Ahead of the Pivot: Digital Event Strategist Nann Philips

Digital events were all the buzz in 2020

Now as in-person events make a gradual return, the industry faces a mysterious future. Back to in-person, go hybrid, or capitalize on full digital experiences? DES Graduate Nann Phillips has a strategic take.


“Hybrid is not for every event, just like digital is not for every event. Live is not for every event. Hybrid has kind of emerged as this whole different channel, this whole different vertical you could add on and take away. It could be a stand alone; hybrid has come into its own you could say,” said Nann Philips, CMP, CMM, DES, PMED. “I think for myself, I’ve underestimated the eagerness of people to want to get back in-person in these large settings. That's not to say that there won’t always be an aspiration for digital. I think just about every important gathering you have for your organization, you need to think about a virtual option to accompany the in-person option; that was never much of a thought before.”  

When digital events first edged into the meetings and events space, there was hesitation. As more knowledge grew on how to produce successful digital events, digital was transformed. With the pandemic, they were a necessity. And now, hybrid models tend to take the spotlight.  

“It was just not a part of the conversation, now I think it is and will be probably forever. Will it always happen? Probably not. But now, hybrid is much more integrated with the strategy of events and the planning process for any events,” said Philips.            

With so many people believing that a hybrid model is the future of connection, Philips is excited about all of the new possibilities for her work as a planner.  

“I would love to see a real continued integration of the two. When you do have a hybrid, and you do combine the digital space and the physical space things happen that could not happen independently. I would like to see that because that is part of our new world whether we like it or not. I fully embrace it and I hope that a lot of other people are able to as well,” said Philips.  

One of the most impactful parts of a hybrid or digital experience that a lot of associations have seen is the ability to expand their event reach to many attendees who don’t have the flexibility to attend in person. For event planners, hybrid has challenged the building blocks for event organizing because a new digital audience had been created.

“For planners/organizers having that nimbleness, in that way, yes, it has changed the way we go about organizing these events. Having the ability and bandwidth to be able to do that; kind of go either way or combine,” said Philips. “I think the digital revolution, if you want to call it that for meetings, there were quite honestly a lot of people who were left behind. If you couldn’t adapt, there were people I knew [who thought] I should just retire; they weren’t willing to make that leap.”    

When the solidified in-person event industry was forced to go digital back in March of 2020, connection needed to be reevaluated for every event planner. Thankfully, for Philips, PCMA’s  Digital Event Strategist Certification Course (DES) was there to help.

In 2017, Philips completed PCMA’s DES course, putting her knowledge base ahead of her many peers. The DES is a 6-module online course with Q&A sessions led by experts across meetings and events.  DES certification teaches students how to plan, produce and measure digital and hybrid events from start to finish, monetize digital events through fresh pricing and sponsorship strategies, and evaluate and choose the most sophisticated tech solutions. Learn more here.

“I highly recommend it. It was not what I had expected, but in a very good way. It's a very strategic high-level course,” said Philips. “What I took away from it was really approaching your digital event from this strategic mindset, not the execution mindset.”

As COVID-19 accelerated digital tools for connection, Philips was glad she had experienced the course when she did.

“I was really lucky that I had already taken the course and had some distance between the course and when we were all kind of steered in this other direction that we didn’t realize we were going in,” said Philips. “I had an advantage at the time because what the DES did for me and my mindset [during COVID] was I went into it, even with all the urgency and craziness that was going on, I tried to go into it with a very strategic mindset.”

About Nann Philips, CMP, CMM, DES, PMED

Philips is an independent event planner, and also the Founder and Principal of her own event business Scurry Street Meeting Management. She has decades of event experience within the corporate and association world as well as the medical field. Philips primarily works with small associations, non profits, and cause related groups to make their event experience better.

About This Series

JUNO believes in the future of strategic events, delivered in hybrid, digital, and in-person formats. As supporters of PCMA Foundation, we value reskilling for industry professionals and want to highlight Professionals Who Go Beyond.