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PODCAST: Convene CEO Ryan Simonetti On How Meetings, Conferences And Offices Come Back

Bisnow has a podcast chronicling how members of the commercial real estate industry are dealing with the impact of the current global health crisis. The economic impacts are vast, and it is forcing businesses to adapt and make difficult decisions.

In this series, Make Yourself At Home, we are hearing from members of the commercial real estate industry about how they are managing this new reality and gaining insight into their day-to-day approaches. You can subscribe on iTunes and Spotify.


Convene CEO Ryan Simonetti, on a break from Zoom calls, doing PE with his son Riley

In this week’s episode, we hear from Ryan Simonetti, the CEO of Convene. The RXR Realty- and Brookfield-backed company manages both flexible workplaces, but three-quarters of its business comes from its events and conferencing arm. Convene had to move fast to cut costs in the face of the pandemic, laying off a fifth of its workforce in March, and it furloughed hundreds more soon after.

"What we've been working on with our landlord is temporary rent relief between now and September — especially for our meeting and event locations," he said. "We're not looking to be opportunistic, all of the temporary relief that we are getting, we are amortizing and paying back over a period of time." 

All 32 of Convene’s locations are shut for the time being, and the company has developed COVID-19 operating procedures for when it can reopen. Simonetti spoke about the future of meetings in the world of social distancing and his realistic take on when people will gather in large groups again — next year.

He also discusses the mix of remote work and the traditional office, negotiating with the owners of buildings where Convene operates and the biggest issues for healthy workplaces.

"Focusing on air quality is going to be a big deal," he said. "Where we see the most changes in a go-forward basis isn't in the design of the interior, but the quality of the HVAC infrastructure that you ultimately put into your spaces."