Oscar Nobre is the Senior Project Manager, Meetings & Events at McVeigh Global Meetings and Events. His vast experience in the meeting and events industry extends over 20 years. As the Meeting Manager for International Air Transportation Association (IATA)’s World Financial Symposium and Airline Retailing Industry Symposium meetings (and others), Oscar reached out to MCIntl in Q1 of 2020 as the domino effect of the pandemic led to cancellations. Our conversation in May led me to believe that not only was Oscar remaining cool under pressure, he knew the meeting landscape, understood his client’s needs, and was able to leverage his expansive relationships in the industry to confirm 2021 meetings.
In between a podcast with Korea Tourism Organization, MCIntl’s client, hosted by BizBash, and executing meeting strategy/planning, Oscar shared some of his valuable insight and visionary leadership for his recognition…
JN: When we knew the industry was going to be heavily impacted by this crisis, what were some of your immediate thoughts and response/strategy?
ON: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world. Each sector of our industry, like many others, initially thought it was simply going to be a two to four week slow down. Soon after seeing the virus spreading across Europe and other parts of the world, we quickly realized that many events may be in jeopardy and we began to plan exit strategies or postponements. Suppliers and partners for the most part were very understanding, cancelling orders of premium items, gifts, etc. and not branding so that these could be sold to new sponsors. Hotel and venue contracts were reviewed, and force majeure clauses became the main clause for discussions.
However, wherever possible, we have been able to move or postpone events. Many of the programs and events that we plan are for the airline industry and this crisis has hit them hard along with hotels and many others in the travel industry as travel essentially came to a near halt. The climb out of this hole will be a gradual one, but I believe that together, we can come out of this stronger than ever. Based on what I’ve seen in the past few weeks, we are now beginning to plan for the future, spending more time on site searches and very little on cancellations – ‘onward’.
JN: As meetings were going virtual in the beginning, what were some things you looked for in a platform to host IATA meetings for instance?
ON: Virtual and Hybrid were two words rarely heard at industry events, a track or breakout at IMEX or MPI events, however we all had to very quickly figure out how to plan virtual meetings and on a larger scale conferences. In May and June, we began to explore possibilities and searched for platforms that could provide the flexibility and customization required for some of our events. We went from simple ZOOM meetings to full online productions – I must say that I’m blown away at how innovative and creative our industry is. There are platforms that can place you into a virtual conference, complete with 3D trade show area, breakout rooms that you can walk into and even concerts on a virtual beach. Costs of course come into play with each platform and its capabilities and can range from hundreds to a hundred thousand. The challenge in finding the perfect platform is that each offers slight differences and sometimes a virtual event, like a live event requires unique solutions. In addition, our events are usually for a worldwide audience that would normally meet in one destination. With a virtual event, you’re also dealing with multiple time zones and it makes for very long days.
JN: Due to closings and restrictions, how were you able to secure some dates/locations for 2021 editions?
ON: Many of the hotel and venue partners we work with have been great at helping to secure the appropriate venues and have shown great flexibility with dates, etc. The key word for 2021 is ‘Flexibility’ both from a venue standpoint as well as on the client side as I believe that 2021, especially Q3 and Q4 will be in high demand across the world. Contracts will need to have flexibility with attendance guarantees as attendees may not be able to travel to certain destinations or be restricted due to company policies. Flexibility to postpone events will also need to be part of the discussions as uncertainty still looms in the near future. Most events scheduled for 2020 have been moved to 2021 and now as the industry is getting nervous about the uncertainty of Q1 and even Q2, the latter part 2021 will undoubtedly be in high demand, making the appropriate arrangements now is crucial.
JN: What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way? (relationship building, flexibility/adaptability, merging of programs, solution-based approach)
ON: As I have indicated earlier flexibility and yes adaptability will be key to the success of events in the near future – hotels and venues will need to offer terms that allow event planners to adjust numbers based on registration levels as this will remain a big ‘unknown’ in 2021. Certainly, relationships built over the years will benefit both planners and hotels as trust will play a big part in obtaining key concessions on both sides in order to achieve ‘win-win’ for all involved. Merging or combining two events into a larger event will also help with overall budget savings as well as raising the potential attendance for the event. Hybrid events are a great way to offer attendees that are unable to attend the current event with the opportunity to remain engaged so that they will return the following year. The virtual component to a live event can also reach a wider audience helping to expand future event attendance.
JN: Any advice to share?
ON: For international venues/CVBs…
I’m a great supporter of CVBs as they are usually my first contact with a destination and offer local knowledge and services and quite often support the events both financially and otherwise in their respective destination.
CVBs have always helped me to make local connections and provide great support in many ways. it’s important to have the CVBs and venues/hotels make direct connections with planners as these ties will help with building relationships within the destination. Site visits and FAMS are also a great source of knowledge building and making local connections and I believe these should be offered whenever possible as it’s much easier to sell a destination and/or venue that I have experienced.
For meeting planners…
Planners and event producers “make it happen” however we are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with and our industry has some great people in hotels, DMCs, PCOs, local providers, etc. Over the years building relationships has been a pleasure and key to the success of events that I have been involved with. This is an industry that pushes you to the limit, can be stressful, tiring, terrific, happy, sad, frustrating and wonderful, all before that first cup of coffee (espresso for me), but we love the sense of achievement and accomplishment and most of all the amazing places we visit and the people we meet. – Keep meeting.