Everyone loves a good comeback story. The Rocky series isn’t heavily revered for nothing.

The battle between in-person meetings and the now-waning Covid pandemic is the source of many comeback stories around the globe. And meeting in person—while having been substituted for the better part of two years by Zoom meetings, Hubilo gatherings, Meta get-togethers and conversations of all sorts on ever more video conferencing platforms—just can’t stop winning.

The North Carolina-based Special Event Company (TSEC) is another case in point. TSEC is coming back Oct. 16-18 to have its first in-person event since 2020, the annual Academic Event Professionals (AEP) conference, to be held at the Boston University Questrom School of Business.

The AEP conference began in 2006 as a standalone specialized workshop at the Special Events Show conducted by TSEC CEO and AEP Advisory Board Chair Sally Webb.

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The conference offers a forum for academic event profs to share best practices and trade ideas, something which can be beneficial for new event planners; appropriately, challenges faced by new event planners is one of the topics discussed. Additional topics to be explored at the event include how virtual, hybrid and in-person academic events will look in the future; designing events to reach diverse audiences; and creating a healthy work-life balance as an event prof.

Entering a Brave New World

Webb and her team decided on the theme “Brave New World” as a reflection of the current state of the event planning world. “The process of event planning has changed considerably due to the pandemic, resulting in labor shortages, staff with limited experience, lack of venue availability and dramatic increases in pricing,” she says. “It’s a whole new world in event development, even for the most seasoned planners, and takes some spirit and determination to roll with the challenge and deliver successful programs. The theme seems very appropriate for the current times.”

Webb says the event expects about 50% of its pre-pandemic numbers, which she says is in line with their expectations. Although there won’t be as many attendees at 2019, Webb says the team is delighted to be hosting AEP again. She went on to explain how canceling their operation for two years brought home just how important a role this event plays not just to its attendees but the wider world, as well.

“We learned how much demand there is for professional development, education and networking throughout the academic event community,” she says. “The challenges of engaging donors, alumni and all stakeholders with reduced budgets from a lack of athletics and donor income is affecting all schools, so a forum to engage and learn is more needed than ever.”