The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the event industry in countless ways—and that includes its hiring practices. With clients' priorities shifting, plus an increased focus on virtual and hybrid events as well as health and safety protocols, event firms and venues alike have been expanding their teams to accommodate new specialist roles.
We caught up with event producers and venues to learn what new roles they've been adding, and what skill sets their teams are looking for to tackle virtual, hybrid and live events now.
Virtual Event and Technology Specialists
The general consensus seems to be that hybrid events are here to stay—so event teams are, of course, expanding their technical skills and forming strong partnerships with virtual event experts and platforms. But beyond learning the basics, some companies have even created dedicated new staff positions in the virtual space.
Global event firm George P. Johnson Experience Marketing (GPJ), for example, has added the Digital Experience Architect role, which focuses primarily on the user experience and how technology plays into that during hybrid events. “As Strategy and Creative work together to build out the user journey, the Digital Experience Architect becomes a critical player to map the role of technology along that journey,” explains Ken Madden, GPJ’s senior vice president and head of digital engagement. “We layer the digital touchpoint map to identify where the in-person and remote experiences come together and differentiate. What platforms and elements of the experience do they have in common? Does the content or strategy need to change as you cross channels? How can technology enable more/better/different engagement? How does the data and experience connect?”
Madden adds the GPJ team has also restructured its existing virtual producer team—which is focused on platforms and broadcasts—and its experience tech producer team—which focuses on more traditional event technologies—so that they are all cross-trained and able to, essentially, do each other’s jobs. “This doesn't mean that you have one person that does both. In a hybrid delivery model, you will likely still need both,” he notes. “But they need to be able to think about the full experience delivery to better understand how technology decisions and the roadmap for the in-person experience may impact the digital or online experience, and vice versa.”
Event firm Opus Agency, meanwhile, is hiring Participant Engagement Managers, a new addition to its Digital Studios team. This role is also dedicated to the user experience, handling things like chat moderation, polling and other real-time event support that allows speakers and presenters to engage with attendees. “In-session engagement possesses scalability, brand safety and participant satisfaction challenges. This team assures the core of our events is successful for all stakeholders,” says Brent Turner, Opus Agency’s EVP of strategy and solutions.
These managers also focus on developing bespoke moments like VIP elements, virtual viewing parties and other digital activations, and other concierge services. “In ‘before times,’ this type of work was catch-as-catch-can on the comparably few virtual events—our clients would staff this work, others from our team would step in, and the like. However, with the scale, complexity and sophistication of our virtual events, it became quickly apparent we need to train and celebrate the specialized skills and talents behind a scalable, community-centric participant engagement team.”
Similarly, Caspian Agency in Los Angeles has added two new digital-focused roles: a Chat Monitor and a Technical Production Manager. The Chat Monitor oversees all chat communications, encouraging engagement, flagging inappropriate or offensive messages, and populating the chat log with predetermined messages and information. The Technical Production Manager, meanwhile, is responsible for all technical elements of the virtual event—including starting the event, playing holding music, sharing holding slides and visuals, spotlighting speakers and playing videos.
Glow Global Events in New York is going even more niche, with highly specific roles like Virtual Music Curator. “Now more than ever, music is playing a significant role in our virtual events. Getting the music right for each of our audiences is increasingly essential,” explains Cheryl Gentry, the company’s founder and CEO, who notes that familiarity with ASCAP and BMI rules and regulations, and experience with recording and editing software, is essential for this position. “The position also requires a broad understanding of musical genres, background tracks and sound effects.”
Gentry has also hired a Remote Content Researcher. “During the pandemic, we found that we needed to tell a more impactful story that would resonate with a virtual audience,” she says. This role’s duties include conducting research, researching trending topics, writing content, coordinating with designers, sourcing videos and photos, and more.
