Meeting Spotlight spoke with Kari Lynn Larsen, president and CEO of Dragonfly Meetings, a full-service conference and meeting and event management agency. We covered how COVID-19 has affected the industry, how the company has pivoted and what to expect going forward.
How has your segment of the industry changed since March?
Our industry has changed 100 percent—but not in the project management nature of it, just in the output of how we meet and incentivize. We have moved the output to be virtual instead of in-person. Our venues are now platforms and our incentives are goods instead of travel and services. If you drill down and look at what Dragonfly really provides our clients, we are project managers and, regardless of the output, we still need to manage the planning and execution of the tasks that need to be accomplished for a successful project.
What are some trends you have seen in recent months? Do you think these trends will last? How are you adjusting to those trends?
Trends in our industry are changing monthly. Most groups were happy with the basic virtual meeting capabilities that livestreaming companies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams were offering at the start of the pandemic. In July and August, interactive hub platforms were popping up daily with new and different functionality offerings. The advancement of virtual social engagement opportunities has spiraled exponentially over the recent months, due to demand for more ease and similarity to face-to-face transactions.
I think we will see more and more team activities being offered online. Destination marketing companies are switching to activity and gifting service offerings; third party agencies like ours are project-managing virtual conferences and events, as well as diving into offering e-incentives and gifts that can be distributed easily and at low cost. These trends will become every-day and no longer considered trends. In April, we at Dragonfly immediately began certification in Virtual Meeting and Event Management, so we could evolve our knowledge and services to keep up with the shift demand from our clients. The shift to virtual is no longer a shift or trend. It is here and here to stay. We will never go back to “how it was,” as we have learned how much there is to offer in the virtual world. The future will definitely be a blend of both in-person and virtual in most scenarios.
How has your businesses adapted to the new normals?
Dragonfly has jumped into the virtual service offering full-speed. There is no time to sit back and contemplate in this world, as the offerings are being developed so quickly. If you don’t stay on top of all the options, then the value-add to our clients is not strong. We are now more of a consulting company, providing our clients with recommendations on what they need to do based on their goals and objectives. We are educating ourselves daily, so that we can keep on top of these recommendations. We have had to release employees who are not interested in the technology side of this new normal and focus on collaborating with individuals who are entrenched in audiovisual and software knowledge and capabilities.
Have you used this time to develop new strategies for the future? If so, what have you developed?
Immediately in the spring we used the quiet time to revamp all our client- and public-facing marketing items. Our website was taken down, redesigned and relaunched. All our internal documents and processes were reviewed and updated. We took advantage of the time to do all those projects that in a busy operational year, we “never had time to do.”
We also have invested in way more education than we have in the past in order to evolve our knowledge and services. I keep reminding people that our staff are still project management experts—which is what we have always been for the past 10 years. The only difference is the project elements have changed. A critical path is still a critical path. Budget management is still budget management.
Another huge investment we have made and a new strategy for Dragonfly’s business is that we have built a soundproof recording studio within our office with the goal of being able to stream and/or pre-record all our client conferences internally. We have been renting A/V studios in the past and hosting our clients in those environments. We felt that most of our requirements were single presenters (CEOs, executives, hosts or emcees) who wanted to do their presentations in a professional looking environment with seamless A/V technology and technician support, so they could focus on their presentations and not the broadcasting of it. We also felt a more executive environment was missing in the larger A/V warehouses where their studios were located. We are launching and will begin renting this studio the first week of January. We are extremely excited about this new service and can’t wait to offer it to everyone.
How are you structuring your meeting strategy moving forward in terms of virtual events vs. in person events?
Our clients are not ready to move to in-person events and likely will not proceed until end of 2021 and into 2022. The health and safety, as well as liability concerns, are too high. Our meeting strategy is to continue evolving our digital creative content and virtual project management services. We have entered the digital service realm and we will never lose this portion of our business now. It is exciting and we love it. Once the in-person event business comes back, we will evolve into offering those services again, too, and, ideally, hybrid events for the rest of Dragonfly’s existence.
It has been an amazing reset of our company and I’m so thankful we have had the opportunity to open our eyes and broaden our scope. We would have never considered these new services if the pandemic had not happened and potentially could have struggled with maintaining and standing out with just our previous services. Dragonfly is an evolved and trusted partner for our current and potential clients. Our business strategy is now better and bolder for it.