Meeting Mentor Magazine

June 2024

Optimism on the Rise for Face-to-Face Events

A whopping 82% of respondents to Meeting Professional International’s latest Meetings Outlook quarterly survey say they think business conditions for face-to-face meetings and events will be favorable this year. However, those meetings may look a bit different than they did pre-COVID as meeting organizers struggle with staffing shortages, vaccine mandates and other remaining challenges.

The results are clear: Meeting professionals are feeling pretty good about their ability to return to producing in-person events in 2022. In fact, 82% of those surveyed for the most recently quarterly survey by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) said they think business conditions will be favorable for the return to live events this year.

Of course, they said something very similar last spring, when optimism was at a high just before the Delta variant of COVID-19 threw a monkey-wrench into the works. That uncertainty that has plagued those who plan in-person events over the course of the pandemic also continues to loom: The latest MPI survey was conducted Dec. 15–30, just as Omicron began to take hold in the U.S. and around the world, which may have skewed the results in a more positive way than they may have been if the survey was conducted a week or two later. After all, planner confidence in favorable business conditions for in-person events soared to 93% last summer before dropping to 79% as the Delta variant again began to keep people closer to home.

Still, all indicators pointed to green in the survey, including a reduction of 41% in planners who expect virtual attendance to increase as compared to this time last year. A full three-quarters also thought attendees would be likely to come to in-person meetings over the next 12 months, up considerably from the 59% who predicted a bump in attendance at live events last spring.

So will 2022 be the year in-person meetings return to business as (pre-pandemic) usual? A third of respondents said yes, while 42% said they thought they wouldn’t get back to “normal” until sometime in 2023.

In-Person Events Coming Back, But With a Twist

However, those in-person events are likely to be shorter — possibly even much shorter — as 2022 unfolds. While 44% said they expected their in-person events would be about the same length as in 2019, half said they thought their events would be shorter than they were pre-COVID, including 20% who said they would be much shorter. Less than 6% predict their events will increase in length this year. Meetings also will be held less frequently than they were pre-pandemic, said 64% of respondents.

But attendees, frustrated by two years of meeting online, will want to do a lot of mingling during that shortened timeframe. While education is still important, the survey found 37% of respondents said they expected attendees would want more networking time and opportunities while on site. Only 15% said they believed education would be more desirable than networking while at an in-person event, while 33% said networking and education were equally important.

Vaccine Mandates on the Rise

With 92% of respondents saying they were fully vaccinated, the MPI survey also found an increase in those who would require their staff, vendors and attendees to prove they too are fully vaccinated. The percentage of those who either are or plan to require proof of vaccination for staff and vendors rose from 47% last fall to 55% in the latest survey. Vaccine mandates also are on the rise for attendees, with 51% now saying they will require meeting-goers to be able to provide proof of vaccination, compared to 41% last fall.

However, those who now say they do not plan to require proof of vaccination also has risen from 25% last fall to 31% in the latest survey for staff and contractors, and from 25% to 31% for attendees.

Much of the difference appears to come from those who were on the fence hopping onto one side or the other of the vaccine mandate debate, as the percentage of those who weren’t sure about requiring proof of vaccination from staff and vendors dropped from 22% last fall to 20%, and from 34% to 19% when it comes to attendees.

Staffing Challenges Remain

Finding and retaining qualified staff is never easy — and it appears to be getting more difficult as the “great resignation” continues. The percentage of those who said they were finding it difficult to fill job vacancies rose steadily from 29% in the summer of 2021, to 37% last fall, to 60% in the winter survey. Not surprisingly for those who follow the news reports about the staffing difficulties those in hospitality are having as many formerly in that business have migrated to work in other industries, suppliers are having the toughest time finding people to staff their operations, with 70% saying it’s a big issue, compared to 53% of meeting professionals.

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ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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