The Peaks and Valleys of Events Industry Recovery

The business events industry’s recovery may not be following the straight path that we had hoped, but it is taking shape in other ways.

Author: Michelle Russell       

AIM Group Casa FIMP plan

Patrizia Semprebene Buongiorno, AIM Group’s vice president, said she hopes the COVID crisis will leave a legacy “to be more innovative,” among other things. In October 2020, AIM Group created the Federation of Family Paediatricians’ first fully digital annual conference using the 3D FIMP House.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell

News Junkie is a daily PCMA newsletter emailed to subscribers that curates news stories related to events, travel, hospitality, CVBs, convention centers, and other overlapping sectors, from a variety of sources. It’s one of the newsletters PCMA publishes that I oversee.

It’s rare to get negative feedback on News Junkie. But in August, I received back-to-back emails from two different subscribers with a similar criticism: Did we need to republish news about the pandemic that was so depressing? What the shell-shocked events industry needed, they said, was inspiration and uplifting stories.

While fan mail is lots more fun to receive than objections from unhappy readers, I understood where they were coming from. The news about COVID wasn’t good and they — like all of us — were experiencing COVID whiplash.

For the business events industry, that whiplash is especially painful. In early July, we decided to skip our COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard Survey, for the first time in more than a year because we weren’t seeing anything dramatic — just small upticks signaling recovery. Then came the unwanted drama of the Delta variant.

On June 15, when planners and suppliers were responding to our Dashboard survey, there were 8,197 COVID-19 cases reported daily in the U.S. By Aug. 16, that number had risen to 181,433 daily cases reported, dashing the hopes of many for a smooth recovery.

RELATED: Recovery is a Roller-Coaster Ride of Emotions

We sent out another survey in mid-August to gauge how planners and suppliers were reacting to the Delta variant. Fourteen percent said Delta caused them to cancel their in-person events, with 11 percent moving them to digital-only versions. Two out of five planners said that they are taking a wait-and-see approach.

This COVID roller-coaster ride is testing our patience, for sure. When I spoke to Patrizia Semprebene Buongiorno, AIM Group’s vice president, for the September/October cover and CMP Series story on changing business models brought about by the pandemic, she stressed that what we need now is persistence, and expressed the hope that COVID will “leave at least a good legacy — the capacity to change, to become flexible, to be more lean, to be more efficient, to be more innovative.”

“It has been a scary time to be in this industry,” said Megan Henshall, CMP, DES, Google’s global events accounts manager, whom I also interviewed for our story, but she quickly added: “but it’s also a prime time. … We’re experiencing a renaissance, and I see the lines blurring between what we do and marketing operations, the future of work and place, and all of these other worlds.”

We’ll make sure to add our cover story to the News Junkie lineup — it’s just the dose of inspiration we need.

Our Responsibility

So much about COVID-19 remains unknown and we see a wide difference of opinion about what is and isn’t safe when it comes to gathering in person. Which is why I found Dave Lutz’s column such a good way to frame the issue and help us get our footing on shaky ground. He advises organizations to consider four difficult questions when planning upcoming in-person events, all from a duty of care perspective.

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.

For More Information

Become a Member

Get premium access to provocative executive-level education, face-to-face networking and business intelligence.