400 million enterprise business.

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