Blake Dowling: Is Florida ready for hybrid virtual/in-person business events?

Global communication network concept. Video conference. Telemeeting. Flash news.
A fresh approach of a hybrid small on-site event coupled with a virtual event for most attendees.

The week I was invited to a conference, I began mentally preparing for Zoom meeting No. 149 (but who’s counting).

Wait, they said, we would like you there — in person.

In-person? Shazam!

The first foray into hybrid events: a mixture of in-person and virtual.

While I don’t embrace the super-casual stylings many have grown accustomed to in 2020 (no sweatpants and “umbros – are they still a thing?), I have declared “Corona Casual” dress code to those who work in our office.

Personally, my new standard Corona Casual attire is jeans, a dress shirt, and sport coat. I’m keeping it real wardrobe-wise, with the dress shirt, as the Silicon Valley look — a T-shirt with sport coat is too much, too sloppy. It looks like Sonny Crockett meets Larry David. Not good optics, as they say.

Moving on from my fascinating comments on 2020 business fashion, let’s get rolling.

To start, I thought I would reach out to the group organizing this event and hear their point of view on virtual events and this fresh approach of a hybrid small on-site event coupled with a virtual event for most attendees.

This group has held several events this year, and they are my longtime friends at the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. For this event, the keynote speaker is our friend Mark Wilson of the Florida Chamber.

Mark Wilson, CEO of the Florida Chamber, was the keynote speaker at a hybrid in-person event (with a bit of virtual attendance).

Mark gave an excellent overview of where we need to be as a state in terms of aligning talent with the jobs of today and tomorrow, while also getting the next generation of talent ready to work in Florida.

Our state boasts the 17th largest economy in the world, Mark reminded the audience. How do we get up to 10 or better on that list in the next 10 years? Lots of ideas were thrown out there and, bottom line, it is up to state leadership, at every level working with the private sector to make Florida unstoppable. Registering here to help job seekers and employers is a good first step and learn more about the program here:

Speaking with Dana Noles, VP of Grow Business & Corporate Advancement and a member of the Tallahassee Chamber, she said this about this week’s Talent Forum and how they pulled it off:

“Through a virtual event platform, created by local Tallahassee business Event Owl, we have been able to offer our members a new way to connect and learn. 2020 has caused a huge shift in the way we plan, execute, and host events. Fortunately, through technologies like these, we have been able to create member engagement opportunities and offer resources businesses need to succeed.”

(Cheers to Dana, she will be a guest on my podcast this fall.)

Next, I spoke with my friend Dustin Rivest, the CEO and Founder of Event Owl, which hosted the virtual portion of the event on its platform for online guests:

“At the onset of the pandemic, Event Owl made a smart pivot for our platform, shifting from a mobile app to a hybrid model currently focusing on virtual events. Event Owl has been heartily embraced by associations nationally; our clients are our leading source of referrals. We offer year-round use of the platform, allowing for multiple events, which can serve the organization’s member and internal staff use. Our experienced team has been masterful at completely supporting Event Owl users from onboarding to post-event.”

The hybrid on-premise and virtual conference looks something like this; with friends Ivette Faulkner/Florida Chamber and Kelly O’Keefe/Stearns Weaver Miller.
A quick interview with the Chamber post-event, and it’s about to be Miller Time.

It would be a safe bet that we will see more hybrid-type events like this one, as the world starts to dip their toes back into the ocean of regular business.

It is great to see the number of COVID-19 cases going down in Florida (more of this, please) and kudos to our leaders in state and local government for all that they dd. And thanks to all our citizens staying safe and following the rules.

Hopefully, as schools — and football — reopen, we don’t see a third wave; perhaps we are at the beginning of the end of this thing. (Maybe?)

Here’s the upshot: One of Wilson’s main points was that Florida needs leadership, particularly regarding the Chambers in 250 communities statewide.

Where there is that strong leadership with a local Chamber, its staff and members, you will find a strong business community. Thank you to those that make north Florida a great place to live & work and stay safe out there.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies in Tallahassee. He can be reached at [email protected].

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at


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