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One Big Virtual Reunion

By Sandra Eagle

After years of going to Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) events, the opportunity to meet virtually as one global community was a huge success. A grassroots initiative led by a team of Canadian volunteers, who quickly grew into a group of 50 volunteers from all over the world, staged an industry meet up of epic proportions.

This year, GMID was attempting to capture the world record for the largest virtual meeting. The goal was 15,000 attendees; did we do it? Only time will tell once the audit is completed by Guinness World Records™.

Participants gathered from 39 countries. Over half of the virtual audience was planners (54%) with hotels (14%), destinations and CVBs (9%) rounding out the biggest industry sectors present.

In the online polling section, respondents say the earliest dates for planning or attending a meeting in the future was September at 25%, although percentages for June, July and August of this year were very similar—coming in between 14 – 16%.

As for virtual meetings the percentages weren’t as high as one might have thought. Only 3% of those polled reported all of their meetings going virtual, while 16% said about half of their meetings were virtual. The highest numbers were 44% for a small portion of meetings going virtual or none at 35%. As for the day when we don’t have to physically distance anymore, the first thing that most of the attendees are going to do will be to travel, visit and hug family and friends and eat out!

GMID Goes Virtual ended with a social media challenge, asking participants to share #WhyIMeet. Ignite looks forward to sharing these posts!

Following the Guinness World Records™ attempt, Meetings Mean Business Canada (MMBC) hosted a Leadership Chat with various sectors of the Canadian meeting and event industry, including moderator Clark Grue, chair, MMBC,  Heidi Welker, past chair, MMBC, Candace Schierling, national sales manager, Tourism Saskatoon, Chantal Sturk-Nadeau, executive director, Business Events, Destination Canada, Bettyanne Sherrer, CMP, CMM, president ProPlan Conferences & Events, Laura Pallotta, VP sales and distribution, Marriott Hotels Canada and Tracy Folkes Hanson, president and CEO, Canadian Society of Association Executives.

Meetings Mean Business Canada was also joined by Mélanie Joly, the Honourable Minister of Economic Development and La Francophonie, who outlined the support Canada’s federal government is providing businesses and workers across the country. She echoed the importance of our tourism and meetings sector, and assured attendees it is a priority for the federal government to support growth once the pandemic subsides. 

Some highlights from the conversation:

Sturk-Nadeau says the losses to the industry are twofold, as international conferences are usually 5 – 6 years out. “Not only have we lost the event for 2020, we now have to go back into the international rotation for these global events.” However, she believes business events can become the catalyst to restart the Canadian economy. Her team plans to target business from economic sectors that have stayed strong during the crisis, and focus on aligning a client’s corporate values with the destination selection.

Schierling says we are all ethically bound to make travel safe again, and use this time to “educate the local community on how conventions will stimulate and help rebuild the local economy.”

Pallotta added that it will take a village to get the industry back on its feet. “We need to instill confidence in our industry, and lean on our Canadian brand which is built on safety, security and welcoming.”

Folkes Hanson says the pandemic has radically changed the association meeting landscape that relies on face-to-face meetings for revenue, loyalty and connections. “We will need to have patience, collaborate and build out our new future together.”  

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