Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

The travel agency community has, for some time now, been moving back to holding in-person events.

For instance, Signature Travel Network recently held its 2021 conference in Las Vegas, drawing 1,142 advisors. Of the attendees, just over 400 had never been to a Signature conference before. Nearly 600 suppliers attended.

It was great to get back together in person, Signature CEO Alex Sharpe said during a recent webinar. But one thing Signature won't forget about from the past two years is the value of virtual meetings.

"You know, in the past, it was like, you came to Vegas or that's it, there's nothing else," he said.

Now, though, everyone from the most tech-savvy teens to their grandparents is familiar with technology like QR codes and Zoom meetings that became so ubiquitous as the pandemic unfolded, Sharpe said.

"We need to leverage these things," Sharpe said. "Yes, we need to get back in person. But at the same time, we also need to really figure out how we complement the in-person meetings with the virtual stuff."

Sharpe said Signature plans to continue offering things like virtual training, but advisors should also remember to keep virtual tactics in their sales kits going forward.

"Your customers are not all local," he said. "They're not all walking into your office or meeting you at the coffee shop."

For those clients, using a video conferencing tool to walk through opportunities or itineraries is "an incredible sales tool," he said.

Holding meetings or events virtually was spurred by the pandemic, but advisors have more than proven their value.

For instance, a group of Gifted Travel Network agents used virtual events to fill spots on upcoming group trips, led by themselves. (To hear from the agents themselves how they did it, check out this episode of Trade Secrets, the podcast I co-host with TravelAge West's Emma Weissmann.)

Largay Travel in Waterbury, Conn., invited clients and advisors into Zoom rooms where suppliers would pop in every 10 minutes to talk about their destination or product. At least one new client started working with the agency as a result.

And Jen Campbell Boles, owner of Explore More Family Travel in Cornelius, N.C., partnered with a friend to sell kits that accompany virtual events and enhance the experience.

These are three of myriad examples of successful virtual events held over the past two years. Don't forget those successes, or log off the computer, just because in-person meetings can happen again. The two complement each other well as sales tools.

Or, as Sharpe put it, virtual events are "something that we should not wash away now that we can get pack in person. We can't forget about those things."

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