Journey to the Next Normal for Business Events

Industry insights and tools for the next 100 days and beyond

Author: Sherrif Karamat       

Sherrif Karamat

Sherrif Karamat, CAE

It has been just over 100 days since I announced the initial framework of our COVID-19 efforts in a communique to PCMA’s global audience. 100 days ago, the situation was focused primarily in Asia and Europe. Today, it is a global pandemic touching every aspect of human existence. And our business events industry in particular.

Our core belief remains unwavering: Business events will play a role in contributing to the economic and social recovery — not the spread — from this outbreak.

The First 100 Days:

100 days ago, our immediate plan was to make sure our members and the global business events community had access to the most relevant information and resources to help inform their response to the impact of the crisis. We also made a commitment to develop a recovery plan by getting their insights on how PCMA can prepare them for the next normal.

300K+ COVID web content views, 12K webinar participants, 5K Convene survey responses and six PCMA Think Tanks later, it’s clear that no one really has all the answers. What is clear are three key questions that business events stakeholders everywhere are asking in their pursuit of the next normal:

  • What can the future of business events look like and when is it going to happen?
  • How can I continue to grow my business and my career in a post-COVID world?
  • How will business events continue to deliver social and economic transformation for my brand, organization or community in a post-COVID world?

While PCMA will continue our global commitment to COVID-19 resource support — including distributing recently published and pending business event protocols from the WTTC, UFI and others — it’s time to move beyond responding to the crisis by defining recovery through the discovery of answers to these questions and more.

The Next 100 Days and Beyond:

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: We need to get comfortable with the reality that the post-COVID business events space is going to be significantly different than what we have become accustomed to. But I also believe it’s something we will thrive in.

Here’s why: While COVID has been an unprecedented shock to our system, it is not a disruptor or category killer like Netflix was for Blockbuster. Based on all the conversations and research we have done in the past 100 days, we see COVID essentially as an accelerator of three key trends that have been taking place in all global industries. Trends we were all well aware of and yet did not move quickly enough to embrace their inherent opportunities:

  • Participant experience: COVID has accelerated the onset of the omnichannel world for business events. The way people will engage and connect has quickly evolved. And while no one argues that face-to-face is the richest, most compelling single form of human connection, the mix of channels and platforms has become more complex and no one is better equipped how to define that go-forward mix than the business events strategist.
  • Reskilling: In the last 100 days, the global demand for PCMA’s Digital Event Strategist certification has been massive, reflecting the expected evolution of the participant experience. This is an important beginning to the necessary expansion of essential skillsets business events strategists and their business partners are going to need to thrive in a post-COVID world.
  • Business models: To continue the delivery of economic and social transformation in a post-COVID world, business events will have a new sustainability (financial, environmental, social) imperative on all levels. This is going to include exploring new sources of revenue for our events and how success is measured for all stakeholders beyond strictly economic significance.

Today I am announcing PCMA Recovery Discovery, a seven-month global campaign of business event research, reskilling development, event experimentation and new PCMA product releases for business events stakeholders culminating with a redesigned Convening Leaders 2021 experience in Houston.

Over the next seven months Recovery Discovery will deliver insights/tools for business events stakeholders everywhere on how to safely and effectively deliver business events in a post-COVID-19 world, while growing your careers, your businesses and your communities in the process. We will ask questions. We will experiment. We will take risks. Like you, we will celebrate our successes and learn from setbacks along the way. And we will stay connected to you at every step.

Recovery Discovery starts with you. You can now check out key insights from our recent Think Tank series, where 130 global business events leaders shared their perspectives on participant experiences (face-to-face and digital) and business continuity in a post-COVID world. You can also share your ideas on what you would like to see included in the content and education at Convening Leaders 2021 by taking our Convening Leaders 2021 Survey.

Jack Welch famously said: “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” Yes. There is a lot of change coming at us very quickly. COVID has provided us with a mandate to move quickly and stridently to prepare our careers, businesses and communities. PCMA will accept that challenge and move us forward. Together.

Sherrif Karamat, CAE
President & CEO, PCMA