We can be certain of two things. Firstly, the power of human connection will drive us together again; and secondly, that meetings will restart small and regional, and then grow in scale. Regional will be followed by national and finally global attendance. But what if we could kickstart that process?

In June, IACC broke from the hype of hybrid, to focus on multi-location events and developed IACC MultiPOD. The initiative is not a new product or single service, but instead a research- and development-led collaboration that brings venue, production, audiovisual, technology and content design together into an approach meeting organizers can embrace.

Working with Encore, Electro-Media Design and MindMeeting, IACC gathered the best informed, prepared and equipped venues alongside onsite technology teams and national partners to present a cross-venue technology solution that allows attendees to experience the same seamless event across multiple destinations.

Benefits for Event Attendees

  • Convenience, less time traveling
  • Reduced cost with less travel, making the meeting more affordable
  • A compact format that allows for deeper relationship-building between attendees
  • A broad outreach to other locations—offers a unique experience
  • Live networking and online networking with people further afield
  • Easy interaction and co-creation, both in groups, between groups and between individuals

Opportunity for Meeting Professional Arranging the Meeting

  • Less travel, less time commitment, lower cost
  • Potential for more attendees as a result of reduced cost, travel and time commitment
  • Less travel cost for presenters and speakers
  • Less risk than larger group gatherings
  • Smaller sustainability footprint
  • Lower risk of food waste associated with smaller groups
  • Broad outreach to other locations 
  • Offers participants intimacy in their own POD 
  • Easy interaction and co-creation, securing participant engagement
  • Unique participant experience
  • High-quality standardization between PODs
  • Regional uniqueness of each POD’s location
  • Easy multiple venue sourcing process supported by IACC 
  • Working with venue teams who are interconnected in the planning process
  • Access to IACC-endorsed hybrid technology providers
  • The best hybrid meeting technology platforms 
  • Venues collaborate on details such as event timings, break and mealtimes
  • Ability to strengthen the ‘one-event’ concept through inter-POD audience participation and gamification

An Industry in Denial

Up until the fall, most organizations, including associations and societies, remained hopeful that they would be running their 2021 annual conferences just like they did before. Many have now moved their thinking and expect that attendees will, at worst, be able to attend a regional meeting and, at best, a national one, with little chance for overseas travel.

With post-pandemic travel considerations, the multi-location meeting will take it place in the staple of meeting types.

Reaching Further than Before

Our past concerns about virtual attendance diluting live attendance are in the distant past. Now, there is clear evidence that virtual event attendees take on the FOMO mantra and yearn to experience the next event in person. Virtual offers a first taste and for many, in-person regional or national locations is the next step.

Howver, it is perhaps too simplistic to say that when we can travel again, we will travel again. At least to the degree that we did before. Instead, conference attendance may be more of a careful consideration as it relates to time away, cost and value. A multi-location meeting can easily include a virtual POD, or location, as the technology infrastructure is in place.

For those who gain value from traveling further to embrace new culture and ideas that come with long-haul, they will be able to do so, as multi-location means you can attend any location, not just your closest one!

Mark Cooper is CEO of IACC.