By Sue Pelletier
At a recent online town hall, the Association Forum and the Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC) pulled together an all-star lineup of industry powerhouses to talk about what the future of live events will look like once we get back to meeting in person post-COVID-19.
The events industry is one of many that have been “truly shaken to the core,” said town hall moderator and Association Forum President and CEO Michelle Mason. That’s why, she added, “It’s important for us to have a conversation on what’s happening in our world,” beginning with a quick recap by Caesars Entertainment Chief Sales Officer Michael Massari on MMBC’s focus in recent days, which has been “on securing relief for the industry and, more importantly, gaining permission to operate meetings and events.”
Here are eight top takeaways from the discussion:
1. Live events are still happening now — and there’s much we can learn from the safety protocols already in place. John Rissi, Senior Vice President, Operations, PSAV, reminded the panel and the audience that in-person events actually are still happening now, though they are generally small in scope. “From August to November, we executed 16,000 face-to-face meetings,” he said, adding that probably 60% of those were for fewer than 25 people. Citing PSAV’s Meet Safe program, he said, “If we can address the number one concern about how you do it safely, people do want to meet face to face.”
2. Live events will be back — but maybe not until Q3 2021. “Nothing excites us more than the prospect of meeting physically in person again, but that’s going to be a while” due to the timing of the vaccine rollout, said Paul Pomerantz, CEO, American Society of Anesthesiologists. Like other associations, his shifted to a virtual format for its 2020 fall annual meeting. He anticipates that early 2021 meetings will also be virtual, with a slow emergence of smaller meetings first, then larger in-person events in the second half of 2021 and into 2022.
3. When they do come back, in-person events may be different from what they were pre-pandemic. While his organization’s fall 2021 meeting likely will be able to go on as an in-person event, it may be “not at the size we’re accustomed to,” said Pomerantz. Having learned from experience in going virtual just how much that can expand a meeting’s reach, especially internationally, look for future events to contain a hybrid component, panelists said. Not to worry, including a virtual component should only increase the attractiveness of in-person events, he added. “They will have multiple pathways for the education, but the real opportunities of networking, connecting with people and building their careers is going to happen at the live event.” Massari added, “We should embrace hybrid because it broadens the tent. It’s a great funnel for in-person events.”
4. Hybrid events aren’t easy. As one panelist said of a recent virtual event her organization held, “It was heavy, heavy lifting.” Staff has to learn new skills and master new technologies, go outside their comfort zones, and put in a lot more hours. Fine added that the two virtual events his organization has held recently “were so much more work than we have done in person — and without a lot reward of seeing our members enjoy the experience and celebrating together. We’ve made a lot of advances, but it’s been quite the ride.” Pre-recording at least some sessions can help, as can thinking about making two totally separate educational tracks, one for on-site and another for online.
5. Online trade shows still need some work. “Our exhibits at the virtual event were the only aspect that was unsuccessful,” said one panelist. “It was a very vibrant meeting, but nobody went to the exhibit hall.” What did work was to have exhibitors sponsor sessions.
6. What to charge for online events? One important issue to hash out is pricing for the virtual component, panelists agreed. While many made their online events free in 2020, that won’t make sense moving forward. “Now is the time for us to begin to really think about how our entire business can shift. What is commoditized, and what is really valuable?” said Greg Fine, CEO, CCIM Institute. One panelist proposed charging the same for the online sessions as for the in-person education.
7. Flexibility will be key. Associations, which tend to book years in advance, have to figure out new ways to plan appropriately, said Betsi Roach, Executive Director, Corporate Legal Operations Consortium. The assumption when the meeting was booked was that the audience would only grow, and that may no longer be the case. “How do you start to readjust those expectations in a way that keeps both of us whole and also lets us plan effectively for what the meeting will look like now?” she asked. Not only will the audience likely be smaller, but will social distancing still be an expectation, and how will that affect how the meeting is structured? “There is going to be really critical need to address existing agreements in a way that allows those changes to happen,” she said. Partners will need to work with association execs to be flexible enough to accommodate changing conditions, which also could include attendees’ corporate travel bans.We need to do away with the silliness of 2020, where each side ended up playing a game of chicken to see who would cancel first, with the association having to pretend the event is going to happen up until the last minute to avoid cancellation liability. Fine reminded that hotels also are in a tough situation, especially those with mortgages coming due — and cities are hurting due to the slow-to-a-trickle hotel tax revenues the pandemic has caused. Flexibility, transparency and communication on both sides are going to be essential moving forward, panelists agreed.
