As part of the Americas Lodging Investment Summit’s Patron sponsorship program, ALIS asked JSAV CEO Chuck Bauman six timely questions as we prepare for the 20th annual event July 26-28, 2021, at the JW Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles L.A. LIVE. Following are his responses. (Note: JSAV is a subsidiary of Ashford, Inc.)

Besides health-and-safety protocols, what changes in live, in-person event production will be in place as they re-emerge?

In the near-term, we anticipate that face-to-face meetings will be smaller in size and will offer more social and networking opportunities along with a virtual/hybrid component available for those unable or unwilling to travel. We also expect that groups will need more space per attendee than before and require multiple rooms that will be utilized for general sessions. Given this, breakout sessions will definitely need more room while accommodating fewer people. Simultaneous broadcast into pre-function space will provide some flexibility but sound will limit how many concurrent sessions can take place in an open pre-function area.

What is the most important thing hotel investors need to know about the audio/visual component of events considering the current landscape.

As the market recovers, we are collaboratively working with hotels to capture business. AV companies need to work hand in glove with the sales and catering staff to do everything possible to bring business back. Pricing flexibility and the willingness to work with clients, and the hotel, will be critical. A strict vendor relationship will only hamper the rebound efforts…all hotels need a partner to work together will all parties to manage a successful event. Many clients will have slashed budgets; hotels and their affiliated service partners all need revenue, but it needs to be measured and we all need to work together to make it happen.

What do you foresee in terms of hybrid events once the pandemic is behind us? Will they continue to be utilized, and if so, how should hotels prepare for it?

Hybrid events will be a bridge between the virtual meetings we all experienced in 2020 (and the beginning of 2021) to the gradual return of traditional face-to-face meetings. We anticipate the hybrid meetings will phase out over the next 18 months, with a small component still needed for some groups. Business has shown there is the ability to be productive in a virtual world. However, human nature pulls people together in person, creating much better connections, than the isolated virtual world. Hybrid meetings can, in some cases, lower costs for businesses; however, that comes at a cost to hoteliers in the long-term.

As the recovery begins and live, in-person events return, how do event production teams and facilities that host them create engaging and inspirational settings and programs to keep the attention of attendees who might have acquired “screen fatigue” during the pandemic and prefer to focus on networking?

The industry will likely see fewer large general sessions in the traditional sense, and more relaxed, smaller informal interactive sessions. While the traditional raised stage and dual screens showing a power point presentation has been effective traditionally, I anticipate many will shift to fewer staged events and more participant interaction. Walking through the audience and engaging folks directly provides for a more engaging discussion... and will enable us to seamlessly shift us from virtual to traditional talk sessions. In Q&A sessions, if a presenter walks over to the participant with a question and engages with them directly, it will be more personal than the participant walking up to a stationary microphone and asking a question. Social distancing will still be key so meeting participants feel they are in a safe healthy environment, but with attendees more spaced out, the personal interactions will be easier to facilitate.

What’s the most common event-production question you are hearing from hotels that are preparing to host post-pandemic events, and how do you respond to it?

“Will you be flexible with your pricing for the event so we can capture the business and bring folks into the hotel?” As previously mentioned, we need to sell holistically—not as independent parties—to collectively support the transaction. We can’t commoditize service especially in the hospitality environment. Pricing flexibility must be an essential part of any rebuilding effort. We are in this together and will get through it together.

What’s the one takeaway people should know about Chuck Bauman?

I am committed to rebuilding our industry the right way, with hospitality and service at our core. … We are well-positioned to thrive if we all work together toward a united recovery effort.

* Posted on April 12, 2021