Incentive and Marketing Company President: Virtual Meetings Won't Replace Live Events

Meeting Spotlight chatted with Alejandro Verzoub, president of AV Business & Communication, to discuss what business has been like during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and how it will change going forward. AV Business & Communications is touted as the first full-service incentive and marketing company from Argentina.

How has your segment (meetings and/or incentives) of the industry changed since March?  

In Argentina, we started an endless quarantine, which affected all type of meetings, travel and motivational events. This means that we moved forward creating some new ideas and services that could satisfy the need from our local clientele about how to recognize clients and employees without travel experiences. That was achieved with virtual activities, trainings, celebrity webinars created for special client groups, and other gift packages, which were distributed through Argentina through our supplier network for example. 

What are some trends you have seen in recent months? Do you think these trends will last? How are you adjusting to those trends?  

I understand that this crisis has impacted almost every country in similar ways, and there are certain things that I believe will not last and others probably will.  Those who are fearless will travel to the destinations that are flexible without quarantines or tests and will travel again as soon as they can. On the corporate side, there are still forces that are justifying an overreaction in delaying trips for 2021, which is understandable.   

How has your businesses adapted to the new normals?

Luckily, we are working in other service lines that are not only incentive travel. I prefer to always refer to the "good normal" and not a "new normal," as new normal with face mask and social distance should not be displayed or presented as any type of normal behavior in our society. It can be presented as emergency measures but not new normality. On the other side, there is a certain twist to avoid physical offices and remote working in our industry that has grown exponentially in order to reduce costs. 

Have you used this time to develop new strategies for the future? If so, what have you developed?

We are increasing our offering in digital developments we create for loyalty and incentive programs that are managed online and there is still a market for this in South America. On the other side, we are already having slow demand for the classic client meetings. The only limit is the capacity allowed by the local or national governments, but this will change rapidly as all nations are realizing the importance of our segment in the economy 

How are you structuring your meeting strategy moving forward in terms of virtual events vs. in person events?  

Virtual is an accident, physical should be the norm and the standard. Maybe hybrid meetings at some point will be also a new creation as a result of this crisis but we are pushing clients to get them out from their Zoom nightmares where participants attention is low, and during these six months was the only alternative to keep meetings rolling. But if you ask leaders, they will confess that no matter the costs they can claim they have reduced by doing virtual meetings, they will never match the results and enthusiasm that you get face-to-face with colleagues and clients. I can provide a fresh testimony of what happened at the LandXchange in Jamaica recently, where 37 suppliers and international buyers gathered in person and everything worked perfectly.

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