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Getting back on the road. Our experience at “Resilient Together”

We were invited to speak at the Resilient Together conference hosted by the Florida Festivals and Events Association. And boy did it feel good!

By DeAnna Miller - Managing Director at 82 South, Inc.

Should we stay or should we stay or should we go?

Stage is set for the FFEA

August 19, 2020 will be a date 82 South will not forget.  It was the first time since the start of the COVID pandemic that we hit the road and traveled to the “Resilient Together” conference organized by the Florida Festivals & Events Association (FFEA).

Rewind to a local show which successfully launched on July 24th in Orlando, the Together Again Expo.

We had the opportunity to meet with many industry professionals and “dip our toe” in the COVID era of exhibits and events.  This was a great way to get a feel for what we could expect and set a standard in the industry.  Whether our “new normal” or a temporary safety bridge, it gave us the encouragement to safely get back on the road.

While at the expo, Dom Corona, our Strategic Marketing Manager, connected with Suzanne Neve.  Suzanne is the CEO of the FFEA.  She was ironing out all the details for the Resilient Together conference and had a great vision to bridge the gap between a small in-person seminar gathering and a bigger virtual event which would have a broader state-wide event. This is something we were excited to see and jumped at the opportunity when invited to lead one of those seminars at the in-person conference.

Being relevant while being resilient

Dom and I went to work on bringing to life a topic we visit on a daily basis.  How can you survive and thrive during a crisis climate when it comes to digital marketing.  We knew we had a room full of people still in shock from the damage this “crisis” had taken on our industry. We carefully crafted ideas and a checklist to help these individuals use digital marketing to not only stay afloat, but grow as well.  Brian Riha, our Chief Experience Officer, was headed there to be a part of a panel on the future of events.

The arrival

We arrived at the beautiful Bonita Springs Hyatt Regency Coconut Point and were met with gentle, visual safety reminders for social distancing and masks.  Check in felt secure and heading to my room I was met with reminders for elevator safety and general safety for common areas.

 

No time wasted

After we checked in (and grabbed an iced cofee), we headed to peer led small group discussions.  There were three topics to choose from:  Marketing, Operations and Sponsorships.  Dom and I, without pause, were going to head to the Marketing discussion and Brian chose Operations.

Prior to crossing the threshold between hotel and conference, we swiftly went through a series of safety checks.

Mask on.

Temperature checked.

Complete sanitation from head to toe.  Including my belongings.

A company called Disinfect Group not only had one of the most important jobs there, but also was the number one topic of conversation at the conference.  Through a technology which turns electrolyzed water into fog, each individual is sanitized in 15 seconds.  

Once past the threshold, there was plenty of “stations” which had gloves, sanitizer and extra masks.  Even our welcome bags came stocked with masks and hand sanitizer.  

The peer discussion rooms had pre set seats 6 feet apart with water as a place holder.

At dinner that evening, food was pre-plated and drinks were self-serve.  The conference did not disappoint with their surprises of a real life transforming car to robot and fireworks show set to music.  despite the masks on our faces, we felt back in the mix.  We felt relevant while being resilient.

 

Day 2

We started the day with an a la carte breakfast, and in true form, we were poured coffee.  This felt more like a luxury than a necessity.  

And Dom and I presented.

And it felt SO good.

Brian sat on a panel.  

And he felt energized.

Coming together with so many industry professionals was the tipping point we needed to feel confident that the industry is born again.

The Takeaway

If done correctly (which now includes SAFELY), we can get back to business.  I applaud Suzanne and her team for being a pioneer and giving us a nudge to safely collaborate again.  This model can apply to other conferences and expos.  If you are on the fence about whether to do a hybrid conference and virtual event, I encourage you to visit the Resilient Together website to look at the content offered and the schedule for both events (in person and virtual) for ideas.

After this experience, I truly think that Resilient Together will be our motto well into 2021.

About the Author

DeAnna Miller is the Managing Director for 82 South, Inc. an Experiential Marketing company specializing in production of Exhibits, Events and Digital Marketing.  To learn more about 82 South’s hybrid meeting and conference options or for digital marketing assistance, email DeAnna at deanna@82south.com.