Small, Local And Personal: We Will Meet Again

By: Meet in Place content team

Though large conferences may take years to rally, peer to peer training, shared knowledge and human contact will return in full force post coronavirus all with a safe 1.5 meter distance – hear out Judith Huisman, co-founder of Meetingselect on “Meet the Experts” # 3.

Judith Huisman, co-founder of Meetingselect has experienced a global crisis before. Her company was founded in 2007, just one year before the market crash of 2008, that, she says, was nothing compared to what we are experiencing now.

“This is the first time since world war II that the whole world is being affected”, she says, “one thing is for sure, the meeting industry will change and it will take years to back”. Meetingselect, a female owned, Dutch based company, is an online platform for booking meetings and conferences around the world and a corporate booking tool (OBT) used to book, manage meetings & event policies, and pay centrally via integrated payment solutions. The crisis will likely affect every aspect of our life, but according to Huisman, even though it will be challenging, people will likely meet again “what is happening at the moment is that we are all stuck at home and we can’t wait to meet people and get together, it’s what everyone is looking forward to and it’s human nature. However, we do have to take into account the effect of the Coronavirus. I truly believe that peer to peer training, shared knowledge, getting together with your colleagues, that will grow immensely, its human nature, there will be a need for smaller meetings with flexibility in booking, so maybe not half a day, but 2 hours.

People feel more comfortable closing business deals when they have real contact. For that reason, the first ones to travel will be the sales teams

How will the crisis affect the type of meeting we have?

“We can expect larger meetings and conferences of over 500 people and up will take much longer to get back on track than smaller meetings. Smaller meetings will get back on track quickly, projects have been delayed, people miss getting together. People feel more comfortable closing business deals when they have contact. For that reason, the first ones to travel are the sales teams, the larger company meetings may take time. I also think we will be seeing a lot more of what I call ‘hybrid meetings’, people are getting used to online meetings by now. Even when people start meeting again, you won’t have a meeting without virtual participants. If you have a meeting that someone can’t join because their kid is sick, you will just send him a virtual invite, and they can join the meeting from home. In the past, that person would just miss this meeting, even though the virtual tools were there all along, but  we were just not used to it”.

Along with the realisation that remote working may be more efficient, companies are also beginning to understand that all that travel may have been an unnecessary expense, not to mention the effect on the environment. “For many of us, work keeps going right now even though we are not meeting”’, says Anne Beekman, Supplier & Software Sales Manager at Meetingselect, “Companies notice the difference being made, they can save money on travel, they want to have a positive impact on the environment. Yes we need to adjust, but things keep on going even without flying out”.

I truly believe that peer-to-peer training, sharing knowledge, getting together with your colleagues – these things will grow immensely, it's human nature

One of your biggest contracts is the Dutch government, how does the crisis affect the way government offices meet?

Huisman: “Corporate meetings tend to be business oriented, government meetings are often negotiation, talks and discussions by nature. That will remain as it is still needed. The sizes of the meetings are usually smaller, but on the other hand they occasionally have huge events, if there is a change in the law for instance, they have mass meetings to train the staff, these meetings will continue, but with 1.5 meters distance”.

How can we ensure that we meet safely after the crisis?

“People need to feel comfortable with it, and that starts with the government, they need to send out a message that it’s ok. The personal distance that we are getting used to right now will affect events, we will need bigger spaces, people won’t feel comfortable in crowded theatre style events sitting so close to each other. We have added a feature to our website that filters spaces with 1.5 meters between people. I do think this will change over time so 1.5 meters will be 1 meter and so on”.

Is this the end of large conferences?

“It is likely that more events and conferences will be regional, instead of one big conference in Las Vegas it will be a smaller meeting in each country, we will see more meetings with smaller sessions this is a trend that we have seen happening anyway”.

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