First Virtual Smart Meetings Experience Amplified Human Connections

The debut of the virtual Smart Meeting Experience launched on Tuesday in a succession of simulated meeting rooms with 80 meeting professionals learning and sharing in virtual one-on-one conversations that felt refreshingly like the face-to-face encounters of a few months ago.

Smart Meetings partnered with Conference Solutions (CSS) to provide a platform that mimicked the tables and chairs of a meeting space and agendas that matched planners and suppliers who could help each other plan for a future where we are all in the same physical room again.

A Look Ahead

As in-person events do, the virtual experience kicked off with an insightful keynote. Steve Steinhart, a sought-after sales and marketing consultant and veteran of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, shared what his clients are seeing as the “return to meeting” calendar.

“May is a wipeout,” Steinhart reported. “June still has some meetings on the books, and we are seeing new, fresh bookings being placed for July—almost all corporate, almost all with 30 people and fewer and including a new contract clause that allows cancellations with no penalty if coronavirus concerns remain.” He is seeing mounting confidence that in August, September and October meetings will go forward even if they look different. “The third and fourth quarter could be spectacular with all the postponements,” he said.

What might those meetings look like? “It will be a long time before we see a deli buffet,” he said. Automated coffee machines and boxed and packaged food items could be the norm, with creative planners finding ways to make them special.

New Messaging

Steinhart said savvy properties are moving ahead with new marketing messages that stress the safety, comfort and cleanliness of properties and practices, rather than pictures of beautiful, full ballrooms. In cases where hotels have laid off sales teams, convention and visitor bureau staff are stepping in to share information about the destination and be the conduit. They are having conversations about what check-in, traffic flow into the ballroom and food service could look like. They are building relationships that will last beyond the shelter-in-place period.

“We are all in this together,” Smart Meetings founder Marin Bright, said in her welcome to attendees. “The people who are creative and trying new things now will be the ones who come out ahead later.”

Everyone left the platform with a brochure full of ideas, eight more human connections, another digital tool in their belt…and inspiration. Some even won prizes.

The next Smart Meetings Virtual Experience is scheduled for May 19. Learn more at