8. Plan for every possible contingency. “As leaders, you need to plan for every contingency, and that’s exhausting,” said Greg Heidrich, Executive Director, Society of Actuaries. “We’re also still trying to run our businesses and keep our staff safe and keep our staff and our own morale up. But if you don’t actually game out every possible scenario, then you’re going to be reacting. And we’ve got to get back to being proactive.”
Sue Pelletier is Senior Editor with Trade Show Executive.
By Jourdon LaBarber
Terry Pegula offered a message to Buffalo Bills fans following Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that a limited number of fans will be allowed into Bills Stadium for Wild Card weekend.
“Remember, our objective here is to support our team in as many ways as we can,” the Bills owner said. “And I ask them to be safe, be smart, and most importantly be loud.”
New York State announced Wednesday that 6,772 fans will be permitted into the stadium for the Bills’ first home playoff game since 1995, which will be played on either Jan. 9 or 10. Of that capacity, 6,200 tickets will be available for purchase to Bill Season Ticket Members who opted in earlier this season. (The remaining 572 entries will go toward NFL commitments.)
Season Ticket Members will be notified via email based on seniority with set times to purchase tickets. Club Season Ticket Members will receive their email on Thursday, Dec. 31; Non-Club Season Ticket Members will receive theirs Friday, Jan. 1.
During the press conference hosted by Governor Cuomo, Terry and fellow Bills owner Kim Pegula emphasized the importance of fans being in the building to support the players while also abiding by safety precautions to ensure that New York State will once again grant permission for fans at a potential divisional round game at Bills Stadium.
Precautions taken to ensure the safety of the community include mandatory testing for all who enter the building within 72 hours of the game (which will be conducted by BioReference Laboratories at Bills Stadium), staggered entry times, cashless transactions, mandatory mask wearing, and no tailgating.
“We know that the fans have been waiting 25 years to be able to attend a playoff game and we are so excited to be able to allow the limited amount of fans that we can,” Kim Pegula said. “I want to just say that we are so hopeful that there will be many more games that all fans can attend. For us to do that … we all need to be safe starting today even beyond the game.
“… We want to just encourage everyone out there, all our fans that we just need to do our part. Wear your mask, being compliant to CDC guidelines, social distancing. We all know what needs to be done, we just we all need to do our part to get it done so that we can have everyone back in our stadium soon.”
Jourdon LaBarber is a Contributing Correspondent for Bills Insider.
Jordan Racine joined Venue Coalition as a Booking Assistant in 2016 after graduating from Northern Vermont University – Lyndon with a bachelor’s degree in their Music Business and Industry program. While attending NVU, Jordan developed a strong interest in the business of concert booking and promotion. In 2015, he was selected to work as an intern with James Taylor’s production team during various one-off performances, and a US Tour that same year. As Director of Booking at Venue Coalition, Jordan now works hard to identify booking opportunities for his venue clients, focuses on business development, and executes the booking of live events for over 70 Arenas in North America.
“When I was notified that I had won IAVM’s 30 Under 30 award, I was overwhelmed with feelings of accomplishment and pride, as this was my second time being nominated. I felt honored to be included in a group of young professionals who are all as passionate about the venue industry as I am”
Join your Foundation in congratulating Jordan on being honored as one of the 30|UNDER|30 Class of 2020 and don’t forget to come back each Thursday as we spotlight another honoree!
By ISSA and R.V. Baugus
This week, 126 additional facilities have achieved GBAC STAR™ Facility Accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council™ (GBAC), a Division of ISSA, demonstrating their commitment to cleanliness, health, and safety. As is the norm, IAVM member venues stand front and center in earning the highly sought designation.
“GBAC STAR accredited facilities make proper cleaning and disinfection an ongoing priority,” said GBAC Executive Director Patricia Olinger. “We are excited to witness the work that organizations are putting into protecting their employees and the public, now and in the future.”
The GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation Program is designed to guide facilities on cleaning, disinfection, and infection prevention, and instill confidence in those who work and visit these places. Facilities of all types and sizes are eligible to pursue GBAC STAR accreditation and must fulfill 20 program elements to display the GBAC STAR seal.
