"The will to 'risk' something new and to learn from it"

GCB Future Talks - North American Edition, Vol. 2


As the CEO of SYTA, the Student and Youth Travel Association and the SYTA Youth Foundation, Carylann Assante is an experienced association, meetings, and convention executive with a lot of know-how in global travel and congresses.

Since the pandemic, SYTA has focused on providing educators, school administrators and parents with the information they need to get students traveling again. What she, as an event planner, thinks is required for our "New Now", she shared with the GCB's managing director Matthias Schultze in a recent conversation. The interview constitutes the second edition of the GCB's new interview series with North American event planners.

Matthias Schultze: The world of business events has changed tremendously in the past year. Do you have any examples of virtual/hybrid programs that you may have executed, and if so, are you able to share any details on how that experience was in terms of execution, attendance, feedback, challenges, successes, etc?

Carylann Assante: The 2020 SYTA Annual Conference was planned for Winnipeg, Manitoba when Covid-19 hit. By June 2020, we had to move the 2020 conference to 2023 due to the Pandemic. We then turned to our partners to produce our first SYTA Live event - a virtual day of stories, music, networking, and "hugging" virtually. We focused on bringing our members together through the platform - and sharing the positive message that we would get through this together. We even had a special music performance by Broadway performers just for our audience. We eliminated our education sessions except for a short keynote speaker. At the end, we had over 750 participants, stay engaged with us for a seven-hour program.

The latest research of the German Convention Bureau's innovation network Future Meeting Space shows that the relevance of events for an organization's overall communications mix will continue to grow in the future. What is it that you need from event suppliers - from locations to tech service providers - to be able to create successful events in the future?

It will be an exciting time to see how events will evolve over the next few years. We anticipate having smaller more intimate events in unique locations and use virtual options to connect with members who cannot join in person. It will be critical for our supplier partners to keep us informed on new technologies as they are working with them all the time - and we as event planners rely on their expertise. I believe face to face events will be even more important to solidify relationships and to have deeper discussions. I also see the virtual business appointments impacting the face-to-face appointments at global shows.

Which tools would you like to have in the future, which formats would you like to implement?

Students are working with all types of virtual technology in their classrooms that could be used in our meetings. Instead of the zoom and powerpoint platforms, we could operate with more visual storytelling boards - gamification, badges, sound. We have to be willing to "risk" something new and to learn from it.

In our "New Now", new tasks require new skills. In your opinion, what skills and competences will be in demand for event professionals in the future? Are you looking to, or are you already furthering your education on any specific topics/skills?

I am taking more appointments with audio visual and digital event companies so that I can understand the new technologies, how other planners are using them, and what the unique differences and values are that each brings to your meeting. I am also taking a DEI Certificate Course from Cornell so that I have a real foundation in this area - and not one that is reactive to the current climate.

To keep up with the speed of change driven by the digital transformation and global events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the business events sector needs to drive innovation. How do you come up with new ideas? Would you be/ Are you open to collaborate with other event professionals to discuss new solutions and the future of business events?

I always value the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues. Where I find my new ideas is from other industries and business sectors: I look at what is happening in supply chain management, food service, science, healthcare - how are they delivering value to their stockholders, employees and customers.

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