Meeting Spotlight recently caught up with Libby Horne, manager, customer programs for JJ Haines, which touts itself as the largest floor covering distribution company in the country with operations covering the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. Topics covered include slowing down, what it was like to have the calendar wiped clean in 2020 and what regions will see the quickest return to hosting meetings and events.
What are some new trends in the industry that you think will have staying power in 2021 and beyond?
I think hybrid options on the whole will be here to stay for some time, and could be positive. I know in my case, we are going to livestream our General Session at our Summit (customer) event in July and hope those who never take the time to come to the show finally see what they are missing. It will also help those who wish to come but maybe don’t yet feel comfortable traveling access.
What are some ways technology has been helping you through this crisis?
I was on the Zoom bandwagon long before COVID, so the transition for the internal sales, marketing and executive team was easy.
What is the most valuable thing you learned in 2020 and how will you apply it to your business moving forward?
Slowing down. We, in our industry, thrive on the quick pace but often take on too much and are expected to be everything to everyone. Literally having the calendar wiped clean last spring was an overwhelming experience—worrisome, but somewhat freeing. I hope we can maintain a better work/life balance as things ramp up. It has been a challenge to be honest, since it’s all opening up at once. I feel like I am being pulled in 18 different directions daily—bad habits coming back.
Given the impact of COVID-19 on the MICE industry, which regions of the world do you think will be ready to host meetings in the last quarter of 2021 and first quarter of 2022?
Mexico and the Caribbean have done a great job with safety measures and staying open. They pivoted quickly to offer on-site, free COVID tests when the U.S. required that to re-enter for citizens, which was critical. They could have lost all the momentum they had gained. And of course, U.S. destinations are hot and will remain so until more of the world opens back up.
How has your segment of the industry changed over the last year?
I anticipate much more oversight on site selection, budgeting, etc. Making sure "bang for the buck" is there. Contract negotiations are going to be tougher and even more critical.
Of the strategies you developed last year to adjust to the crisis brought on by COVID, which ones were the most successful?
We did not jump in to virtual events as our customers historically did not show interest or participate in large numbers; with COVID, they were too busy trying to save and manage their flooring businesses to take time out for anything we would have presented. I would say in our world, we didn’t alter much other than not hosting any live events throughout the past year.