The following facilities have achieved GBAC STAR accreditation this week:
Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., home to the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning
American Airlines Arena in Miami, home to the NBA’s Miami Heat
Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., home to the NBA’s Orlando Magic
Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., home to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings
Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas, home to the MiLB’s Frisco RoughRiders
Great Park Ice and Five Point Arena in Irvine, Calif., the practice facility for the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks
Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City, home to the MiLB’s Salt Lake Bees
The Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City
Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Ore.
TCU Place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Waco Convention Center in Waco, Texas
Sacramento Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, Calif.
Theatres/Performing Arts Centers
SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center in Sacramento, Calif.
The VETS in Providence, R.I.
“A good cleaning and disinfection program must include consistent training and preparation,” said ISSA Executive Director John Barrett. “GBAC STAR accredited facilities commit to educating their cleaning personnel so that the organization can prepare for, respond to, and recover from outbreaks.”
For more information about GBAC STAR™ facility accreditation, visit gbac.org/star.
By R.V. Baugus
We hope you read last week’s blog about IAVM member venues that serve as home to NBA teams and their plans for the new season with regards to fan attendance. We had a great response to some questions as the season has now started and most recently heard from two more esteemed members at NBA venues and would like to share their plans going forward.
Kim Stone, General Manager of Chase Center in San Francisco, home to the Golden State Warriors, said that her venues has submitted a plan to the city of San Francisco “that included a robust COVID-19 testing program where we would test every employee and fan before they entered the arena and allow for 50% capacity.”
Stone added that with San Francisco’s rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, “we’re in ongoing discussions with health officials around the appropriate timing to welcome fans back to the venue. We are hopeful that at some point, we will be at a place where we can bring fans back into the building this season.”
Indeed, NBA venues in Los Angeles and Sacramento are also looking at no fans to begin the season, but as Stone pointed out, the goal and hope is to return fans at some point in the 2020-21 campaign. As for changes at Chase Center, there are plenty, of course, set in place for the day when fans do return.
“We created a Health and Hygiene department that focuses on public health, environmental, and disinfection issues and have greatly enhanced our safety and cleaning protocols,” Stone said. “We’ve invested a lot in our infrastructure adding plexiglass barriers throughout the arena, touchless fixtures in restrooms, we are now 100% cashless and did some upgrades to our HVAC system to ensure the best air quality possible.”
Stone said that a unique testing program was rolled out for employees, media, vendors, and other individuals who require access to the venue where everyone needs to test negative prior to entering the arena. “In addition to the infrastructure improvements, we will also have a dedicated team that will be responsible for constantly walking the venue to audit cleanliness levels and ensure proper sanitizing by staff and have implemented the daily use of electrostatic sprayers in high-touch areas,” she said.
It is this program that Stone sees as the biggest change at the venue. “It was an incredible achievement for our staff, who spent the last few months developing the plan, and it ensures Chase Center, coupled with our infrastructure improvements and enhanced safety protocols, is the safest indoor environment possible,” she said.
In an ominous twist, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season opener in Houston could not be played as the host Rockets were not able to field the minimum eight players due to COVID issues. In OKC, meanwhile, General Manager Chris Semrau at Chesapeake Energy Arena said that the venue will also delay opening to fans and will begin with no guests. Semrau added that when fans do return it will likely be at 25% capacity and set up in pods.
“We made extensive investments to elevate the event experience and to be a safe as possible for guests,” Semrau said. “Some of the most noticeable changes include: contactless entry with ticket scanners, x-ray machine for all bags, cashless transactions at all POS, reconfigured restaurants to minimize amount of contact in the dining areas, touchless faucets and light fixtures, improved HVAC elements, Hepa air systems in small rooms, seat blockers on unsold seats to provide clear distancing, etc.”
Staff will go through specific training, pass a health assessment prior to entering the facility, and provided a boxed meal upon arrival opposed to the employee dining room. The biggest visual changes, Semrau said, will be contactless ticket and bag scanning, which limits the physical touches between guests and staff.
Oklahoma City, you might remember is where the sports world stopped on March 11 of this year. “It was at our game against the Utah Jazz when we received a positive test on a Jazz player and had to immediately stop the game,” Semrau said. “That was the first major domino to fall in the industry and since then, over 100 members of the Thunder and ASM Global have collaborated to create one of the most detailed reopening plans in the country and we are excited to apply it and welcome guests back soon.”