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In a recent survey by Forbes magazine, 85% of business professionals said that in-person meetings were key to building stronger, more meaningful relationships. So, as the new year begins, significant efforts are being made to re-engage people through live, face-to-face events. But resurrecting an industry that was nearly wiped out during the heights of the global pandemic, means change is imminent.

Despite the human instinct to resist change, pandemic-inspired adjustments to both event planning and execution may live beyond the current state. This behavior is reflected in a shift in the labor force towards more remote and virtual work platforms, as well as lingering concerns about large gatherings.

Other adjustments include:

  • Vaccine status checks: Ranging from big sporting events to small association meetings, many activities are requiring participants to show proof of vaccine or a recent negative COVID test. While this protocol might help alleviate people’s hesitancy to attend group events, it can also raise costs and create challenges for attendees as well as the meeting organizers.
  • Masking requirements: Venues are legally obligated to follow the rules and guidelines within their local jurisdictions. Some event organizers are opting to require mask use even without a mandate.
  • Shortened planning times/registration: Due to the uncertainty of active COVID cases in various parts of the country, events are being scheduled with shorter registration and planning periods. Consequently, large meetings are being organized with only a week or two notice, putting the burden on the planner to secure meeting space in a matter of weeks, instead of months or years.
  • Bigger space for fewer people: Despite large crowds at many sporting and entertainment events, there are those who are still wary of crowds. Meeting organizers are requesting more space from venues for fewer people to accommodate social distancing.
  • Limited menus and higher prices: Supply chain issues and the labor shortage, combined with shortened planning time, are paring down menu options and pushing up prices.
  • Hybrid options: Despite the strong desire to return to face-to-face meetings, after two years of virtual, it is safe to say that “Virtual is here to stay.” There is, and will continue to be, pressure to offer hybrid options to attendees.

 These shifts highlight just some of the efforts to rebuild the in-person market. In addition, event organizers are taking extraordinary measures to demonstrate the value of in-person meetings. Exclusive entertainment, networking and other components are being added to create a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). As one meeting planner said, “We don’t want people leaving our event saying, ‘I could have done this virtual.’”

Only time will tell which changes will permanently influence the meetings industry, but in the interim, meeting planners and suppliers are eager to revive live events and re-engage audiences.

Event Source Professionals, Inc.

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