Business Events Recovery Will Be ‘a Marathon, Not a Sprint’

For the latest COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard survey, we asked planners and suppliers: 'What best describes how you’re feeling right now?' Most said they were doing their best to get by and were anxious about the future. Even so, responses to other questions demonstrate the industry’s collective resiliency and creativity.

Author: Michelle Russell       

virtual events

Presenters broadcast from a customized 3D virtual studio during LEGO’s virtual event earlier this year. Results from our latest Dashboard survey of the business events industry show that the industry continues to innovate in the face of disruption and uncertainty.

In all of our Dashboard surveys, our goal has been to get our arms around how our industry is handling the pandemic and moving forward. This time around, we decided to get more to the point, so we simply asked respondents: What best describes how you’re feeling right now?

The most popular answer among the 400-plus planners who participated, chosen by nearly half, was “doing my best to get by.” That sentiment was shared by 36 percent of the more than 200 supplier respondents, but a more dominant feeling, chosen by 43 percent of them, was anxiety about the future (vs. 40 percent of planners). Yet a larger percentage of planners identified with exhaustion and burnout than suppliers: 26 percent vs. 18 percent. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 39 percent of suppliers said they were hopeful, compared to 33 percent of planners. One supplier said s/he is practicing “patience: This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

These results prove that we, as an industry, are experiencing the full range of emotions as we go about our days, and that we continue to demonstrate grit in the face of extraordinary disruption and uncertainty.

More than grit, actually. Although only 13 percent of both planner and supplier participants said they were feeling “Inspired and creative,” their responses to another survey question tell us that while they may not be feeling very creative — let’s face it, it’s difficult to feel inspired in the midst of a crisis — they are innovating nonetheless. Forty percent of suppliers and 38 percent of planners said they are focusing their reskilling efforts on developing new business models, a new response option we added in this month’s survey.

We also threw in a new question this month for planners: Are you planning to launch a new digital event that was not previously held face to face? More than half (52 percent) said yes. Their top reasons are to better serve their existing audience (68 percent) and to create opportunities for their community to connect (65 percent). But 54 percent said the new event is an effort to attract new audiences, demonstrating how digital events can extend an organization’s reach.

Some changes we’re noticing between the September and October survey results:

  • Wanting more out of platforms. Fifty-eight percent of planners said they were satisfied with their tech solutions for digital and hybrid events compared to 69 percent on the last survey. This may indicate that as digital events become the norm, organizers are seeking new ways to engage their audience.
  • More willing to travel. In the absence of a widely available vaccine or therapeutic treatment, only one-third of planners said they would not travel to a business event in the October survey and 26 percent said they would travel any distance necessary if the program was worth it — vs. 44 percent who wouldn’t travel and 21 percent who would go anywhere in the September survey. The same is the case for supplier respondents: Only 18 percent said they would not travel vs. 29 percent in last month’s survey — and 37 percent vs. 27 percent last month said they would go any distance if the program was worth it.
  • Coming to terms with financial implications. When estimating the overall revenue impact of the pandemic on their events-related business in 2021, the percentage of planners who expected a decline of greater than 75 percent nearly doubled from the last survey: 13 percent vs. 7 percent. And 31 percent vs. 28 percent expect to see revenues drop in the 51-75-percent range. As for suppliers, the revenue shortfall is even more acute: 22 percent vs. 8 percent in September predict declines of greater than 75 percent.
  • More are reaching out for help. Sixty percent vs. 51 percent of planners last month said they have joined an online community group to help them navigate the crisis. As for why they have sought or are seeking help from the community group, we gave respondents the option to select all answers that applied this time, and idea-sharing took the lead again, checked off by 89 percent of planners. Tech provider recommendations came in second again as the leading objective in joining a community group. Similarly, 69 percent of suppliers vs. 52 percent in September said they have joined an online community group, primarily for idea-sharing, with reskilling as the next most-cited reason for joining.
  • Suppliers are more enthusiastic about in-person events. Most planners have been able to pivot their events online, but business has dried up for many of their supplier partners, so they are understandably anxious to get back to work. Of the 36 percent of suppliers who said they had attended an in-person event recently, 84 percent (vs. 74 percent last month) said that it was worth all of the precautions and safety measures and they would do it again. Fewer planners (only 19 percent) said they had attended in in-person event but only 65 percent said it was worth it — and 30 percent said that they don’t see it as a viable option for most groups.

Please download a PDF of the full October Recovery Dashboard results by clicking the link below.

Previous Recovery Dashboard Results

Find all the past results on our Recovery Dashboard archive page.

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