No one knows how long the live events industry will shut down for due to the coronavirus pandemic. What is certain though is that at some point (hopefully in the not-too-distant future), the danger will pass, government restrictions will ease, and people will again feel comfortable gathering in groups.
When corporate events, conferences, and trade shows start up again, event professionals will resume spending the majority of their time on tactical, operational tasks. They’ll be concerned about budgets, sustainability, and event technology. And they will be interested in unique, flexible venues and event spaces.
The report is based on responses from event industry professionals, 65% of whom are coordinators or managers, and a quarter at senior leadership levels. Although the study was specific to the UK, many of the findings are similar to other recent studies and apply as well to the U.S. and other developed events marketers.
Below are five key findings from the report.
Event Pros Spend Most of Their Time Tactically
Perhaps not surprisingly, the two areas to which event professionals devote most of their time (not right at the moment perhaps, but typically) are operational planning and logistics, followed by production. A majority of respondents said they spend at least one full day per week on these tasks.
Of seven areas asked about, strategic planning came in sixth in terms of time devoted to it (ahead only of event sales); just 38% said they spend at least one day per week on event strategy.
Personalization, Purpose, and Sustainability are Top Trends
When asked to name the hottest trends in live events for 2020 (prior to the COVID-19 outbreak), the largest share of respondents named “technology-enhanced personalized experiences.” This reflects other recent research citing the importance of creating individualized experiences using attendee data capture before and during events.
The second and third most impactful top trends are “social responsibility / events with wider purpose” and producing plastic-free events. The latter echoes findings from several recent studies and industry experts that sustainability has gone beyond the talking stage and become an action item for planners and venues.
Planners are Seeking Out Unusual and Flexible Spaces
What types of event spaces will be most popular when events resume? Four out of five respondents said either “unusual locations” (43%) or “flexible spaces” (36%). As event attendees seek out more interactive, participatory learning experiences, event planners are looking beyond hotel ballrooms and auditoriums for venue options.
This corresponds to other recent research showing that events are making greater use of non-traditional meeting formats, flexible seating arrangements and the innovative use of space. To accommodate that, and set their events apart from a creative standpoint, planners are seeking out unique event venues.
Planners Are Optimistic About Industry Growth
More than half (52%) of respondents in this study said they were “confident in industry growth” at the beginning of 2020. This positive outlook was substantiated by other recent research finding that despite some concerns over costs, both event planners and suppliers were generally positive about the prospects for growth in the meetings and events industry this year.
Of course, these studies were conducted before the COVID-19 outbreak, which has had a significant negative impact on travel and live events space. But once the pandemic passes, the industry is expected to bounce back strongly, due to pent-up demand and the postponement of many events from the spring and early summer into the fall months.
Sustainability and Budgets Are the Biggest Challenges
Roughly two-thirds of respondents believe the biggest challenges for the events industry this year (other than the coronavirus) will be “being environmentally sustainable” (35%) or dealing with reduced budgets (31%).
Once more, other recent research supports this: though their industry outlook was generally positive, planners were concerned about having to do more with less even before the shutdown, as modest budget increases are consumed by rising costs from venues and suppliers.
The same study found confidence among event professionals that the events industry is “mature enough to weather any temporary storms.” Hopefully, COVID-19 turns out to be no more than one of those “temporary storms” the events industry is able to weather.
There’s much more. Download the full Industry & Trend Report from Event Academy to get all the details.
The original version of this article was first published on V3Broadsuite.
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