What Has the Corporate Events Industry Learned During the Pandemic?
Carrie Abernathy never imagined a year ago that she’d be where she is now. The corporate event planner and founder of the Association for Women in Events is back in Virginia, but 3.5 hours away from her former stopping grounds in Northern Virginia. Figuratively, she is adapting like the rest of us to a new world. Abernathy started a website, A Women with Drive, and is looking to impart the wisdom she’s gained while serving on dozens of event industry boards and advisory committees through speaking engagements and with a regular content series on our website. We talked to Abernathy about what she’s been inspired by during the pandemic and where the events industry still has room to grow.
Given the past 10 months, how do you see the events industry staying together as a community?
I’ve already been inspired by seeing it in action! As the pandemic hit our community swiftly (and devastatingly, in many cases), I saw that event professionals really pulled together to keep each other positive and connected to resources. I think that as long as we realize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we can keep the positive momentum going and continue to support one another.
What has inspired you in such challenging times?
I've had to draw my inspiration from small victories. Although we’ve all clearly been impacted deeply throughout the year, we are still progressing and really growing together as a digital events community. I am also so incredibly proud of the authenticity that has made its way to forums and our social media over the last year. We’ve been able to take some time to explore mental health, work-life balance and personal growth in a way that we most likely wouldn’t have had time for unless a huge impactful event happened in our lives. I applaud everyone for their resiliency and tenacity in such a challenging time. I think that in of itself is inspiring to see.
How do you think we as an industry can improve in 2021?
We can make sure that we keep leaning into grace and partnership. What I mean by that is that we need to give ourselves and others some space and grace to learn and grow. When a system or virtual platform doesn’t work exactly the way you hoped for your audience, or when you didn’t quite get the digital engagement right this time around, you need to understand that this is new and uncharted territory for many of us as planners and as attendees at home. We are learning together. Keep leaning into your fellow event professionals’ experiences and give yourself room for improvement. In this industry we tend to be perfectionists, and this is a time for progress, not perfection.
Where do you see meetings and events headed this year?
This can be an exciting time if we embrace it. Last year, we were thrown a curveball and forced to adapt. I haven’t seen this much new technology, engagement ideas and business models in a very long time. In some aspects of the industry, I believe our models for engagement were growing stagnant, yet we continued to utilize antiquated systems and processes. For better or worse, this time is forcing many of us to re-evaluate those models, and I don't think it necessarily a bad thing. As businesses return to work, many of us will continue to be partially or wholly digital. Many people have realigned their personal priorities and may not be traveling as much in the future. We are going to have to really dig into a hybrid system of engagement in the future to keep attendees happy. I’m so excited to see the new platforms, technologies and strategies that come from it!
You're writing a new blog with us to reach the community. What do you hope to accomplish with these pieces?
I hope to impart wisdom, resiliency tips and inspiration to my fellow colleagues. I also look forward to connecting with new faces and expanding my network. We are better together, and I can’t wait to hear from your audience on how we can work together to make a real impact on the events industry!