While the domestic conference market may be severely affected by the pandemic, the talented team at the Hampshire Conference Bureau and Destination Southampton are now working on a global stage.

Recent online events have seen speakers from all over the world taking part in conferences attended by hundreds of delegates and Shirley Wynne-Jones is making sure everything runs smoothly from her base in Southampton.

“We’ve been involved in events in America, Africa and India. During a recent global conference on the build to rent market, we had a speaker from Chicago who joined the event at 5am local time and was followed by a speaker in London.

“We are working across different time zones and continents and organisations are coming to us because of our track record in hosting virtual events,” said Shirley.

She and her team were quick to adapt to the new way of hosting events, having had some experience before the ‘zoom boom.’

“As an event organiser, we have picked up business from organisations who wouldn’t necessarily have been able to bring their conference to Southampton or Hampshire before.

“We have picked up extra work and we have learned how to use different platforms – we can use three to four different platforms in a day to deliver events. This has become an opportunity to meet new people and develop new ways to deliver events,” she said.

While Shirley is still helping some small events of less than 30 people to take place in person, she explained the majority of her time is now spent preparing speakers taking part in virtual events.

“Surprisingly the effort that goes into hosting a virtual event is just the same as live events and the timescales for delivering events is much tighter. We are just starting to work on an event for more than 2,000 delegates that is taking place in January and if it were a live event, with a 10-week turn-around, it just wouldn’t happen,” she said.

Looking to the future, Shirley believes virtual events are here to stay.

“Companies will continue to work in this way to save money on travel and venue costs but a good way forward, would be to develop more hybrid events where speakers can join a live event virtually.

“Personally I really miss live events and I am looking forward to the time when we are back in a conference room,” she added.