02 Apr How will COVID-19 shift the appetite for corporate events moving forward?
COVID-19 has come as a huge shock for all industries and will forever serve as an example of how closely linked human interaction is to the success of business worldwide. Arguably the events and hospitality industry has been hit one of the hardest. The future of an industry that is based on people’s experiences and sharing time with others is bound to be hugely affected following this global crisis.
One of the biggest surprises for most people has been the speed by which the virus turned our world upside-down. Off the back of this, Government guidelines have changed day by day and therefore business’ have had to react faster than they have ever done before.
I don’t think anyone can categorially say what the short-time future of the events industry looks like at present because things are changing so rapidly, however I have some thoughts on how it could affect the industry’s longer-term future.
Where were we before COVID-19?
For a long time now, year by year corporates have become increasingly conscious when booking external events due to several different factors. Many businesses have invested heavily in building or adapting meeting space onsite, or smart AV equipment that can bring live feeds into boardrooms from anywhere in the world.
Initially there are huge cost savings to be had here including meetings fees, accommodation costs and of course flight prices. Businesses have long been investigating how to cut costs which has automatically reduced the amount of conference revenue available for all suppliers involved.
Secondly, but by no means less importantly, there has been huge pressure for companies to reduce the amount of travel their employees undertake due to environmental reasons. Looking after the environment (or being seen to) will continue to influence businesses decisions to run events, and probably not for the good of the events industry.
The effect of Lockdown
The self-isolation restrictions brought in towards the beginning of our fight against COVID-19 forced businesses to allow their employees to work from home. Many business’ (and from a hotel background I know the hospitality industry is one of them) have been slow in the past to allow flexible working and working from home. However, for the most part, this forced change in routine actually proved how well it can work.
Moving forward in our fight, the dubbed ‘lockdown’ enforced by Boris has put essential pressure on all business’ to make it work. Thus, everyone is suddenly a guru of Zoom or Google Hangouts!
The fact that everyone has become so comfortable with virtual life just proves to corporates how well meetings can work online. I predict that businesses will have to strongly justify to their shareholders why they are spending money on events.
The pros and cons
I think looking forward just a few years, the smaller board meetings that we know and love for being ‘gap fillers’ in the diary will be little-to-none. These are the meetings that can easily be held online, and also backed by environmental factors, companies will struggle to get any go-ahead to hold them at all. In addition (and even though I believe it) the usual hotel sales line of ‘people think differently when they are away from their office’ won’t suffice to encourage them to spend money when hosting meetings virtually is free, time effective and environmentally friendly.
On the positive side, if businesses aren’t spending money on these smaller events, does that increase their event budgets for their fewer but larger conferences? Whilst perhaps there will be less of these, corporates are really going to have to justify their reasoning behind spending money and therefore the events they do run are going to need to provide that WOW factor and personality that you just can’t get virtually.
So, what’s the overall deal?
The rivalry between competitors was high before and the fight to win business was often tough, but I think it is only going to get tougher! If my predictions are right and there are fewer but larger events, then there may not be enough business to go around. This could mean that the lower-end, unsophisticated event businesses won’t be able to keep up.
Original added value inclusions such as additional menu choices, room upgrades and guaranteed customer service will suddenly need to be bog-standard in order to compete. Showing you are a customer focussed business through review sights such as TripAdvisor and meetingsclub will become more important than ever when events are only being run because they need that human interaction.
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