Business travel to conventions and face-to-face meetings were standard operating procedure until the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the savings and popularity of Zoom and other emerging video conferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business, the business world may be changed forever.
With Zoom, face-to-face doesn’t have to mean in person. And while the pandemic revealed there no longer was a need for some business travel, the trend is not all bad for Keith Gee, who utilizes Zoom as president of the Suntree Rotary Club and as president and CEO of Bridges BTC, which helps disabled adults.
Gee said the Rotary Club had to go virtual when virus concerns were highest, later returning to a hybrid Friday morning meeting, which will continue. One advantage of Zoom is being able to have the club’s speaker program broadcast via Zoom to a new audience living outside the area,
Reaching out more effectively is also the Zoom way for the Bridges board of directors, which is expected to stay with a hybrid format because it makes for better inclusion, Gee said.
The pandemic has perhaps been the biggest challenge for the tourism and convention industry, making convention companies have to get creative to have “value added” offerings. For example, organizers might have a breakout session or exclusive presentation with in-person attendees who can have dinners and other events, said Michelle Holm, lecturer and coordinator of event and entertainment management programs for the Department of Tourism, Events and Attractions, University of Central Florida Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
“Now, with hybrid meetings and conventions, they want to manage both sides of the spectrum, on Zoom and in person,’’ she said.
Where Zoom falls short is trying to recreate the experience of large trade shows where people can see and touch the new items, said Jeannie Hahm, an assistant professor at UCF who, like Holm, has a doctorate in the field.
“That energy that transpires in people cannot be replicated by Zoom. It’s human nature to want to get together,”she said.
Looking to the future, both professors are cautiously confident that the situation will return to near normal in late 2022. Industry officials already report an increase in advanced bookings. And both believe Zoom, in some form, will likely become an accepted best practice.
“We all have hope, but we have to be pragmatic,’’ Holm said.