Virtual events are different, but can motivate and inspire, says Reality Training’s Bob Morrell

In 2009, Reality Training were booked to speak at the Abta Travel Convention in Barcelona. We were delivering a Masterclass on 10 ways to Drive Your Business, and that trip introduced us to many people who are now, still, I hope, our friends in travel.

That first night in Barcelona, we went to a reception on a lovely balcony overlooking the beach, and then downstairs to the underground ‘drinks’ event for the main audience.

Over my career I’ve attended conferences all over the place, but nothing prepared me for that ‘emersion’ into the world of travel. The sights and sounds that greeted me were unbelievable.

Since then, we’ve spoken at inhouse conferences for many travel brands – in Turkey, Cyprus, Spain, Madeira, Majorca, and delivered sessions at association conferences in Dubai, Miami, and Abu Dhabi. The same friendliness and warmth has been evident at every single one.

Even when we’ve done travel conferences in the UK, like WTM, there is still a special atmosphere compared to events about home furnishings, stationery or boilers.

My view was that certain travel conferences tended to be bit ‘sponsor’ heavy – I went to one in Venice that was almost entirely sponsor-led – but most get the balance spot on, between sponsors and value.

On one conference in Madeira, we were taken on a ‘treasure hunt’ around the town, (a brilliant way to find out about a location, incidentally) and I must confess to having a dreadful hangover throughout – which was thankfully cured by my group of agents. In any other market, in any other location, the speakers would never be invited on these additional activities.

On another conference I’m convinced one of the reasons we were booked was to provide ‘comedy gold’ on the coach intercom system as we sped across a Mediterranean island after a gala event.

Recently we provided a session for the Atas Virtual Conference which is, naturally, different – and it’s brilliant to think that even though we are restricted to virtual delivery, there is still an audience out there hungry for help with knowledge, skills and perspective.

The inability to take fam trips right now must be filled by virtual learning from some of the excellent online providers – you can still have a safe, useful and fun event, even without the location.

The travel industry has taken a huge knock and we’re all recovering. But that positive and creative drive that personifies this industry must lead to more virtual events that not only give people valuable information, but also motivate and inspire them to lead this industry back to where it belongs.