COVID-19: The Future of the Meetings & Events Industry

March 27, 2020

By Olivia Orman

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted almost all industries across the nation.  Over the past two weeks, perishable goods and sanitation supplies have undergone a growing demand unlike ever before, and meeting and events have witnessed rapid cancellations with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and local government officials placing restrictions on in-person gatherings and advising the public to stay home.

Some businesses, such as manufacturers of medical and sanitation products and lawyers producing wills, are experiencing a greater demand and growth than ever, while event venues and rental companies are seeing a rapid decline in business.  If the meeting and events industry halts the flow of business with industry suppliers, even for a few weeks, the industry could end up in big trouble, and ultimately, hurt the overall economy.

It is inevitable that meeting and event planners will need to reconsider how they coordinate and execute company functions in the foreseeable future.  We can still book business with some venues and services, and must continue to do so for the sake of the industry, but we must readapt the way we make use of them and think creatively to get through this as planners and suppliers and a community.

There are two ways planners can reconfigure their meetings and events to keep business flowing: attendees can digitally meet from home, or in-person meetings can be drastically scaled down and extended over a longer period.  Food and beverage, accommodations, audio/visual, promotional products, registration software, speakers, and digital meeting software can all be utilized in both new meeting models, and Missouri Meetings & Events encourages planners to book business with all these providers.  Continue reading to learn how your company can continue partnering with industry suppliers, thus creating a positive impact for the companies in your region during this difficult time.

Generating Business for Digital Company Functions

Though it appears as if there are few measures planners can take to support local businesses and general service providers for digital meetings and events, it is really a matter of thinking outside the box and exploring new possibilities.  There are many ways we can support venues and services while working from home.  Read below to learn how you can do your part to help local businesses during this challenging time.

  1. Caterers

It is convenient to walk to your kitchen during a digital function break and quickly make a sandwich, but buying a boxed lunch from a local caterer gives them a piece of business that your company would have secured otherwise, if gathering in-person.  If a planner coordinated an event at a public venue, such as a hotel or banquet hall, they would have most likely ordered food and beverages from an in-house menu or hired an outside caterer.  Visit the MEET online resource directory to find caterers who are open for curbside pickup or delivery in your region.

  1. Accommodations/Venues

Had your company traveled outside the region for your meeting or event, planners would have needed to secure accommodations at a hotel, resort, or lodge.  One way we can continue to give these properties a piece of business, even though the gathering may be virtual, is to use the ballroom/breakout space at a hotel, convention center, banquet hall, or virtually any open venue, to film digital messages for your virtual conference.  And if someone is sick in your household, separate the healthy members of your family from that individual(s) and book a local hotel room.

Company associates may be reluctant to utilize a hotel space for a few hours of taping.  However, hoteliers and venue management staff are remaining transparent about the sanitation procedures they have recently implemented to make guests feel secure.  In fact, many organizations have a visible section on their website that links to their updated cancellation policy and protocols they are taking to keep their property hygienic, thus providing peace of mind to those conducting business.  Visit the MEET online resource directory to find accommodations that are still open for business in your region.

  1. Audio-visual

Light and sound are crucial aspects of meetings, conferences, and conventions, and an event benefits greatly when planners outsource companies who specialize in these technical areas.  To enhance the quality of a virtual gathering, while simultaneously booking business with local audio-visual and video businesses, planners can hire a video producer to film parts of the digital conference in advance, while employing an audio-visual company to set up the light and sound systems needed for a professional-quality video.  Visit the MEET online resource directory to find audio/visual and video providers in your region.

  1. Promotional Products

Another method planners can use to continue the flow of business between their company and industry suppliers, while also making the digital event more tangible, is to provide attendees the option to receive high-in-demand promotional products at their door for a small, additional fee.  The promotional product bundle could include items such as enclosed pens, individually wrapped notepads, sanitizer sprays, and sanitary wipes.  Visit the MEET online resource directory to find promotional product suppliers in your region.

  1. Registration Software

Even if your company is conducting a very large digital gathering, such as a webinar, there needs to be an efficient and effective system to sign attendees up ahead of time and keep track of attendee data.  Though badges are unneeded for a digital conference, planners can continue to book business with badge/registration companies by making use of the supplier’s online registration software.  Visit the MEET online resource directory to find online registration software providers in your region.

  1. Speakers

To increase the vocal variety and retain attendee interest during your virtual gathering, planners may consider hiring event speakers to present digitally, thus creating added-value and expanding the scope of knowledge passed along.  There are multiple ways speakers can make a digital appearance during a virtual meeting or conference: planners can employ speakers to give a live presentation, or the planner can arrange for the speaker to be professionally filmed at a venue, such as a hotel, and stream the video during the virtual conference.  Visit the MEET online resource directory to find a speaker for your web conference.

And if the speaker who is presenting at your digital event has a book, buy it!  Any little exchange of value helps during this time.

  1. Digital Meeting Software

There are many venues and services, such as food and beverage, accommodations, audio/visual, promotional products, registration software, and speakers that planners and company associates can continue to book business with to keep the local and national economy flowing.  But what platforms do planners use to pull them off?  Virtual conference platforms you may consider using include:

  • AnyMeeting
  • Cisco Webex
  • ClickMeeting
  • Google Chat
  • Livestorm
  • Zoom Video Communications

Keep Business Flowing

The most important measure you can take right now, whether you are a meeting planner or simply have purchasing power in your organization, is to continue booking business.  The consequences will be far more detrimental for our local and national economy if we collectively freeze all our budgets for an extended period of time.

Let Missouri Meetings & Events know if you followed any of these business-booking tips to be featured in an upcoming issue, and email [email protected] any additional ideas you have to keep business flowing during this challenging time.

MM&E

About the author

Joe Clote

Joseph W. Clote is owner of Publishing Concepts, LLC a communications and marketing firm based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Mr. Clote is Group Publisher of MeetMed™ and Missouri Meetings & Events™ (MM&E) magazine, a quarterly publication read by thousands of meeting and event professionals, and producer of the St. Louis and Kansas City trade shows under the MM&E name. Mr. Clote has extensive sales and marketing expertise in the travel, tourism, fine art, insurance, and software development industries.