A Message from Ryan Simonetti, CEO & Co-Founder of Convene

As we near the end of 2020, I want to take a moment to salute the Convene community, whose spirit helped us through this trying year, and to reflect on the emerging trends we see carrying over into 2021.

At the onset of the pandemic, Convene’s focus was not only on survival, but acknowledging the emerging crisis as an opportunity to innovate, pivot, and eventually thrive. Like so many other companies across the world, we had to make quick and oftentimes difficult decisions to navigate the uncertainties caused by the pandemic and chart a path forward. Our success in these endeavors can be attributed to being courageous, leaning into our core company values, and the tireless work of the amazing people at Convene that I have the privilege of calling my teammates. Their sense of grit, resilience, eternal optimism, and genuine commitment to serving our clients resulted in the rapid adaptations of our products and services. This culminated in the creation of our Convene 2.0 strategy, which will transform Convene into a digital first company that will serve our clients “hybrid” meetings and workplace needs in 2021 and beyond.  With Convene 2.0, we will underscore the core pillars that define our business – hospitality, design, technology, premium and safe spaces, and an obsession with our clients’ experience.

At Convene, we have always worked hard to create places that inspire collaboration, foster a true sense of community, and enable our customers to do their best work.  In 2020, we learned that while our definition and expectations regarding ‘space’ is ever evolving, the spirit of our community is unwavering. It is this spirit that inspired us to adapt and grow our capabilities to serve our community’s evolving personal and business needs, while keeping safety at the forefront of everything we do.

This is how we see the future of our business evolving in 2021 and beyond.

Creating a Human-Centric, Digitally-Enabled Workplace 

The way we meet and work has changed at its core, and while this shift was already taking place prior to the pandemic, it has been dramatically accelerated by our present circumstances. As a result of this catalyst, we are seeing new business models emerge that offer a wider range of technology solutions within the workplace, and these emerging digital trends are here to stay. With this shift in mind, we will continue to provide businesses the solutions they need to not only foster collaboration and engagement amongst their current workforce, but also offer the tools they need to attract top tier talent within today’s “hybrid” work environment.  We look forward to doing so while reinforcing our commitment to creating a safe, premium and inclusive experience, wherever the workday takes place.

Developing an Efficient Hybrid Future

In addition to new technology standards, we are also seeing the emergence of new workplace strategies that support a “hybrid” future.  Top companies that want to attract and retain the best talent know they must provide their employees the flexibility to choose where they work, when they work, and how they work.  This new hybrid future will include smaller, redefined corporate headquarters, access to a network of global meeting and collaboration spaces, as well as remote workspaces, and providing employees with the tools they need to work seamlessly from home.  Providing choice and flexibility has always been at the core of Convene’s business model, and we look forward to partnering with our clients to design and deliver the flexible workplace solutions they need to succeed.

Leveraging Technology to Enhance Meetings & Events

Lastly in 2020, we witnessed a drastic shift in the way meetings are planned and executed, with interest in virtual and hybrid experiences growing in popularity across the globe. While the format of these meetings have changed, the importance of connecting employees, building company culture and engaging with your customers is at an all-time high.  With the launch of our new Convene Virtual Meetings platform, we are excited to now offer a full range of physical and digital solutions that allow our clients to create engaging meeting experiences, by connecting participants with networking opportunities and more meaningful engagements with event content, whether they’re in person, or on the other side of the world.

While every business has been impacted by the pandemic, the meetings and events industry was decimated by this crisis. We know the hardships so many of our peers have faced and are incredibly amazed and inspired by the resilience of the community.  Meetings and events have been reimagined, with technology accelerating the industry’s transformation, and we’re excited about the new trends we’re seeing and looking forward to the road ahead.

Here is a highlight of what we expect to develop in the road ahead: 

Doubling Down on Hybrid Meetings & Events

Hybrid events, or the combination of in-person and remote attendance, is a format that has seen a rise throughout this year and is a trend that is sure to last long after the pandemic. This approach speaks to a larger shift towards virtual integration and inclusion for remote teams, but also allows for new innovative means for engaging attendees and higher production quality. Hybrid event content can also be recorded and stored in virtual catalogs for future reference or posterity.  

The Rise of Local Meetings 

As air travel is both a significant expense and potential health risk, organizations will continue to utilize technology to achieve more virtually for both one-off business meetings and larger, more strategic events. Companies, however, will still want to bring people together in person but will be looking for physical venues closer to home, to address the geographically diverse needs of their teams and business community.  

Smaller Meetings with Bigger Virtual Attendance

We’re going to see a long-lasting impact on the size and scale of meetings in this new event landscape. Over the summer, I participated in the Collision at Home conference and it had 30,000 virtual attendees – the same number of in-person attendees they see for all of their events annually. Since we launched Convene Virtual Meetings, our clients have been seeing 1, 2, sometimes 3x the number of attendees that they get in person. The appetite for these events hasn’t changed, but the willingness to participate from home has increased exponentially. To maximize engagement, smaller meetings and group facilitation will grow. The meeting and events industry has traditionally defined “small” events as fewer than 1,000 people. We believe this number will shift to focus on 500-person or less.

While no one could have anticipated or prepared for how 2020 unraveled,  it provided some of the most valuable lessons that have impacted me not only as a CEO, but also as an individual. While I can’t say I’m sad to say goodbye to 2020, I’m grateful to take these learnings with me into the near year.

Challenges Spark Innovation, Innovation Sparks Growth

Our industries have been forced to adapt, innovate, and evolve which has strengthened us as we come out of this time of crisis.

The Power of Face-to-Face Cannot Be Overstated

Technology brings us closer together, but it cannot replace the power of human to human interactions and relationships.

Accelerated Transformation Brings Us Into a New Era of Possibility

In 2020, we saw 10 years of digital transformation in less than 12 months, ultimately serving to benefit the industry as a whole and all of our core stakeholders.

The Future Is Now

For years we’ve been talking about hybrid possibilities and now it’s a reality. To me, that’s really exciting and opens up a whole new world of possibilities for the industry.

I am proud of the way the Convene team and our industries have continued to adapt and innovate to better serve our customers during this trying year. As many of us continue to stay connected virtually, this year has taught us the power of community in forging onward.  I am grateful to be surrounded by an amazing team, network of partners, and most importantly, our community of clients, and look forward to continuing to support them as we forge our way into a new year.

Cheers to a happy and safe holiday season and new year!

Ryan Simonetti

CEO and Co-Founder, Convene

Photo By: Jackie Molloy for The Wall Street Journal