Delivering Innovation: Connecting Members around the World for ULI Major Meetings

Travel restrictions that were introduced due to the global COVID-19 pandemic meant that ULI had to rethink how to host its popular major meetings program, leading to much innovation to ensure that our members stayed connected. The much-anticipated Fall Meeting and Spring Meeting still took place, but in a new virtual format, and the Europe and Asia Pacific regions were also able to host their flagship events through a combination of virtual and in-person elements, alongside new programs to supplement their regular events. 

 The ULI Virtual Fall Meeting took place over three weeks in October 2020 and surpassed many of our members’ expectations. We found new ways to deliver the session formats virtually that our members are familiar with, as well as developing new products, such as virtual tours, that further strengthened the Institute’s membership offering. Altogether, we delivered: 

  • A meeting that connected 5,500-plus registrants and generated over $700,000 of sponsorship and $1 million of registration revenue; 
  • Eight forums; 
  • Thirty general and concurrent sessions, most of which members can continue to watch on the platform for the next 60 days; 
  • Twelve on-demand virtual tours with live Q&A sessions during the meeting; 
  • Many more roundtables, boardrooms, and virtual events open to attendees; and 
  • Sixty-five product council meetings connecting more than 2,300 members. 

Lessons from the Fall Meeting helped inform the ULI Virtual Europe Conference that took place in February 2021, with a record 1,200 registered attendees. Luminaries including Lord Foster, the architectural guru; Professor Carlos Moreno, proponent of the 15-minute city concept; and Peter Frankopan, professor of global history at Oxford University, were among a star-studded lineup of global thought leaders.  

The two-day core program was expertly moderated by Andrea Carpenter, director of Women Talk Real Estate, from a studio in London. Due to ongoing travel restrictions, other speakers and panelists contributed either from studios in London, Paris, and Amsterdam, or from the comfort of their homes and offices. The regular format was supplemented with a Creative Placemaking Forum, Data Centers Forum, Urban Infrastructure/Transit-Oriented Development Forum, NEXT & Young Leaders Joint Forum, a Product Council Virtual Tour of Hudson Yards, and the virtual presentation of the ULI European Leadership Awards for Excellence. Other exclusive events for Full Members and VIP guests included a Capital Markets Forum, roundtables, and boardroom discussions, with product council meetings taking place in March.  

The 2021 ULI Virtual Spring Meeting in May was another successful major event delivery that demonstrates our ability to provide value through engaging experiences and dynamic programming to our members, despite the unprecedented period of not being able to meet in person. A few notable highlights included the following: 

  • 4,305 participants—on par with the 2020 in-person Spring Meeting attendance; 
  • 8,853 session views; 
  • 2,387 Product Council members; 
  • 1,022 participant connections in the platform; 
  • 957 tour views; 
  • 150 speakers; and 
  • 54 sponsoring companies. 

Sixty-six product council meetings also were delivered as part of the Spring Meeting, with product council members representing about 75 percent of all paid meeting participants. 

The ULI Asia Pacific Summit in late May marked a ULI milestone by being the first conference in a truly hybrid format, with in-person and virtual elements. Despite the complexity of merging the two formats—especially in terms of complying with local COVID-19 policies—we delivered a remarkable memory for all delegates. 

Two eventful weeks comprising expansive and thought-provoking keynotes featured Harvard economist Edward Glaeser and internationally renowned architect Kengo Kuma; engaging panel discussions featuring world-class speakers and moderators; live and on-demand virtual tours; the ULI Asia Pacific Awards for Excellence presentation ceremony; diverse topical forums affecting the real estate industry today; and the opportunity for open networking with peers from around the world.  

A highlight of the summit was welcoming delegates to the Grand Hyatt Tokyo for our in-person event, who were joined by hundreds of other participants virtually from around the world. Rounding out the fortnight was our Product Council Day, featuring three concepts that we are exploring in the region, and we officially launched the Technology and Innovation Product Council. 

All the major ULI meetings were best experienced live to benefit from topical content and take advantage of networking opportunities. For those who were unable to make it, ULI members can find the plenary session content on Knowledge Finder.

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