Professional Development

‘This is the future of the event’: #MILLSUMMIT 2021 brought a new hybrid model that will last

When big in-person events come back, don't expect the annual series to do away with virtual altogether.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester kicks off #MILLSUMMIT 2021's sole hybrid event. (Photo by Holly Quinn)

This editorial article is a part of How We Work Now Month of's 2021 editorial calendar. was a media sponsor for the 2021 Millennial Summit.
The 2021 Millennial Summit showed us that the future is fusion.

The vast majority of this year’s annual professional development series was virtual, using a Zoom-integrated app that allowed attendees to hop in and out of panels, ask questions and “visit” vendors. But the third and final day’s afternoon session, including keynotes by Jimmie Allen and Deesha Dyer and an all-star panel on Black voices in entertainment, was something different.

Taking place on the open concept fourth floor of CSC Station, the event was far smaller than the usual IRL summits at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, and that was by COVID-19-necessary design. The entire setup was one room (plus a green room), one stage and a small audience, plus a production setup to film and stream the keynotes and panel live. There were free #MILLSUMMIT-branded masks, snacks and coffee, and a photo backdrop.

The result was intimate, with less of the rushed pace that sometimes came with the Chase Center events. These livestreamed keynotes and panel were the only sessions scheduled after 1 p.m. on Wednesday, spread out enough that it felt relaxed.

Meanwhile, the summit’s virtual events, which were sometimes stacked with as many as three sessions in the same time slot, saw their recordings posted soon after they ended, so you could peruse them and come back to watch the ones you missed.

For those who have been jonesing for in-person events to come back, the CSC sessions were a welcome change from watching virtual panels. Yes, the virtual panels this year were excellent — but you almost forgot the energy that comes from a good in-person panel. It didn’t hurt that the guests, from Allen and Dyer to Philadelphia Freeway and Blake TheBrain, are pros with personality.

Between two of the hybrid sessions, Charles Vincent, executive director of #MILLSUMMIT host organization Spur Impact, turned to me and said, “This is the future of the event.”

With luck and cooperation, hopefully #MILLSUMMIT 2022 won’t need to give out masks or keep the number of in-person attendees down, but the hybrid model has proven itself.

Here’s a clip from the panel “Through the Creator’s Lens: Elevating Black Voices in Entertainment,” featuring Allen, Freeway, AllHipHop founder Grouchy Greg Watkins and DreamChasers attorney Shardé Simpson, moderated by attorney and community advocate Louise Cummings. The question for the panelists was, “Do you feel pressured to use your platform for advocacy in a way that your white counterparts may not be pressured, or do you see it as an opportunity?”


Series: How We Work Now Month 2021

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