The word “unprecedented” is starting to feel trite and cliché, but the COVID-19 era is truly something that we haven’t experienced in modern times. Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020, we’ve seen live event cancelations, postponements, and revamping of virtual events like never before. On the list of companies and organizations affected are the American Library Association, Google, Disney, Facebook, the NBA, Coachella, Citrix, and every other company in the world. No joke. Despite the enormous changes and fears surrounding the pandemic, we’ve also seen an abundance of hope and support. Hyatt started the Hyatt Care Fund, a program to help support their employees with high financial need, while Marriott Bonvoy launched “Rooms for Responders” to provide hotel stays to medical professionals in cities across the United States. Delta is offering free flights for medical volunteers traveling to highly impacted cities. Here at One10, we’ve expanded our offerings to include virtual and hybrid end-to-end event management, which can be tailored to each client’s specific needs. Regardless of our shift in services during this time, one thing remains the same: we continue to be a client-centric organization. This will never change. We work with some of the biggest brands in the world including large technology companies like Citrix. One10’s relationship with Citrix has spanned decades and weathered various unprecedented events: 9/11, the 2008 recession, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic. We consider ourselves an extension of the Citrix Corporate Events Team assisting with end-to-end event logistics planning including attendee registration, hotel room management, food and beverage, budget and revenue forecasting, session catalog, speaker and sponsor management. Leading the Citrix Corporate Events Team is Mark Plocki, who joined the team in October 2019 after an incredible 19 years at SAP. We thought it would be helpful to share some of Mark’s opinions as an event professional.We think Mark hit the nail on the head. In fact, we tend to agree with his assessment. In the coming months and years, we will see a shift to events that are hybrid: consisting of both a live and a virtual audience. Though this is not a new concept, an element of hybrid events will be used for every meeting. Success will rely on aligning to objectives, engaging the audience, and inspiring action. Just like always. Finding ways to “wow” your audience will be paramount and it will be essential to make sure the critical messages are delivered, heard, and understood. End-to-end event management will still be necessary, as attendees must still register, inspirational speakers need to be sourced, platforms must be vetted, and data must be gathered and analyzed. This pandemic has created a “new normal” for us, and we will continue to adapt. One10 has a strong live, virtual, and hybrid offering – how can we help you get started?Mark Plocki, Director, Corporate Events Mark has spent the last 20 years planning, executing and evaluating events for the technology software industry, starting in 2001 with FreeMarkets, which then became Ariba through an acquisition, eventually becoming SAP in 2012. Recently, Mark joined the Citrix family in October, 2019 as the Director of Corporate Events. Mark has led both small and large teams, depending on the event scope, providing the vision, direction and support needed to produce successful programs. Mark is a native Pittsburgher and still calls the “Steel City” home, where he lives with his husband Michael and their cats Wendel and Jasper.
Check out our Q&A with Mark…
How have events been affected by COVID?
- COVID has not only put a stop to in-person events, but likely changed it forever. All events in 2020 will need to be virtual unless a vaccine is found (which may not be likely in 2020). Finding ways to create an attendee “experience” will still be the most important element of the event – as attendees will likely become inundated with virtual event requests. The challenge will be to find a way to stay ahead of the curve and offer something different and exciting.
What are Citrix’s main objectives of your corporate events (transfer knowledge, networking, rewarding)?
- The interesting thing about the switch from in-person to virtual is that this happened twice before in the last 20 years. After 9/11 and during the recession, we were forced to pivot to a virtual platform to reach our audiences. Thought Leadership, Best Practices, Case Studies and Networking are still the most important ingredients of any event. For Virtual Events, I see the planning, execution, follow-up and evaluation to be the same process of what we use for an in-person event. At the end of the day, we want to move the pipeline forward and inform our customers, partners and prospects in our industry.
How are you planning to achieve these goals with other solutions? What solutions are you considering/implementing?
- From webinar software to virtual platforms to custom studio design – event planners have many types of solutions to fulfill the needs of their event. Finding the solution that helps drive home the event message and reach the right audience would be the main goal.
Do you think in-person events will still be as important in the “new normal” as they were before?
- Yes… I remember after the recession in 2008 and 2009, event sizes began to grow in both attendance and event scope. Humans need to interact… physically interact. Communicating through a virtual platform is great and will get the job done, but it is nothing compared to the connections that can be made at a live event. In the future, all events will need to have components of live and virtual. This hybrid approach to events will be the future.
What types of lessons have you learned through this time?
- Don’t rush to conclusions and don’t form an opinion to early. Everyone wants to be ahead of the curve, but sometimes taking a moment and pausing – is not the worst thing to do. We will get through this, as we have done before. The “Now Normal” is scary and carries with it many unanswered questions. At this time, we can only stay safe, be kind, and look forward.