The future of event management: Always stay flexible
Kaiserbädersaal, Maritim Hotel Kaiserhof, Seebad Heringsdorf, September 11th, 2020: Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk sits on the podium in front and talks about her new, great historical novel “The Jacob's Books”, from which we also hear excerpts. However, at this opening event for the Usedomer Literature Days, the audience does not clap close together as usual, but at a distance of meters from each other, in accordance with the Corona regulations. A memorable event that was already sold out and now seemed so empty - and by the way, the only one I have attended this year.
Due to the corona pandemic, many events this year (duplication) are likely to be similar to the Literature Days on the Baltic Sea island: They have been postponed, reorganized and relocated to larger rooms, only to be canceled completely in the end - always depending on the current infection situation . This presents organizers and event houses with very special challenges that they are not even aware of: the event market has been booming for around 30 years. Then came "Corona".
What effects is the pandemic having on the events industry?
The degefest Association of the Congress and Seminar Industry eV has initiated a current study on the effects of the pandemic and questioned members from its own ranks who run the event venues. The study "degefest Trend Analysis - Restart 2020/21: Via Best Practice from the Crisis" was created by Prof. Dr. Jerzy Jaworski from the Faculty of International Business at Heilbronn University.
The conference facilities organized in the degefest association - these are congress and event centers, training centers and conference hotels - make up around 85 percent of the members. The study focuses on how they deal with and experience from the pandemic as well as their assessments of the future. Right at the top is the question of how customers can be won over to the on-site event if, in the course of the pandemic, pure online events threaten the original core business of the event venues. The good news: there are options. Around two thirds of the respondents (66,7%) see this particularly in the area of new event formats and especially in the case of participatory formats and hybrid events. Around a third (33,9%) are relying on increased acquisition efforts. A quarter (25,9%) are optimistic that face-to-face events will "soon" increase again - be it for social reasons or that closed events will be added.
The opportunity lies in differentiation
A large majority of the responses (70,4% or 38 out of 54) assume that the range of events will have to be more differentiated in the future. Differentiating features are, for example, the economic potential of customers, hygiene concepts or the greater focus on local companies and associations. As services, technical broadcasting in several rooms (streaming) as well as cleaning and security services would experience the greatest increase. I recently saw what that could look like, also using Garmisch-Partenkirchen as an example already described in another article.
The degefest study also shows that hybrid solutions have their pitfalls: one in three respondents notes that customers did not want to pay higher bills for increased hygiene requirements - so this costs money. Great challenges also arise in the field of gastronomy - after all, the gastronomic revenues are an important economic factor in the event venue. Portioned food, more space / distance and less exclusivity are mentioned as possible sustainable changes. Also the end for large banquet events; Buffets and self-service are being questioned. Accordingly, the demand for supporting and accompanying programs, team building and incentive offers as well as bar operations will also shrink - in other words, things where keeping your distance is difficult.
Overall assessment of hybrid events
Nevertheless, the industry lives from personal meeting at face-to-face events, which the operation of conference and event facilities is economically oriented towards. Hybrid tools are an alternative. How will the event industry deal with it in the future? The respondents to the degefest study recognized a number of positive, but also negative effects due to the increased number of hybrid events. The following are positive: The expansion of the group of participants beyond the room or seating capacities, the generation of additional sales by offering additional IT services, faster amortization of investments in communication technology, events that may have to be canceled, can - at least online - take place, resulting in lower personnel and cleaning costs, as well as the intensification of (regular) customer contacts. In addition, certain formats, such as general meetings, can still be implemented in a hybrid manner according to current law. The scheduling of the room occupancy is now more flexible.
On the other hand, there are sales losses in the rental business due to lower numbers of participants with a parallel decline in income in the F&B area. Conversely, the financial and technical effort increases considerably, as new processes have to be learned first (e.g. through employee training) and there are high investment and support costs in IT technology. The particular risk of technology failure may result in a dependency on external service providers. With hybrid events, business tension also arises from additional costs that are necessary on the part of the houses but are difficult to sell to customers. If the face-to-face event is displaced, there is a risk of losing personal customer contacts (face to face), jobs and, in the worst case, even the right to exist for the event venue. The respondents answer with a slight tendency that this will not be the case when it comes to the risk that hybrid events will be displaced by purely digital formats in the future. Over 18 percent (18,37%), on the other hand, believe in a renaissance of physical encounters.
Further results and conclusion
This is probably also due to the fact that only 16,3% of the surveyed operators of the event houses state that their purely digital events are profitable. Still, many see the need to “upgrade” their homes in terms of technology, Internet speed, and staff expertise in order to remain competitive. Customers are often still viewed as inexperienced with regard to the use of hybrid tools, which requires intensive advice and support (48,1% of the answers). Almost 80 percent of those surveyed report a sharp decline in bookings in the 4th quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019. Nevertheless, the situation as a whole has not yet had a significant negative impact on personnel policy - probably an indication that there is hope for the future of the business area . In addition to the expected effects of the Covid19 pandemic on the destination in which the event venue is located, a decline in the number of “business travelers” and thus the demand for gastronomy and catering is unanimously expected. The attractiveness of the respective destination remains unaffected, however, as the pandemic was not caused by the locations themselves
The data on the study were collected as part of an online survey between mid-July and mid-August 2020. The questionnaire was given to managing directors or persons who work in leading positions in German event venues and who are also members of the degefest association. What they all have in common is that since the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic they have been confronted every day with the management of various events under completely different conditions. The majority of the answers come from event houses that hold an average of more than 200 events annually, employ over 25 full-time employees and whose customers are primarily from Germany. With a response rate of almost forty (38,6%) percent in the context of the survey, it can be concluded that there is a very high level of interest in the topic, ie coping with the economic consequences and the approaches taken.
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