Virtual meetings: are they ever better than in person?

While virtual meetings have become a necessity because of pandemic lockdown measures, they can offer attractive extras that make them more accessible and more current than an in-person event. Isabelle Harsch, of FIDI’s 39 Club, discusses this with Catherina Stier, outgoing Chair of IAM-YP and IAM Core Members Representative-at-Large

ISABELLE HARSCH (IH): Was IAM your first virtual conference and how was it?

CATHERINA STIER (CS): Yes, this conference was my first virtual conference experience. I was very positively surprised about the variety of agents who signed up and who actively participated in the events, and sessions that were offered. IAM ran great sessions for all parts of the world and I had the chance to join some outside of my usual areas of interest.

The best part is that they were available for 30 days afterwards, so I was able to check out those that I missed. There were networking opportunities such as the brewer’s corner where Carl Weaver, the content manager of IAM, taught us about brewing, Nicola Collett, IAM’s membership services coordinator, provided a mixology session, as well as a great female leadership event.

IH: A virtual event will never be the same as an in-person one – but what elements make them work better? 

CS: Our industry is so driven by relationships that, where possible, I would never want to move away from meeting in person. The time difference was also a little bit challenging, but IAM made an outstanding job of the virtual meeting, giving members a great platform on which to network and join informative and fun sessions.

It was very interesting to exchange information and ideas with other agents on how we are handling business opportunities during this year. The virtual meeting also offered the opportunity for employees who usually don’t attend the conventions to take part in some of the events. 

IH: Do you think you will continue participating in virtual conferences?

CS: I would be happy if virtual meetings were offered in addition to the in-person conventions. It is a good opportunity to maintain contact and keep in touch during the year. An organised set up is very different from regular Zoom meetings.

Virtual events can work well with sessions on relevant topics outside of the regular convention dates. However, virtual meetings make it more difficult to network, and that is one of the main reasons we like to meet in person during the different associations’ conventions.

IH: As YP board member and IAM-YP Chair, what did you organise for your members?

CS: When international travel restrictions were first put in place, the IAM-YP board started organising happy hours every fourth Friday to network, keep in touch and exchange updates on the situations in each of our countries. That was very well received and non YPs have also joined these gatherings – I’m sure the YP Group will keep running them in the future.

During the IAM conference we ran a ‘Go Viral’ session where the new YP Chair and Vice-Chair were announced. We also had a learning session about entrepreneurship, where we learned more about Alex Alpert, from Shyft, and Adam Lowy, from Move for Hunger.

On the last day of the conference, we all met ‘at the bar’ and invited everyone to join the IAM-YP social mixer where we played a Kahoot! game moderated by Matthieu Odijk (MF Interlogistics), which raised more than US$2,150 dollars for the Move for Hunger charity.

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