A third new position on Gentry’s team? Motion Graphic Designer. “Streaming an event to virtual audiences is different from a live audience. We needed better transitions to keep the at-home audience engaged. PowerPoint slides, even with all the templates out there, weren’t cutting it,” Gentry notes. This role assists with creating a conceptual design, developing storyboards, implementing a motion graphic direction to be consistent across the virtual event and more. Qualifications for this role, she adds, include proficiency in Adobe After Effects, Illustrator and Photoshop, plus experience with Cinema 4D, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro and Adobe Animate.
On-Site Safety Experts
The pandemic cast a new light on the need for health-focused safety solutions at on-site events—and many companies have added new full-time roles dedicated to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and any future viruses.
The Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya in Mexico, for example, hired a Hygiene and Wellbeing Leader when it reopened last summer. This person is responsible for new operational guidance and protocols, including staff certification and training for hygiene and cleanliness—which recently helped the hotel attain the GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation for cleaning disinfection and infectious disease prevention protocols. Similarly, Centerplate—the onsite caterer for many convention centers and entertainment venues around the country—has hired a dedicated Health Ambassador for each of its facilities. This employee is tasked with training and directing local teams, working with local health departments, serving as a client liaison on all health and safety issues, and more.
Event companies are leaning into these roles, too. G7 Entertainment Marketing, for example, recently hired a Director of Operations and Virus Prevention & Protocol Lead. This senior-level role is responsible for consulting with clients to develop protocols that ensure the wellness of all team members, as well as developing the overall pandemic preparedness and response plan and ensuring that all teams are on the same page.
Many large companies like George P. Johnson Experience Marketing, of course, already had event safety experts on staff—but many of those roles have expanded their focus and skills in the wake of the pandemic. “When COVID-19 shut down physical events, our operations and safety teams quickly went to work to learn everything possible about what this new threat meant, and how to move forward safely when people were able to be together again,” says Jaime Blackerby, an event producer at GPJ. “Our Health and Safety Task Force is charged with the development of tools, guidelines and protocols to educate and empower GPJ teams, clients, vendors and crew to get back to work and deliver projects safely.” This task force, she notes, was created through a partnership with COVID-19 compliance management experts and medical professionals, and by monitoring health and safety guidelines from the CDC, the WHO, OSHA and federal, state and local officials.
Blackerby adds that at GPJ, over 130 of its production team members are now COVID-19 Compliance Officers certified through Health Education Services. “The team includes representatives from all the GPJ U.S. offices, and has developed internal training content to educate our broader teams,” she explains. “They provide informed strategic guidance documents for clients, maintain an internal microsite with resources and updates, and share regular health and safety newsletters to keep all of our teams updated on developments and safety guidelines.”
Adjusting to the Way We Meet Now
The need for virtual event specialists and on-site safety experts isn’t the only thing that’s changed during the pandemic—the way people want to meet has changed too, with many clients keeping their in-person groups smaller than normal, or looking for ways to think outside the box when bringing in a virtual component.
To support event hosts in this new landscape, global travel management company Corporate Travel Management has established a brand-new department within its specialist events division, Events Travel Management. The Consulting Solutions department arose during the pandemic, when so many event aspects needed to be reevaluated. It's led by Director of Consulting Solutions Marla Everett, who notes that the job descriptions are intentionally broad rather than being focused solely on virtual solutions; the overall goal is to look at a client’s entire meeting portfolio holistically and help them optimize their meeting-related spend and engagement strategies through various formats—whether that’s by adding virtual components, introducing incentive travel and gift card rewards, or other new channels.
For venues, another niche role has arisen in the social event sphere: Reunion Designer. As vaccinations become more widespread, families and friends are beginning to gather again—and a number of hotels around the country have created new, specific job roles that cater specifically to the reunion crowd. The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village in Florida, for example, has a new Chief Reunion Officer role, an employee who can curate customized reunion experiences—one group even provided the property’s chef with old family recipes to be served at a group dinner. Similarly, sister inns Sesuit Harbor House and Chapter House in Cape Cod now have an on-site Reunion Designer, who organizes family game competitions, photo shoots, nightly bonfires for s’mores and more.
Top photo: Marvin Meyer/Unsplash
This story was originally published on Connect's sister site, BizBash.com, here.