Meeting planners were increasingly confident of convening people in-person at some point this year, the latest Pulse Survey from Northstar Meetings Group UK revealed. There was also a significant rise in the number of organisers working on new projects.
The survey, carried out among 107 UK and European event professionals in May, found that three quarters (76.3 per cent) expected to hold an in-person or hybrid event in 2021.
Most (62 per cent) were planning for the second half of the year, with 28 per cent in Q3 and 34 per cent in Q4. A smaller number (14 per cent) were planning an event in what's left of Q2. However, almost a quarter of respondents (24 per cent) were aiming for 2022 or later.
Significantly more than a quarter of respondents (26 per cent) said they were booking new events, compared to only 11 per cent in February, while 19 per cent were researching new events and another 11 per cent were actively sourcing for new events.
of planners were currently planning mostly virtual events.
Only 18 per cent of respondents said they were not currently focused on live in-person events, compared to 35 per cent last time.
In further good news for those whose livelihoods depend on people being physically present at meetings, there was a sharp drop in the number of people planning virtual events.
Although more than a third (37 per cent) said that more than half of the events they were planning were exclusively online, and a further 10 per cent said their entire pipeline was virtual, previously these numbers has been 47 per cent and 17 per cent respectively.
"Clients seem to pay lip service to wanting to get back to live events, but there is a massive fear of commitment..."
The need to return to in-person events was once again made clear, with only five per cent of respondents 'highly confident' in the ability of virtual events to meet their constituents' needs. On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest, most rated their confidence level as either 3 (38 per cent) or 4 (27 per cent). Almost 30 per cent rated their confidence lever 2 or below.
As lockdowns gradually ease, there were tentative signs hybrid was beginning to lose its lustre, too. A third of respondents (33 per cent) were currently planning an event in this format and 23 per cent were planning on doing so. Previously these figures were 29 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively.
of planners are currently planning hybrid events, or intend to.
There was little expectation among planners that they or the wider industry will receive government support. Just nine per cent of respondents expect the meeting industry to receive sufficient national government support to aid the recovery. Almost 40 per cent said they did not expect the industry to receive sufficient support, while 51 per cent were not sure.
However, planners were more positive on vaccines, with 73 per cent saying that the jab roll-out will lead to a quicker economic recovery for event professionals. Only 9 per cent said they didn't believe the vaccine would help with the economic recovery, with the rest unsure.
of planners expect the vaccine rollout to accelerate economic recovery.
There was growing expectation among planners of attending events in the immediate short-term, with almost a half now planning to attend any in-person meetings or business events in the next three months, compared to 25 per cent last time.
But when in-person gatherings are no longer restricted, just 7 per cent of planners thought the size of their live audiences will be larger, compared to 28 per cent who think they will be smaller. Some 38 per cent think audiences will be about the same size and 27 per cent say it is too soon to say.
On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being 'not at all confident' and 5 being 'highly confident', 55 per cent of planners rated themselves as 4 or 5 when it came to how they feel about attending live events themselves. 22 per cent rated themselves as 2 or 1, with the balance (22 per cent) putting themselves at 3.
of planners expect their next live event to require masks.
The biggest areas of concern for future in-person or hybrid events were government mandates on travel, inflexibility of financial terms/contract terms, and the impact on airlines and travel routes etc.
The areas that caused least concern among respondents were risks associated with geopolitics and the loss of destination management companies (DMCs) to support programmes.
More than half (58 per cent) of respondents expected their next event to require masks and adherence to all protocols, while 35 per cent expected to require proof of a recent negative Covid test.
Another 28 per cent expected to require proof of vaccination, while a similar amount were expecting to conduct rapid tests on-site.
"I'm concerned that our delegates have become comfortable attending virtual events..."
Comments from survey respondents
Not all countries are vaccinated at the same time. There are always areas of risk of contagion with the various variants in Africa, Brazil, and India too. The history of vaccination depends on the successful vaccination of the whole world, including poor countries. Are we assured by a vaccine that we are safe? We must remain cautious before resuming the arrangements of our former life. We need to be aware of this and be careful when travelling abroad. I am not a pessimist, but I call for caution and vigilance until the pandemic is eradicated.
The governments don't seem to make any sense as to why they are putting the restrictions that they do in place. They say they are led by the data but it’s definitely political and that is a HUGE concern because you cannot foresee what they will be doing and restricting and when they will do it
Venue prices have gone up so much. My main concern is that there will be a desperate need for physical events - but no understanding of price increases meaning the events will not meet attendees’ satisfaction.
Hybrid events increase the potential attendance at meetings. Association meetings are normally attended by 10 per cent of the membership. The hybrid meeting allows more to participate. Therefore, hybrid meetings make business sense in some cases as well as covid safety sense.
I am concerned that our delegates have become so comfortable attending virtual events and have enjoyed paying reduced registration fees and not having to pay for travel and accommodation that it is going to hard to encourage people to return in person events and incur all of the associated costs.
Hungry for more data? Read the results of the Northstar US PULSE Survey now...