CWS Summit Europe kicked off today. We created a virtual experience for 700-plus attendees, our largest-ever showing for this conference. The first day of the conference highlighted why SIA’s events are considered to be the best of their kind. It’s our ability to bring the right people together and facilitate relevant discussions between peers and sponsor providers in a safe atmosphere that fosters creative thinking, comfortable networking while triggering innovative ideas in the world of work.
But there looms the larger question: At what point will people feel comfortable with bigger in-person gatherings and under what circumstances? Will SIA be able to host in-person events by September, when our CWS Summit North America is scheduled?
The Reality. While vaccines are increasingly available, there are areas within the US reporting spikes in cases. Outside the US, regions are under lockdown even now. Still, some US states are easing restrictions and even permitting large gatherings. Yet with safety as top concern, and trusting that all social distancing and sanitary requirements were adhered to, would people attend an in-person conference again this year?
As we contemplate what we will do for our fall conferences this year, we have to acknowledge all that has changed in the year since we’ve been able to meet anyone face to face. How much of our perceived relationships have lost some of their luster? I have felt my own footing in certain situations negatively impacted by the forced seclusion and fear I may have lost some ground in what I had considered solid relationships.
We will need to find some stable ground as we begin to come together again. And I for one am starting with small steps as I consider how SIA can organize a physical conference that will be optimal for both our sponsors and buyers of staffing services. After a year of avoiding physical contact and crowds, keeping that six-foot bubble in mind wherever we go, how will we adjust to large gatherings where communication and networking are among the event’s selling point?
How much of a difference will mask-wearing make? Can we rely on more eye contact and focused communication to stay engaged in conversations? Our networking events may be more like planned meetings in smaller groups rather than spontaneous conversations while making your way to the bar to order a drink. The same is true for meals as in-conference dining will be managed differently.
None of the answers to the above options are earth shattering but perhaps some of the changes may prove to be unexpectedly fruitful. We can only hope as human beings are extraordinarily resilient creatures.
All things considered, we at SIA are brainstorming yet again new ways to deliver our high-quality content, create first-class networking and bring people together again — virtually and in-person. As an industry, we have a lot to consider over the next several months and our plan is to delight everyone with the level of quality expected from SIA be it virtual or not.
Remember, this CWS Summit was SIA’s eighth virtual conference since the pandemic began, and as the vaccine rollout continues, we are over the moon at just the possibility of being able to host in-person events by September, when our CWS Summit North America is scheduled.
But whatever unfolds, I know that we will find a solution that delivers quality content where ever you choose to receive it. See you soon.
What is your company’s stance on attending in-person events in the fall? Or do you have another perspective? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to continue the conversation.