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Over the last few months I’ve had several conversations with members, nonmembers, and community members about the current state of live events. When it came time to discuss our Executive Team Conference (ETC), there were lots of opinions on what we should do.

When we finally made the decision to continue with both a live and virtual option, there were, of course, a variety of reactions. I received emails and calls saying, “Thank you for keeping this event live!” Then I heard from others that said, “How dare you force us to meet live?!”

We didn’t take this decision lightly, and we don’t expect to see the same level of live attendance that we’re accustomed to, but we thought it was important to offer an option that addressed the complexity of the pandemic. Some firms said they could attend in person and would prefer to be at a live event. Other firms have said no travel for any of their team through a particular date, which prevents them from attending live. Some are living in locations that still restrict travel, or they may have team members who don’t feel safe traveling just yet. We respect all of that, and we are working hard to make this hybrid event the best possible experience for all.

With that in mind, I thought this would be a good time to address some of the steps we’re taking to make the Executive Team Conference a successful hybrid event.

1. An engaging virtual experience. To address the issue of live versus virtual attendance, I have charged the team with ensuring that virtual attendees feel well connected to the event. Even if you’ve attended a virtual event with us before, we’ll be doing things a bit differently. For example, we acquired a video camera that can follow a live speaker, which we’ll place in the front row at the event (who sits in the front row anyway?). In that seat, we will have a cardboard picture of an attendee to remind speakers that they have a bigger audience. As a virtual attendee, you’ll be sitting front and center without fear of being called upon by the speaker.

2. Equal opportunities to engage and interact. The roundtable sessions taking place during the live event will be replicated in the virtual event as well. While it won’t be the exact same experience, virtual roundtables still provide a great opportunity to network and learn with your peers. The topics this year will be well pointed at the top issues facing firms today. And while most of our speakers are live, some are virtual, making the experience the same for all.

3. Clear guidelines for safety. For live attendees, we have established safety protocols based on CDC guidelines (available on our Global Events page), which we plan to follow now and into the near future. ETC is being held at the Belmond Charleston Place in South Carolina, and while South Carolina does not currently have a mask mandate, the hotel does. To me, this is not political; it’s about giving our members the safest environment possible for live events. Allinial Global members who would like to know more can log in to our member website to access full details on all of the safety protocols in place. We have implemented six-foot distancing, daily health check-ins via an app, temperature checks before entering meeting rooms, and a variety of other precautions. We are taking safety very seriously.

I know that many of the leaders of our firms are facing similar challenges with opening offices, allowing for larger team meetings, and handling client travel. A few of our member firms have reached out to us to see what we’ve put in place as they try to figure it out for local team meetings as well. We are happy to share our protocols. I don’t know if we have it perfect, but I do know we’re not going to stop trying until we do. We want to serve both live and remote participants in as similar a way as possible, keeping everyone safe and offering the best possible experience we can.

Whether your situation allows for in-person or virtual attendance, we hope to see you at ETC.

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