The past five months have been hard on the live events industry. An estimated 6.7 million jobs have vanished as Covid-19 forces the cancellation of conventions and meetings. The economic impact to cities is also grave as hotels, restaurants and other hospitality businesses lose customers.
Our clients are in a less-than-ideal spot, too. We’re seeing and hearing that digital experiences, while a great stopgap, aren’t providing the same connection, awareness and ROI that come with in-person events.
The good news is that safer events are possible and starting to happen around the world, led by innovative professionals dedicated to ensuring the safety of attendees, exhibitors and staff.
Our industry is resilient and innovative. We know the fight against Covid-19 will be a marathon. In order to lead with hope, we’ll need to work together to educate our local, state and national leaders, as well as other decision makers, about the benefits and needs of the live events industry.
B2B Does Not = Mass Gathering
In her Summer 2020 update, Cathy Breden, CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, says exhibitions in the U.S. are categorized as mass gatherings rather than controlled environments.
As we saw at the Together Again Expo in Orlando, meetings and conventions are nothing like festivals, concerts and other events that are lumped into the “mass gatherings” category. With limited capacity, masks and temperature-check requirements, mandated traffic flows and constant sanitation, they absolutely are controlled environments. This is a message our legislators need to hear loud and clear.
Face-to-Face is Vital to Business Success
Breden also had some enlightening insights during the State of the Industry panel at the Expo. Within the consumer sentiment surveys she’s reviewed is a “pent-up demand for a return to live events.”
“Exhibitors have told us they’ve lost leads and sales opportunities, not having the ability to build brand awareness they’re accustomed to at live events, and a difficult time in maintaining and building the types of relationships with current customers and prospects (that they could face-to-face). And of course many companies launch new products into the world at live events.”
Safe Gatherings Are Possible
The Together Again Expo demonstrated how a convention can operate safely. Just prior to that, an estimated 12,000 parents coaches and kids participated in the 2020 AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships in Orlando. Reports are that there were no positive Covid tests after that event.
Many organizations have written guidance on how to safely and effective return to events. And some countries have started exhibiting again.
Raise Your Voice
Whether you’re an event professional or marketing manager, we need to educate legislators and political leaders about the impact of live events and the need to support them through financial stimulus, tax credits and other initiatives that help the business event ecosystem.
Talk to your elected officials. Do your homework on the issues before Congress. Take action!
Here are just a few of the organizations and initiatives that are advocating for our industry.
Lead With Hope
2019 was our industry’s best year ever. With collaboration and creativity, we can return to that kind of success.
According to David Dubois, president of IAEE, China’s event industry is stronger than it was pre-virus. He expects parts of the U.S. to start slowly ramping up in early September followed by parts of Europe.
And Karl Ely, Vice President and Publisher at ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership, says the digital events so many companies are turning to now come with a “silver lining” in that they’re drawing in people who will be more open to attending live events later.
As companies and attendees grow more comfortable with gathering again, it’s up to us to model what safety and success look like. The precautions and protocols we develop now will only help us be better prepared to face the next crisis, whatever it might be.
To discuss how our MPG team can help you get back to in-person events, contact us.