As the business events industry continues to reimagine itself, your responses to our COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard surveys have provided the valuable insights necessary to help chart a course through the crisis and beyond. The collective perspectives of industry stakeholders — planners and suppliers alike — have given us all a sense of direction during uncertain times in terms of the way business events will play out for the rest of this year and into 2021, what new skills it will take to succeed, and how great a revenue impact the pandemic will have on organizations.
In July we conducted a similar survey in China and the greater APAC region, in which 342 planners and 189 suppliers participated, giving us a window into how industry practitioners are proceeding in that part of the world. Comparing those results to those of a largely North American pool of respondents yields some interesting similarities and differences.
The Rise of Digital
Considering that the spread of COVID-19 is under greater control in the APAC region — which is further ahead in the recovery cycle — than the U.S., it’s interesting to note that APAC planners and suppliers expect the rise in digital-event technology will impact face-to-face events to a greater extent than their North American counterparts into next year. On a scale of 1 (no impact) to 5 (extensive impact), the weighted average for APAC respondents is 4, compared to 3 for the July 7–15 survey among mostly North American respondents.
The difference between where the two regions sit in the recovery process is more apparent when comparing responses between both to the question, “Have you or are you planning to redesign an existing face-to-face event for a digital platform in the next three months?” Both parts of the world are embracing digital events, but APAC event organizers are planning more hybrid events in the short-term. Only 34 percent of APAC planners and 15 percent of Chinese planners said their entire program will be online, versus 53 percent of North American planners. And 43 percent of APAC planners — and 7 out of 10 Chinese planners — said there will be a digital component to a physical event, vs. 34 percent of their North American colleagues.
APAC suppliers are more optimistic about COVID-19’s revenue impact in 2021 than North American suppliers. Half of Chinese suppliers predict a decline of under 25 percent, versus 18 percent of APAC suppliers. Only 10 percent of North American suppliers think the revenue impact next year will be under 25 percent.
But perhaps the greatest differences between the two corners of the world — which may reflect cultural differences as well as being in different stages of the recovery cycle — have to do with reskilling. While designing digital event experiences and live experiences in post-COVID-19 physical environments ranked high in importance for all respondents, APAC planners and suppliers were far more focused on business continuity and scenario-planning efforts than their North American counterparts: 51 percent of APAC planners and 40 percent of APAC suppliers — and 70 percent of Chinese planners and 63 percent of Chinese suppliers — noted this as an area ripe for reskilling, versus 34 percent of North American planners and 39 percent of North American suppliers.
APAC industry stakeholders also are focusing more on the monetization of future events: 47 percent of APAC planners — and 60 percent of Chinese planners — versus 32 percent of North American planners.
And finally, APAC and Chinese planners think they need to develop sales and marketing approaches best suited to a post-COVID-19 market far more than North American planners: 57 percent of APAC and 66 percent of Chinese planners versus only 35 percent of North American planners.
These differences may simply reflect that it’s just not possible to learn so many skillsets at once, and perhaps they should be seen as stages in a process. One thing everyone seems to agree on: The most immediate need is designing digital events that engage participants.