We talked to successful meeting planners about how they’re approaching the unique challenges and opportunities 2021 events will have.

This week, we interviewed three planners:

  • Cari Peretzman, Independent Event Planner at CLP Event Logistics
  • Michelle Johnson, Founder and CEO of The Anchor Group
  • Mandy Archer, HMCC, Vice President of Operations and Strategic Accounts at Infinix Global Meetings & Events


As you plan for this year’s event(s), what are you most excited about? 


Cari Peretzman: Actually planning a gathering… working through the logistics and considering all the (new) variables.


Michelle Johnson: Getting back to in-person events, being face to face with others and being able to safely travel.


Mandy Archer: We are most excited to see the industry begin to pick up again. We learned in 2020 that our attendees and clients really enjoy getting the face-to-face time and traveling. We love that there is a very positive response to returning to live and hybrid meetings.


How has hybrid changed the way you design and plan for events? 


CP: Looking at each facet with two hats on…  A print program for the in-person.  OK…  how will the virtual guests view that same information?   A link to the website.  When/How will they get that link?


MJ: I was continually focusing on the audience members at home, rather than just in person.


MA: As we look at the design for a hybrid meeting or event, we focus on producing an engaging and consistent journey for participants, whether they are attending live or virtually. We anticipate hybrid meetings being the norm for the next few months/year and expect to see them stick around once clients see their value first-hand.


What types of event technologies are you planning on using? (Virtual platforms, matchmaking platforms, etc.)


MJ: Swoogo, Google Forms, Calendly, Sugarwish, Proposify, HelloSign and Social Media


MA: We have been truly excited about the advancements that have been made to the different virtual platforms due to the pandemic. As our company has always been focused on offering a high touch/high tech feel to all our programs, we have not added any new event technologies, but have stayed in-the-know as our partners roll out upgrades and product adjustments.  We have offered event management software, engagement tools, virtual platforms, streaming services, and mobile/meeting apps for many years. Our dedicated technology team helps manage these different products and makes sure that we are offering the latest and greatest.


What do you think is the biggest tool for successful audience engagement?


CP: Relationships.  Personal outreach / follow up.  If people RSVP – let them know you are glad they will attend.  If they show up – yeah.  A email afterwards saying you were glad they made it.  If they no showed….  Some connection to acknowledge they were missed.


MJ:  Virtually: Constant Activity, “A-Ha” Moments, Group Participation, and Engaging Speakers. In-Person: Networking Sessions, Organic and Organized Conversations.


MA: Mobile, or Meeting Apps, are a great way to link your live and virtual attendees through a single engagement platform. Many mobile apps also have desktop versions which will allow you to easily connect with both audiences and for attendees to have a shared experience. Content can be easily shared or distributed via this tool, keeping your live meeting paperless and touch-free. Communication is seamless through push notifications, or real-time updates, which can be sent to all attendees for consistent communication or to intended audiences so only relevant communication is viewed by each participant. Depending on the functionality of your meeting app, it can also provide a great way for all attendees to engage with one another, no matter where they are joining from via Q&A and/or chat, social networking, polling, gamification and/or other networking options.


In general, meeting apps can add a ton of value to your meeting or event. They can be designed to celebrate your brand, increase attendee engagement, test knowledge through polling, provide real-time attendee feedback, highlight speakers and schedule appointments, just to name a few. They are user friendly by providing floor plans, information about the surrounding area and easy access to important logistics details. They are user specific, allowing for personalized agendas. It’s also a great way generate sponsorship revenue by selling splash screens, push notifications and banner ads.  Meeting apps have become much more affordable in recent years and there are some great products out there. Our company has our own app, and we have a technology team dedicated to managing the app.