. Virtual Meetings: The New Unmanaged Frontier | Northstar Meetings Group

Virtual Meetings: The New Unmanaged Frontier

Central corporate oversight of digital-meetings technology platforms is rare. It's time for meetings and travel managers to step up. 

virtual meeting technolgoy platform ownership

Preparing for Post-Pandemic Realities
Listen to the latest Eventful podcast, in which Kevin Iwamoto discusses hybrid events and other COVID-driven change in the industry.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky recently said on CNBC, "Travel as we knew it is over. It doesn't mean travel is over — just the travel we knew is over, and it's never coming back."

I will add my two cents to say that meetings as we knew them are over. Everything we used to do with respect to planning, execution, logistics management, seating charts, sit-down and buffet meals and everything else is going to change.

To wit: The importance and relevance of virtual meetings almost literally changed overnight. The rise of digital meeting solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic is going to become a Harvard and Wharton School of Business case study on how this business vertical became a communication mainstay. And it isn't simply for business professionals, of course, but also for personal users and families who need to stay connected in a shelter-in-place, socially distanced world. It will go down in business case-study history how a digital-communication technology platform called Zoom became the main face and name for all such technology, like Kodak or Xerox.

What came to light during this pandemic is that many companies did not even have a preferred digital-meeting technology supplier contracted on an enterprise basis; many divisions, teams and departments had their own licensing subscriptions with Zoom, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and so on. So who was sourcing and vetting these agreements?

You would think that travel and/or meetings departments would own the oversight, sourcing and category management for digital-meeting technology. But the reality, according to a recent GoldSpring Consulting survey of more than 100 buyers, will surprise you.

GoldSpring survey virtual meetings technology sourcing

Only 2 percent of travel departments and 19 percent of meetings and events teams took the lead responsibility for sourcing virtual-meeting technology. Nearly half (47 percent) said the responsibility was spread among multiple departments (which could include representation from travel and meetings teams), while a quarter of respondents said IT sourced the platforms.

With all of the new requirements and safety protocols being imposed on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, it now makes more sense for travel and meetings to have oversight over digital-meeting technology sourcing and data collection. Travel and meetings departments should work together with IT and other stakeholders to create policies, guidelines and communication regarding usage and deployment of the virtual technology platforms. This is especially true in our current environment, where information changes daily.

If you are on the outside looking in with respect to your company’s oversight of virtual-meetings technology supplier(s), you should either ensure you are part of a multiple-department coalition or raise your hand to oversee and manage this program. It has become an area of high visibility (consider that with respect to your job security) and you will be on the ground floor when your company starts to plan and execute a return to business strategies. Instead of waiting for travel and in-person meetings to come back, you can get back to work now by owning the virtual-meeting tech supplier program and its oversight.  

Keep in mind that use of this technology has skyrocketed in the corporate setting, from the occasional meeting to multiple times per day. You want to be in the driver’s seat for all of the action happening during this pandemic and for the next two years or more, as we work our way through this cycle. The visibility and relevance of this technology will also provide your career with that halo-effect boost, and you'll be known as an essential contributor.

Kevin Iwamoto, GLP, GTP, is an award-winning speaker, industry influencer, author, educator and subject-matter expert in business travel, GDPR, SMM, the meetings/events marketplace and personal branding. He is currently the chief strategy officer at Bizly, a meetings technology platform for small, simple meetings. Kevin is passionate about strategic industry advancements and best-practice development.