Mike Fletcher picks through the corporate organiser responses to C&IT’s annual survey.
The first half of this year has shown that an appetite for a full return to live, in-person events is strong.
And yet with multiple countries currently experiencing significant surges in Covid-19 infections, driven by the wave of two new sub-variants sweeping across Europe, planners seem to be struggling to ensure that contingency planning remains key to event design and that ‘flexibility' is budgeted for.
Only a third of corporate in-house organisers interviewed for C&IT’s ‘2022 State of the Industry: Corporate Report’, said that the additional budget required for in-person events to offer a hybrid element had been forthcoming. While rising supplier costs and an increase in venue DDRs continues to stretch budgets and limit what’s technologically achievable.
More worryingly, a quarter of respondents reported that their events budgets had actually decreased a little and 8% said they have decreased a lot.
Planners working with less budget are choosing to maintain a programme of virtual-only events and webinars in order to engage a wider audience without incurring the additional costs of in-person and hybrid.
Some 28% of C&IT’s corporate respondents said they’d continue to host a separate mix of virtual and in-person over the coming 12 months, while 39% believe that less than 10% of their events will provide a hybrid format moving forward.
On this evidence, the dawn of hybrid formats as a means to staging safer, more sustainable and flexible events with broader reach is being curtailed by a lack of investment and a more pressing desire to return to ‘in-person only’.
Some 14% of corporates told C&IT that they will no longer stage any virtual events, favouring face-to-face formats only instead.
Whether or not this appetite for a full return to in-person is sustainable in the face of new Covid variants, corporate policies to reach ‘Net Zero’ and attendee behaviours, remains to be seen.
Some 57% of corporate planners told C&IT that it is currently ‘more difficult’ or ‘just as difficult’ to get their people back in the room attending in-person events, compared with 43% who said it had become ‘easier’ or ‘much easier’ to convince delegates to turn-up.
Of those that were finding it hard, ‘fear of Covid’, ‘working from home’ and ‘a lack of desire to travel’ were all cited as contributing factors.
This push-back from attendees not wishing to travel or spend time away from a more flexible working from home model, may see companies eventually forced to reassess their event formats and allocate additional investment for a more flexible approach.
In the meantime, planners say that creating compelling reasons to attend in-person is the priority.
Some of the tips corporate planners gave C&IT include having a ‘good hook’ or ‘interesting venue’, ‘more networking activities’, ‘interactive elements that can only be experienced by those in attendance’ and even ‘gifts’ for those who commit to being there.
Other tips included, ‘wellbeing procedures and policies’, ’reminding people that events are about face-to-face interaction, which can’t be replicated virtually’, as well as ‘a major focus on delegate engagement plans and a well thought-through agenda’.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin however, ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. We may not see the return of the lockdowns that forced all events online but only by incorporating hybrid flexibility into event design can you truly protect against everything the future holds.