The Virginia Society of Association Executives recently hosted its annual Fall Conference & Expo at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. There were about 160 attendees at the event, including Jason Whitt, Convention Sales Manager at Richmond Region Tourism. We caught up with Jason for key learnings surrounding the future of events. Read on for his insights and takeaways.

Business is even more personal now

While relationship building has always been an important part of what we do, I’ve found that there are much deeper connections happening now. People’s expectations and norms around how we interact have changed. Before the pandemic, I would’ve never seen a customer out of a suit or their normal workwear. Because a lot of us are working from home, not only have I seen clients in casual wear, but I’ve viewed the inside their homes and met their families and pets via Zoom. Even in person, it’s normal and expected now to have conversations about people’s personal lives—their concerns for their families, how they’re doing mentally and emotionally. If there’s one silver lining in all this, it’s that we have become more compassionate, even in our business lives.

A/V is still key and virtual is here to stay

Internet speed and bandwidth, the number of connections available and video and livestream capabilities are at the top of the list of priorities for a lot of event planners—these are the things we get asked about the most. It’s clear that hybrid and virtual components are going to be a part of events for the foreseeable future, so this is one area venues and vendors are going to want to beef up their capabilities, if they haven’t already.

Comfort is key

In my observations and interactions at the event, I realized that we’re going to have to pay attention to, and be more cognizant of people’s comfort levels with in-person interactions. I think there are more sensitivities we need to be aware of—for instance, if there are a lot of people milling about a booth, is that going to keep someone from approaching and wanting to work with that vendor? Setting up appointments for people to come by the booth would alleviate any concerns about social distancing.