People are eager to get back to in-person events. Just ask the 750,000 people – an average of 125,000 per day – who attended the revival of Coachella, the music industry’s biggest festival, in April.

Meeting planners also flocked back to one of the largest industry events in the desert, CVENT CONNECT, which took place in Las Vegas from April 11-14.

“It was a really big event, and they did a really great job,” said Jason Whitt, Destination Sales Manager for Richmond Region Tourism. “I think it was around 2,000 attendees, which isn’t quite at the number it was pre-pandemic, but they were much closer.”

In addition to informative industry programming, CVENT CONNECT exemplified the power and joy of meeting face-to-face: There were handshakes, hugs and catch-ups over coffee and happy hour. For many, it was a familiar return to packing a suitcase for a conference and getting back to building in-person networking connections.

“It was definitely the most normal I have felt since before the pandemic,” recalls Whitt.

Daily health checks helped to keep attendees safe.

“You definitely had to do a wellness check and supply your vaccination status before you got to the event,” added Whitt. “While on site, each morning you’d fill out a questionnaire digitally to check your health status, and a lot of the meals were still held outside.”

Whitt noticed a few trends that bubbled up at the event. 

“Hybrid events are definitely here to stay,” said Whitt.

For example, organizers made a free virtual streaming option of CVENT CONNECT who couldn’t attend in-person.  

He also noted an increased awareness and interest in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from meeting planners as well.

“I’d been asked questions before, mostly from more savvy meeting planners, but now every meeting planner is asking about our MEI (Municipal Equality Index) score, and whether we have any discriminatory laws. They want to know how welcoming we are, and what efforts we put into working with diverse vendors.”

The MEI score is an annual benchmark from the Human Rights Campaign and assesses how localities support and protect LGBTQ+ people through laws, policies and services. Richmond has scored a perfect 100 for the last two years. Readers can learn more about Richmond Region Tourism’s work to celebrate and promote the region’s diversity, here.

Whitt is noticing a growing interest towards in-person meeting formats.  He’s seeing upticks in activity from planners interested in the Richmond Region as a destination for their next event.   

For meeting and conventions, it’s a welcome return.