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More LI event and meeting planners say they're seeing bookings for in-person, hybrid events

Hillary Needle, president of Hillary Needle Events, a

Hillary Needle, president of Hillary Needle Events, a Dix-Hills based event planning and marketing firm, says the hybrid model will be a popular option. Credit: Judy Walker Photography

Since the shutdown last year, businesses and networking groups have been attending meetings and events predominantly virtually. But that soon could change.

A recent survey found that 81% of meeting planners have plans to hold their next in-person event sometime this year with most of that activity (59%) occurring in the second half of 2021, according to Northstar Meetings Group.

That seems to mirror the trend on Long Island with local hospitality, event and meeting planners saying they’re seeing bookings for in-person events start to trickle in for summer and fall with many offering outdoor or hybrid options.

"We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel," says Dede Gotthelf, owner of the 90-room Southampton Inn. "We’re seeing almost all the business groups that had booked for 2020 and canceled last year calling us to book for 2021 for in-person meetings."

Most are opting for July, August, September and October with a combination of indoor and outdoor, she says, noting most of the meetings are going into their ballroom, a large indoor space that opens out onto the Inn’s outdoor European-style courtyard.

Even 10-person meetings that normally would go in the Inn’s boardroom, she says, are being placed in their 90-person larger conference room to allow for distancing, she says.

"We have probably 15 corporate bookings and many more in the contract stage," says Gotthelf, adding they have two UVC sanitizing lights dedicated to its meeting space and restaurant and two others used throughout the hotel.

Laura Palker, CEO of Melville-based Trade Show Solutions Center, which plans and produces live and virtual trade shows and events, says she believes there’s going to be more in-person outdoor events in summer and fall, as well as activity at larger venues with social distancing and health and safety protocols in place.

However, she doesn’t think virtual will go away entirely and is in the process of planning a virtual conference for SHRM-LI Chapter, made up of HR professionals, for May 21 that will be "a fully animated virtual experience."

Last year, the event was more like a Zoom presentation, but this year it'll be more immersive with attendees seeing an exterior of a building and having the virtual experience of "flying" into the lobby, Palker says. They’ll also see an exhibit hall, auditorium and lounge and be able to video chat and schedule appointments with exhibitors.

But she’s hearing of clients planning to attend such live events as the World of Concrete in June at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

She said the vaccination process is adding a "confidence level."

One of Long Island’s largest businesses events, the HIA-LI annual trade show, which was virtual last year, will likely be hybrid this year, says president and CEO Terri Alessi-Miceli.

"The trade show will be in October and we hope for a hybrid-type event," she says. "Meaning an option for virtual as well as some things face-to-face abiding by gathering regulations."

She says the group’s plan beginning this summer is to do smaller live gatherings based on state regulations and also have the same event livestreaming. "Some people may not have a comfort level to attend live and there are others that are eager to get out there."

Similarly, LISTnet president Paul Trapani said before the pandemic, the tech advocacy group would usually team up with other Long Island organizations to host a summer Happy Hour on the large outdoor patio at The Refuge in Melville.

"We are hoping that we can do something on a smaller scale" within New York State regulations for August, he says.

LISTnet also normally holds an annual awards event (LISA) in the fall and this year is planning for a virtual event. It's working on figuring out a hybrid component, where maybe a small group can gather within regulations at the Digital Ballpark in Plainview or somewhere else, Trapani says.

Hillary Needle, president of Hillary Needle Events, a Dix-Hills based event planning and marketing firm, says she thinks the hybrid model will be a popular option.

People also will utilize the outdoors, she says, noting she’s planning a corporate networking event on the rooftop of a Long Island catering venue for October.

And she’s planning a hybrid event in October for the NYC Imagine Awards that will be in-person at The Edison Ballroom, but will also be livestreamed.

"Because capacities are limited it does limit the size of the event," Needle says. "By opening it up to a hybrid model you can reach anyone around the world."

Fast Fact:

More than 50% of planners are planning for hybrid events now or intend to plan for it soon, according to a survey from Northstar Meetings Group.

Source: Northstar Meetings Group

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