Same Pandemic, New Challenges

Unemployment among meeting professionals ticked upward this spring, according to a survey conducted by Global DMC Partners, as the challenges around meeting during a pandemic continue to evolve.

Author: Barbara Palmer       

pandemic challenges

In the future, said 60 percent of respondents to Global DMC Partners’ Q1 Meetings & Events Pulse Survey, they expect that half of their meetings will be hybrid or digital-only.

Meeting professionals are embracing vaccination against COVID-19, according to research conducted by Global DMC Partners (GDP) — 80 percent of respondents reported having at least one shot or an appointment for a vaccine in a survey conducted March 18 to April 9. Still, dealing with travel restrictions and the vaccine rollout, along with implementing new COVID-19-related health and sanitation protocols, were among the top headaches listed by the survey respondents, which included both North American planners (70 percent) and suppliers (30 percent).

As the number of in-person meetings scheduled for 2021 increases — 75 percent of the survey respondents expected to hold a face-to-face meeting this year — meeting professionals are looking at a wide variety of ways to implement COVID-19 related protocols into their meetings. More than half — 55 percent — are considering requiring proof of vaccination from meeting participants and nearly half — 48 percent — said they may implement COVID-19 testing for participants. Almost 40 percent are considering incorporating a COVID-19 “Code of Conduct” for participants into their meetings, and 27 percent are thinking about asking participants to release meeting organizers and venues from liability.

Planners had expected that there would be great deals following the pandemic, but pricing is still a challenge due to lack of availability, according to a panel of planners convened by GDP to discuss the survey results. Planners also cited challenges with higher meeting costs associated with COVID and social distancing. Clients, however, are eager to get back to business, panelists said, and are considering destinations that were not on their original lists. Other challenges, listed in the order of how frequently they were mentioned by respondents, included lower budgets and revenue; lower event attendance; negotiating contracts and determining attrition rates; and managing COVID-19 testing or contract tracing.

The survey also showed a growing trend toward smaller attendance numbers for in-person meetings in 2021 — 64 percent of in-person meetings scheduled this year are projected to have fewer than 500 people in attendance.

For meeting professionals, jobs became “more precarious” in the first quarter of 2021, according to the survey. Respondents reported a 19-percent drop in full-time employment status, with more respondents reporting reductions in hours. The number of meeting professionals who said they are looking for employment increased from .4 percent to 3 percent since late 2020.

Looking forward, 70 percent of those surveyed said that they would be happy to return to their pre-pandemic work pace, while 30 percent said they preferred that life not go back to the way it was before. The most commonly wished-for change was the ability to work from home — cited by 35 percent — followed by the desire for a lessened workload, mentioned by 33 percent. Three percent of respondents were looking for a career change.

Some changes to meetings created by the forced pivot to digital meetings will be permanent, the survey suggests. In the future, 60 percent of respondents said that they expected that half of their meetings will be hybrid or digital-only.

A copy of the survey results is available at convn.org/DMC-survey.

Barbara Palmer is deputy editor of Convene.