Below, Visit Alexandria’s Business Development Manager Nancy Rosenbaum reflects on success stories from recent in-person, digital and hybrid events in Alexandria:
Reflecting on the past several months in Alexandria has brought a slew of emotions from this observer. First, I am so proud of the hotel staff who show up every day to make the best of an extremely difficult situation. Then there is the planner, struggling with new tools and accommodations. Finally, attendees are taking a leap of faith and going to meetings, whether in person or virtually. Here in Alexandria, the entire community is pulling together to create successful events. Here are a few examples.
An In-Person Event Designed to Reduce Risk
Maggie Delahoyde, an independent meeting planner, knew her clients were eager to meet in person but were faced with strict event restrictions in Washington, D.C. She was advised to visit Old Town Alexandria, a destination described to her as boutique, easily accessible and with safety measures and guidelines in place. What was supposed to be a quick sight-see immediately had her hooked. Maggie was impressed with the hotel accommodations as well as the restaurants making strategic changes so that customers could dine with reduced risk.
Based on the capacity restrictions at the time, The Alexandrian Old Town Alexandria, Autograph Collection successfully hosted more than 50 attendees. Safety protocols including physically distanced receptions, meals in various locations with plexiglass barriers, masked servers and individually wrapped food presentations allowed attendees to enjoy a safe and productive experience. With the recommendations from Visit Alexandria’s destination expert, the group enhanced their program with a tour, dinner and whiskey tasting at the impressive Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon.
An Iconic D.C. Festival Goes Digital
While Maggie’s group managed an entirely in-person event, David Sonntag, Founder of Decibel Event Management, became a local hero for transitioning one of D.C.’s largest events into a digital experience. For more than 20 years, David has produced D.C.’s National Book Festival. This year, he led a complete reimagining in conjunction with the Library of Congress and more than 150 authors to keep the event alive and virtually meet in Alexandria.
How did he tackle such an undertaking? “We decided to pivot,” David explained, before describing his team’s command center at The Westin Alexandria Old Town, where the group replicated 12 main stages into digital recordings. David’s team knew for months how the pandemic would affect the September 2020 event. Having just completed a similar digital event, they had a template to work from for the National Book Festival. With the help of the Westin’s highly professional staff, safety came first, beginning with contracting through onsite production.
Working with a live staff of about 35 people and a 200-person virtual staff, David recreated 95 sponsor booths and provided practice time for nine concurrent sessions of authors. In the end, execution from the hotel command center was flawless, from the live Q & A’s to the timeline with razor-thin margins. Given only 90 days to plan and execute, David said the event launched perfectly, and that the team at the Westin gave him the comfort level he needed to keep the National Book Festival uninterrupted in 2020.
A Hybrid Event That Worked for Everyone
Finally, we connected with HelmsBriscoe for the ADAcon Virtual Conference held earlier this fall at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center. This was their first hybrid event, and while the in-person component was dramatically reduced due to the pandemic, ADAcon’s meeting planner Jasmine Powell emphasized how refreshing it was to see attendees back out in the field and connecting with people.
Adacon’s hybrid event hosted roughly 20 people in person and additional attendees virtually. Together with Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, the team took precautions such as daily temperature checks, printed information on safety measures along with Hilton CleanStay hotel measures. Having proper physical distancing precautions in place, the group felt they had more than enough room to meet and maintain safety protocol.
During a hybrid meeting, planners endure an extra layer of stress as they rely on the Audio-Visual team to create seamless transitions and quality of content. Hilton Alexandria Mark Center’s team successfully streamed multiple presentations while preventing any system failures during the live broadcasts.
Jasmine summed it up best: “It’s amazing to see people wanting to get back out there [and] lead society into new normals.”
Insider Tip: If you are considering Alexandria for your next meeting, allow our destination experts to assist with the most up-to-date Alexandria meeting and safety resources. The Visit Alexandria team can help you customize your attendees’ experience of Alexandria with safe and responsible options.
Header Image Credit: Misha Enriquez for Visit Alexandria