Drawing on initial results of a COVID-19 study in Germany being conducted by Prof. Hendrik Streeck — using the hard-hit region of Heinsberg as a living laboratory — ICEONLINE, a U.K.-based resource targeted to in-house corporate event planners, has made some predictions for the future of large events.
Speaking to the press on April 7, Streeck, a virologist from the University of Bonn, Germany, shared initial findings from the work of his team to root out the sources of COVID-19 infection by studying Heinsberg residents. One insight of note to the events community: Most cases of coronavirus in the area originated from large groups of people being in close proximity to each other for a significant period of time.
In the article, “New Research Hints at a New Normal for the Event Industry,” ICEONLINE extrapolates from that finding to “start anticipating some of the measures different countries will take, based on research and common sense,” when it comes to events. According to the article, “large trade shows will struggle to be accepted unless a vaccine materializes or other major game-changing event happens. Even as we look towards the first lockdowns being lifted, it makes sense to hypothesize a world where large meetings will still be difficult to implement.”
The article cites the barriers of international and national travel restrictions, and the fact that antibody testing seems far off — and even with those tests becoming more widespread, “enforcing checks at events seems logistically impossible, to say the least.”
The writers conclude: “Small, local meetings will be the way the event industry will start to build its comeback.”
That was one expectation expressed a number of times by respondents to Convene’s COVID-19 survey. What is different about ICEONLINE’s prediction is the actual event duration. Streeck’s preliminary findings “that prolonged times exposed to those with the virus are conducive to contagion,” leads ICEONLINE to conclude that those small, local events also will be short in length.
For its corporate event planner audience, ICEONLINE says it makes sense to “get ready for a new reality that may materialize within the next month and last for 6 to 9 months.” Among its recommendations: continue to invest in webinars and virtual events “to keep the conversation with attendees and sponsors going”; start thinking in terms of local, small gatherings; and use digital and social media to connect local communities on a global scale.
Michelle Russell is Convene editor in chief.
PCMA has created a COVID-19 resources page to help event professionals find reliable information about the pandemic and to share events industry-related resources to ensure they are prepared now and in the future.