By Kayla Carnes

For nearly 20 years, American Meetings, Inc. (AMI) has successfully combined the best in modern technology and hospitality to help businesses create top-tier meeting experiences across the globe, currently working in over 60 countries. For nearly 20 years, American Meetings, Inc. (AMI) has successfully combined the best in modern technology and hospitality to help businesses create top-tier meeting experiences across the globe, currently working in over 60 countries. “At AMI, our main goal is helping clients convey a message – whatever that message is – and ensuring it’s communicated perfectly every time,” said Andy McNeill, Founder and CEO of American Meetings, Inc.
With services ranging from recruitment and meeting management to site selection and multimedia presentations, AMI provides a unified platform for businesses of all sizes to diversify and elevate their company gatherings by streamlining logistics and providing exceptional, memorable experiences from start to finish.

AMI was among one of countless organizations forced to reevaluate its core business model in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which demanded McNeill and his entire global organization to transition the entirety of AMI’s offerings to an online-only platform.

At the onset of COVID-19, McNeill and the team at AMI witnessed a sharp decrease in the need for live meeting services. Coordination of key areas of meeting services quickly became a non priority in the face of a global pandemic and worldwide travel lockdowns.

“50% of our services became irrelevant overnight,” said McNeill. “Services such as hotel sourcing, air travel and project management of AV equipment were no longer needed. At the time [of the pandemic], 40% of our focus was on virtual meetings and 60% was on live meetings. We had to stop, train, and reassess the entire AMI staff while pivoting to virtual meetings only.”

In spite of the sudden economic upheaval, McNeill witnessed just how adaptable his staff and clients were in the face of total operational overhaul.

“Our clients were simply amazing. Overall, the transition caused very little disruption,” said McNeill. “We learned that we are incredibly nimble and able to adapt to changing times. But learning new systems and processes isn’t easy, and we realised that in the future, we need to step up our company training. This has made us a better organization, and I’m deeply grateful for our team’s willingness to be flexible.”

Changing with the times
Right from the onset of COVID-19, AMI has demonstrated a willingness to rethink their client offerings in a way that highlights community focus onto socially relevant initiatives. For McNeill, flexibility in business has meant working with industry leaders to help develop comprehensive education programs and promote public awareness of COVID-19 when live meetings return. It has also shown up in its work with clients.

“A major client needed to answer many questions about how on and off-label drugs can be applied in the face of COVID-19,” said McNeill. “At AMI, we worked with their leadership to develop a four hour program which allowed key opinion leaders to educate over 3,000 healthcare providers on what they can and cannot do to apply COVID measures.”

But in spite of the present need for virtual meetings and digital platforms, McNeill acknowledges that this change in business operation will soon see yet another transition as offices around the country eventually begin to reopen and find their way back to ‘business as usual’. Only this time, enterprises will be in need of increased health and safety measures, as in-person meetings resume under the careful margins of social distancing.

“Moving into late 2020 and early 2021, businesses will certainly need PPE products for attendees that include items like shield guards, masks, social distancing stickers and floor decals,” said McNeill. “At AMI, the challenge will become offering those products in a way that’s both creative and novel. We are developing a comprehensive program for all of our clients to follow at their live meetings.”

This, McNeill says, is where diverse suppliers come in.

“In the diversity space, everyone is incredibly creative and inspiring. We consistently look to our diverse suppliers to innovate ways to make our meetings stand out. We have already spoken to several diverse suppliers on unique PPE products and services including the woman-owned Ardian Group, who has developed a best in class software to track attendees interactions.”

What’s next for AMI
As modified business practices during COVID-19 continue to find their footing, one thing is for certain: people will continue to experience a need for human connection, regardless of how communication and social gatherings take place.

“In light of COVID-19, every day at AMI has been different,” said McNeill. “The biggest challenge we’ve faced collectively, I believe, is that we need to be together. We all have felt the impact of being at home alone. Human connection is very much needed, both in business and in one’s personal life. Navigating how to choose the ‘right time’ to bring people back together means remaining on the forefront of offering products and services that help our community stay educated and safe.”

McNeill credits a significant portion of AMI’s success to his team’s continued willingness to learn, grow, and change course according to the needs of their clients.

“The hard work of the AMI team is what has kept us in a state of continued success,” said McNeill. “They rolled up their sleeves and said, ‘Yes, I am willing to learn this’.”

When the nation collectively overcomes the COVID-19 pandemic, McNeill says he hopes to look back on this time knowing that he and his team served their clients to the very best of their ability, even when it required personal sacrifice.

“I want it to be remembered that we at AMI were an invaluable resource to our clients. That we supported our staff in a way that made them feel secure and provided for, and that we were able to provide materials and services which helped move our client’s businesses forward.”

Andy McNeill, Founder and CEO of American Meetings, Inc.