2021 EMEA Survey Results: Slow and Steady Wins The Race

Author: Michelle Russell       

Most of the 170 business event professionals in the EMEA region who responded to a recent PCMA survey conducted in April 2021 work for a CVB/DMO (22 percent), with an equal 17 percent employed by an association or identifying as a PCO/meeting planner, and another 15 percent who work for a hotel or venue. The largest percentage (20 percent) live in the U.K., followed by Germany (13 percent), Switzerland (10 percent), Ireland (9 percent), Italy (7 percent), and the United Arab Emirates (6 percent).

Respondents have a wealth of experience: Almost half (49 percent) have worked 20-plus years in the events industry and one-quarter have spent 11-19 years in the business. The majority (37 percent) are at the managerial level; 32 percent are directors; and 19 percent are CEO/Owners.

When asked to identify their three key priorities for this year, most respondents chose developing new alliances and partnerships (58 percent), hybrid event planning (54 percent), and upskilling their workforce (46 percent). Other popular choices were relaunching their destination’s appeal and resource planning — both priorities were selected by 33 percent of respondents.

Respondents had a lot to say about the biggest challenges currently facing them. Several mentioned slow vaccine rollouts — and indeed, only three out of 10 have themselves been vaccinated. Other challenges often cited were budget and resource constraints, quarantines, and travel restrictions. Uncertainty came up a lot the comments to this open-ended question — everything from when people will be able to start traveling again to questions about “the future of business events” overall, said one respondent. One survey taker was struggling with a “lower budget, high demands from local partners, and trust issues from clients with traveling/meeting and adapting to new meetings format.”

Jaimé Bennett

Jaimé Bennett, PCMA Business Director, EMEA

“Innovation and sustainability” were mentioned as concerns by one respondent, and another was trying to “[bridge] the gap between today and the day when our clients feel there is sufficient ability and momentum from their communities to reconvene in a manner which is attractive and meaningful rather than placing small, distanced events in venues.”

Handling the “latest developments (100-percent virtualization) during the pandemic with existing teams (challenge in terms of quantity, skillset, motivation etc.)” was this respondent’s biggest concern. Said another: “The current COVID-19-related situation that has caused a standstill of the industry.” The current environment, this survey participant said, makes it difficult to “retain existing and secure future business.” Another worried about “becoming too complacent and stagnant.”

Seven out of 10 respondents said they have digital/hybrid event expertise in-house; 16 percent do not, and 14 percent outsource for this skillset.

And what’s the top topic that respondents said they are seeking to explore at PCMA Convening EMEA (17-19 October, in Lausanne, Switzerland) and at other industry events? It’s all about coming to terms with the way we move forward in this industry — the models and economics of face-to-face/digital/hybrid evens (60 percent), followed by understanding new business models (58 percent), and developing sales and marketing approaches best suited to a post-COVID-19 market (57 percent).

Those new ways of working require not only flexibility and adaptability, but new skills. When asked what skills they felt were lacking among their teams, digital and hybrid event know-how came up most often. Respondents also mentioned design thinking and data management — as well as decision making and problem solving, which are difficult to master in the best of times, but even more so when confronted with so much uncertainty.

Some skills need to be rethought in a post-COVID-19 events environment, like “sustainability and impact /legacy, marketing/website skills,” said one respondent. This survey participant was obviously thinking about the new roles event organizers will have to embody: “Event architects, TV producers, technical producers.” And another was focused on acquiring emotional intelligence skills: “We need to face the acceleration, we need to train our people to be brave and bold, to think differently, to experience new ways to engage participants, and to talk with a different voice to clients.”

One who answered this question underscored a challenge spotlighted by many of the survey responses, reflecting not so much a lack of confidence in their staff’s abilities as a shortage of resources and talent: “It’s not that we are missing skills, it’s not having enough to go round.”

“The recovery of business events in EMEA will be varied and complex and PCMA can play a vital role for all audiences,” said Jaimé Bennett, PCMA’s business director, EMEA. “We understand that the road to recovery is different for everyone and we are committed to developing new partnerships, platforms, and opportunities that will assist our industry in its recovery. For example, due to the changing landscape of event delivery, we are continuously introducing new hybrid-relevant content and modules to our Digital Event Strategist course, which is now also available as a self-paced course. Our recovery continues to be a marathon, not a race. However, the innovative thinking, endurance, and persistence demonstrated by the remarkable business event professionals in our industry keeps me hopeful for a much brighter tomorrow.‘’

Discover the full insights from the 2021 EMEA Engagement Survey by filling out the form below to receive a download of the full findings.