Is this the end for corporate events as we know it?
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.
By way of clarity, when I refer to corporate events I am referring to any form of meeting, conference, hospitality or social activity organised by a business. This could include events put on for employees, board members, stakeholders and even clients (e.g. product launches).
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 businesses have had to react faster than ever before.
I don’t think anyone can say with any real certainty what the short-time future of the events industry looks like. Things are changing so quickly it’s difficult to work out what’s a knee jerk reaction versus what’s a genuine sign of change. However, here are my thoughts on how it could affect the industry’s longer-term future.
Where were we before COVID-19?
For a long time now, corporates were increasingly cautious when booking external events. Many businesses have invested heavily in building or adapting their meeting spaces on-site and upgrading smart AV equipment that can bring live feeds into boardrooms from anywhere in the world.
On the face of it, there are huge cost savings to be had, with the ability to save on room hire fees, accommodation costs and flight fees. Businesses have long been investigating how to cut costs, which has automatically reduced the amount of conference revenue available for all suppliers involved.
We’ve also seen a second shift in the appetite for corporate events. There has been increased pressure for companies to reduce the amount of travel their employees undertake because of environmental reasons. Looking after the environment (or being seen to) will continue to influence businesses’ decisions to run events and have their employees attend industry events, something that has been a challenge for the events industry long before COVID-19.
The effect of the 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 businesses’ (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, mostly, this forced change in routine has shown how well it can work.
Moving forward in our fight, the dubbed ‘lockdown’ enforced by Boris has put 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 and employees will have to have a strong reason for attending corporate events when in theory they can be run virtually.
Will we say goodbye to traditional face to face internal meetings?
I think looking forward to 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 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 will really have to justify their reasoning behind spending money and therefore the events they run will 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 to compete.
Showing you are a customer focussed business through review sites such as TripAdvisor and meetingsclub will become more important than ever when events are only being run because they need that human interaction.
What do you think?
Will we see the death of an industry? Or do you think it will force everyone to up their game? Focus more on added value, wow moments and exceptional in person experiences that you can’t get online?
I would love to hear your thoughts.
Kate Plowright is the Founder & Director of Selling Savvy, a revolutionary way to increase sales revenue and conversion rates specifically within hotels, venues and the events industry. With experience in proactive sales, reactive sales and management of conversion strategies within hospitality, Selling Savvy was born from Kate seeing ineffective training methods in place. The Selling Savvy workshops are regular, lively and jam-packed with procedures that actually work to increase sales.
You can connect with her on the following social channels. Say hi, she’s very friendly!
➡️ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sellingsavvy
➡️ Insta: @sellingsavvy
➡️ Website: www.sellingsavvy.co.uk
➡️ Email: Hello@sellingsavvy.co.uk
➡️ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-plowright-ab08b530/
Less art, more science
Oh, before I forget...
🙋🏽 Have you started working on how to ease your employees back to work once the lockdown is lifted? I’ll See You On Monday. Building A Plan To Bring Your Employees Back To Work. Safely. will save you time and money. Don't start building your plan before checking it out first! And the same goes with strategic HR planning. If still in the mindset of wanting to do it yourself, check out the 10-step HR Strategic Planning For Non-HR Directors Guide.