Conferences & Meetings: Confidence, Data, Hope and more Data!

Conferences and Meetings; It feels different… finally.

By Mark Cooper, IACC

I feel we are moving from the if stage, to the when stage as the business events industry sees a clear path to hosting conferences, meetings and training courses again at our excellent venues and in the safe hands of our incredible people. Finally!

The global vaccine roll-out is fuelling confidence and plays the part of filling in the potholes to smooth out the journey ahead.

We may have a pretty good idea what the finishing line looks like, but we still do not know our ETA. It’s the latest challenge we face, it’s real and very different to those challenges of the last year. And that’s the problem. Because of this, our search for answers becomes even more insatiable.

Data or Evidence?

There seems to be a clammer for data; or maybe more specifically for evidence of returning demand to know when this recovery is likely to affect a true recovery beyond small pieces of good-news business. Data is our current vice of choice, the more we get, the more we seek!

I ask if we should be careful and mindful to temper our appetite for outside data, in the search for further evidence. Applying a grounding that treats all we gather and read with some scepticism, could serve us better in the long term.   Especially if it is influencing the timing for bringing our businesses back into full operational mode and the risk and expense that comes with it.

There will be much deserved press coverage of returning events to come. We need good news more than ever to raise our spirits. Conferences and exhibitions announcing new dates, live or maybe hybrid. Especially those with higher profiles and significance for the industry. For some events, the timing could paint only a partial story, as it relates to the significance to IACC venues and our own story of recovery. There may be a disconnect about to happen. Let me explain…

Size Matters

Many of the insightful barometers, event compasses or outlook reports such as MPI’s Meetings Outlook, analysing the intent of meeting professionals to return to live events, are asking the important questions of those with events with hundreds or thousands of attendees. Let me be clear, smaller conferences, meetings and training business is not intentionally being ignored; it is just more difficult to reach those who are responsible for these types of events that IACC members host in abundance, to ask the questions of them.

Let’s Look Closer to Home for the Answers

IACC members have long been the envy of other parts of the industry, because of the long-standing relationships and loyalties that exist between client and venue. I hope for the stability of the past, to shine a bright light in creating an exciting opportunity for the future.

Also, let’s face it, business confidence barometers today may come from our clients, but they are only sharing their intent/hope to return. And it could be a very different, even a more positive forecast, compared other data we are seeing, focused on larger conferences and trade shows.

One IACC member in recent days shared with me a story about a major NYC based client, advising they would not return to live meetings until 2022. Then just 3-days later, they called up to place three conferences in September 2021. We are moving fast, the landscape is changing so quickly.

There could well be merit in considering what interactions we have planned for our clients over the coming weeks, who we have working in sales talking to our clients, to facilitate the flow of information that will best tell us what lays ahead. A radical thought maybe, should we burn more energy interrogating our own data instead of burning it drawing conclusions from others?

Build Back Better, not Bigger

There is a very real chance that IACC venues will be the first to welcome back business events and the smaller events that we are specialists in hosting may not be a short-term solution. There is also every possibility they become the event format of choice for a considerable time ahead.

As we ask our clients about the meetings we hosted before, let’s also ask about the impact on the larger events we perhaps were not involved with in the past. They may be within reach as they change shape and go national, regional or multi-location format.

Let’s rewrite this headline. Confidence, Data, Hope and more Confidence!

Visit IACC’s latest COVID-19 recovery resources page here for extensive information related to returning to live meetings and conferences.

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