RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – The Triangle’s business community is beginning to re-strategize its in-person programming as COVID-19 cases continue to fall with the vaccine rollout.

The NC Chamber, Durham Chamber and Raleigh Chamber—all pillars of the Triangle’s private sector—are setting plans to restart in-person conferences, luncheons and panel events later this year.

Local business chambers aren’t the only ones ushering a return to in-person programming. The shift is already taking shape within Triangle’s leading tech and life science organizations as well. Earlier this month, WRAL TechWire reported on how the First Flight Venture Center, RIoT, NCBiotech, NC TECH and Research Triangle Park are now restarting live events after running online-only programming since March 2020.

NC Chamber Director of Events Talisa Hite says that after 15 months of hosting only virtual events, the Raleigh-based membership organization is eager to return to in-person programs beginning in August.

“The NC Chamber surveyed our membership and past attendees in May,” Hite said. “More than 70 percent of the [respondents] indicated they are either ready to attend in-person events now or will be ready to attend in-person events beginning this September.”

Among the first in-person events NC Chamber will be hosting is its annual Health Care Conference on September 21 at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center in Durham. The event will cover strategies to improve the quality of health care, bridge health inequities and address mental health issues.

The NC Chamber is also planning in-person and virtual editions of its annual Ag Allies Conference in October and Women > A Force in Business: Raleigh in November. Virtual options will be available for those who cannot attend in person.

“We will implement a hybrid approach when returning to in-person, with all events providing the option to attend virtually for those who are not ready to attend in-person or are unable to travel,” Hite says. “The NC Chamber will continue to follow CDC guidelines and work with venues to ensure a safe, positive experience for our in-person guests.”

Hite added that the cost of registration will return to pre-pandemic prices, and virtual attendees will receive a discount.

The Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, which has a member network of over 2,200 local firms, is already hosting in-person committee meetings for its members. However, most of Raleigh Chamber’s events will be presented in person beginning next month.

“We are pleased to see our members excited to come back to our events,” says Raleigh Chamber President and CEO Adrienne Cole. “We’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes to adjust our events to accommodate the new needs of our members, such as updating safety procedures, [making] adjustments to event times and improving the overall event experience.”

Cole says the Raleigh Chamber will have a “strong line-up of events” coming in July. That starts with the organization’s annual Regional Transportation Alliance Breakfast on July 9 at the Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary. The annual event covers the business perspective of air travel, with leaders from the Raleigh-Durham International Airport discussing funding challenges and future opportunities.

Raleigh Chamber will also host its State of the City, County and Schools luncheon on July 22 at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Raleigh. Attendees will hear policy updates from Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin and leaders from Wake County’s Board of Commissioners and Board of Education.

The Durham Chamber of Commerce hasn’t held any in-person events over the past year or since COVID started, but the member organization says it’s currently assessing the degree to which it can safely offer in-person events for its members, staff and the wider business community.

“We have polled our members and the feedback has been mixed but optimistic overall,” says Michelle Nelson, Durham Chamber’s director of marketing and communications. “We are considering offering hybrid events later in the year with a limited in-person option, and our pricing structure will continue to evolve to reflect the quality of our offerings.”

Triangle tech organizations returning to live, in-person events as pandemic fades