The future is hybrid  

A virtual discussion about the post-Covid landscape of meetings and events  

by Martin Field and the PRIMS Standing Committee —  October 2020 

The meetings, incentives, conferences and events sector – MICE – has been hit hard by the global crisis set off by the Covid-19 pandemic. Professional conference interpreters know this too well. 

Since early 2020, as more and more events were cancelled and the world went into lockdown, interpreters watched helplessly as their bookings were cancelled.

Pass the remote control

A six-month Netflix binge? Not likely when you have bills to pay!

Once it became clear that leaving home was not an option in the near future, interpreters around the world put down their TV remotes and started to pick up another remote – looking towards remote interpreting as a way to keep working while locked in confinement.

The MICE sector – those organising the events and conferences – also began making the most of the situation: bringing people together virtually as physical meetings were no longer possible.

A sweet treat

AIIC’s Private Market Sector (PRIMS), always an innovator, also embraced this trend. Facing the reality that corona had kiboshed its planned mid-2020 meeting in Bonn, Germany, the Standing Committee invented a sweet new PRIMS concept: the Donut. 

The PRIMS Donut is an appeal for optimism and fortitude: “Donut give up!”. These online presentations open up discussion on hot topics, specially chosen for interpreters pondering their situation in today’s lockdown and tomorrow’s post-Covid world. Only virtual refreshment is provided, but attendees are encouraged to keep things sweet by providing their own beignet, ciambella, Krapfen or rosquilla.

Meet the MICE

On 2 June 2020, PRIMS invited an expert panel of MICE professionals to join the conversation. It was an opening for dialogue: The audience of interpreters were keen to find out more about where the world of meetings and events is headed, and how they might fit in. The MICE panelists, for their part, were eager to learn more about the interpreters’ perspectives.

“We rarely have an opportunity to sit down at the same table to discuss our common problems, common issues, and maybe even to forge common strategies – to design the industry the way we want it,” PRIMS Coordinator Raffaella Marchese said.

No return to “normal” – the future is sustainable

For Danielle Ward, founder of sustainable events company re/ward Events, the current crisis is an opportunity to rethink the sector. 

The MICE sector will have to restart post lockdown, and this is a perfect opportunity to change for good – ensuring better, more sustainable, and future-proof events. 

“Nothing should go back to normal,” says Ward, “Normal wasn’t working.”

Opening up… s l o w l y

Martin Fullard predicted that physical meetings will come back, but perhaps with many of the participants joining from a distance. The MICE sector will adapt, offering high-quality hybrid meetings combining an online and in-person presence, optimising the experience for both groups. 

This will require the involvement of high-quality interpreting, to enable the participation of everyone, however they participate.

“Every event exists to fulfil an objective, and that will never change,” Fullard said. “What will change is that the expectation of quality will increase.” 

The long road to recovery

Jessie States, of MPI Academy (Meeting Professionals International), looked at trends in how the meeting and events sector is responding to the current global crisis. 

Many event organisers are choosing virtual alternatives, realising that the lockdown is long-haul and opportunities need to be seized. 

In preparation for the return to physical meetings, event professionals are looking at some fundamental changes to the conference environment. To enable health and safety considerations, like social distancing, attendance will be limited, and greater attention paid to issues like crisis planning, sanitation and meal distribution. 

Interpreters are part of the future

The MICE sector is the lifeblood of conference interpreting – especially for interpreters working in the private market– and participants were eager to know how they could better engage with the sector. 

The panellists urged interpreters to participate in events and shows that target the MICE sector, and to more actively promote the profession to event organisers. 

Rob Davidson (a long-time friend of AIIC PRIMS, this time commenting from the audience) appealed to the MICE industry to invite interpreters to speak at their events.

PRIMS, for its part, will continue to find occasions for dialogue with the MICE sector in its activities, whether these be upcoming Donuts or hybrid events in a sustainable, post-Covid future.

Articles published in Communicate! reflect the views of the author(s) and should not be taken to represent the official position of AIIC.


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