The New Normal of Conference Services – with Christine Sismaet


The conference services team at the University of Washington was looking forward to serving 11,000 overnight guests and facilitating 200 overnight conference sessions this summer. But 2020 had other plans, and though the campus did not close, Christine Sismaet and her team had a very different season than expected. 

Christine is the Operations Manager of Conference Services at the University of Washington. As an undergrad at UW, she served as Summer Conference Desk Host and Conference Assistant before taking on a full-time position as Conference Coordinator in 2010. Christine was promoted to her current role in 2014, and in her 14 years in conference services, she has developed an expertise in building relationships with her staff as well as the clients they serve.

On this episode of Student Housing Matters, Christine joins guest host Erik Elordi to explain what Summer 2020 would have looked like for her team without the disruption of COVID-19 and describe what the UW summer conference season actually looks like running at about 10% of its usual activity. She shares how her reduced (and mostly remote) staff is adapting to Coronavirus restrictions and working to keep guests safe and comfortable on campus. Listen in for insight around how Christine’s experience can benefit institutions that closed and get her take on what conference services might look like in 2021 and beyond.

Topics Covered

  • How working in conference services as an undergrad inspired Christine’s career in the space
  • What Summer 2020 would have looked like for Christine’s team without the disruption of COVID-19
  • Christine’s commitment to building positive relationships with clients and working as a team
  • How the Summer 2020 conference season at UW was reduced to 10% of its usual activity
  • What Christine’s team is doing to adapt to COVID restrictions and keep summer guests safe and comfortable
  • How Christine is reorganizing duties around a reduced staff (most of whom are working remotely)
  • What Christine is doing to keep summer conference organizers engaged and encourage them to schedule for 2021
  • How Christine’s experience can benefit institutions that didn’t have guests this summer
  • Christine’s interest in helping develop the new normal for conference services moving forward

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