Conferences, congresses, and business events have undergone extensive changes in the last nine months, spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Virtual and hybrid event formats have emerged rapidly, while traditional face-to-face models have been enhanced through creative approaches.
We find ourselves in a new reality that in addition to numerous challenges, also opens up countless opportunities to shape our future communication and collaboration. The key to successful business events of the future lies in connecting customer needs with market offers, connecting personal interaction and virtual networking, and connecting the tried-and-true with innovation and new solutions.
In recent months, German event organizers, locations, hotels, and service providers have demonstrated how safe meetings are possible under pandemic conditions. Hybrid events, in particular, which combine on-site and online participation and use a wide variety of new technologies, have grown dynamically in quantity and quality.
The German meeting and congress industry started to rebound in Summer 2020, but the latest surge of coronavirus infections and another lockdown have stalled progress. IMEX Group recently announced the disappointing news that this year’s IMEX Frankfurt, set for May at Messe Frankfurt, has been canceled.
For the world of business events, the recovery is not a sprint but a marathon. As a destination for meetings and events, Germany is well-positioned for this marathon. In addition to being a worldwide leader in attracting business travel and attendance at business events, Germany’s excellent global reputation as a business destination is an important cornerstone for recovery in the aftermath of the coronavirus.
Currently, Germany enjoys the highest level of confidence as a travel destination in times of pandemic in an international comparison, according to a survey by IPK International on behalf of the German National Tourist Board. In the latest Anholt Ipsos Nation Brands Index, Germany also ranks first for the best global image.
But the German Convention Bureau (GCB) is not sitting idle waiting for the recovery to take hold. During Convening Leaders 2021, GCB is teaming with PCMA and IMEX to foster global collaboration and drive innovation for business events.
“The meetings, incentive travel, and events industry calendar would not be the same without the traditional injection of high energy, learning, creativity and community spirit delivered by Convening Leaders in January,” said IMEX CEO Carina Bauer. “Although we can’t be together in the same property or sharing the delights of exploring a new destination or business venue, I have no doubt that Convening Leaders will start the year strong.”
Last year, IMEX opted to deliver its May Frankfurt and November U.S. events virtually on the platform PlanetIMEX, capitalizing on its community, and providing diverse education and business networking in a fun environment.
In addition to working with organizations such as IMEX, the GCB has supported the business events industry in other ways:
- In March 2020, it launched a new website, eventcrisis.org, with tw tagungswirtschaft, a trade and business magazine for meeting professionals under the dfv Media umbrella, as an information platform and provider of best practices and new solutions.
- The bureau used its social media campaigns to stay in touch with its customers.
- It conducted market research and data analytics to prepare for different future scenarios in order to enable appropriate, evidence-based decisions.
- The GCB launched its recovery strategy — “At the heart of future events” — which combines the best of both analog and digital worlds for future business events.
- The GCB Virtual Venue opened in November 2020 to host digital events and to connect meeting planners with event suppliers.
“The GCB firmly believes in the value of market analysis and business intelligence as a foundation for evidence-based decision-making and to drive new solutions,” said Matthias Schultze, managing director of GCB. “A thirst for knowledge and future hot topics is also at the heart of the research and innovation project Future Meeting Space.”
Jointly launched by the GCB and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, Future Meeting Space looks into trends, innovations, and societal developments and their possible influence on the meetings industry. “The current research phase, in collaboration with the PCMA Foundation, focuses on the purpose of business events and their role in an organization’s communications mix,” Schultze said. “In 2021, we will address the changing ecosystem of meetings in a post-coronavirus era.”
IMEX is in lockstep with that kind of forward thinking, offering perspectives, information, and guidance to global meeting professionals. IMEXfiles, published 10 times a year, shares the organization’s insights on “the topic of the moment” with an audience of 50,000 industry contacts. IMEX’s sustainability report, The Regenerative Revolution, provides case studies, survey data, and insights from big thinkers to show how the circular economy can help rebuild a resilient and regenerative global events industry.
IMEX Group and the German Convention Bureau are sponsoring back-to-back sessions on Thursday, Jan. 14, at Convening Leaders: “Open Innovation for the Business Events Industry” and “Innovating Business Events — The Customer Perspective.”