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How Inspire’s Meetings & Events Team Shifted to Virtual in 2020

By Raj Prashad

As part of Inspire’s unique shared services model, the organization’s Meetings & Events team is tasked with coordinating not only events at the Inspire level but also providing best-in-class support to its family of brands. These events range from franchise conventions, operations conferences, incentive trips and culture and engagement events. The team creates avenues for brand leadership teams to disseminate information to franchisees and team members across the organization, so when COVID-19 disrupted our world in early 2020, the Meetings & Events team, led by Director of Meeting & Events LaToya Southern, was faced with a critical decision: move to virtual or cancel the year’s bevy of scheduled events altogether.

“We had a lot of unknowns in front of us as the pandemic rocked not only our industry but the world,” Southern said. “Cancelling events was our very last option and our team of four approaches our work with a very get-it-done attitude. Things were changing every day, but even approaching something that had never been done before like moving everything to virtual, we knew by working together, we could create the right experiences for all attendees.”

The team researched, brainstormed and reached out to peers in the meetings and events industry to gain inspiration for how they’d pull off moving the majority of 2020’s events to virtual.

“We’ve coordinated meetings for large groups where people sat and listened, but nothing to the level of engagement that this necessitated,” Southern said. “We had to pivot to make sure even when we were talking about the agenda for larger events like brand conferences that were originally scheduled for 2-3 days, that we were flexible. Timing was something we had to take into account, making sure people all over the country had appropriate breaks for taking care of their children or other responsibilities they were tasked with during the pandemic.”

With the move to virtual decided, the team worked with executive leadership to identify and achieve goals for each brand. They then coordinated with Inspire’s cross-functional communications, operations, marketing and supply chain teams to ensure they were meeting the needs of all attendees.

Over the last 12 months, with the help and support of Inspire’s cross-functional teams, the Meetings & Events team successfully hosted monthly leadership and all-team meetings, while coordinating four brand conferences within the span of October. The team also pivoted engaging team member activities like Inspire Fest to a virtual series of fun events for team members and their families called Camp Inspire.

“This year we learned so much about being nimble and really encountering a challenge that no one has faced in this industry before,” Southern said. “We’re coming out of this stronger than ever and I couldn’t be more proud of our small but mighty team and our ability to smile, laugh and stay connected while hosting even more meetings and events in 2020 than we did in 2019.”