As an established career field, many event planning professionals have invested passion and time to create meaningful events and productive meetings. Today, these highly sought-after professionals are facing a difficult and unprecedented time due to COVID-19 with conferences and trade shows being canceled. There is no end in sight. Whole industries have been leveled by this experience. As such, focus needs to be directed on what comes next.
In the Federal Government event industry projects require professionals to manage multiple meetings and events throughout the year. Specifically with projects for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the negative effects that are felt include:
- Government agencies have canceled in-person meetings because monitoring of social distancing for a large group of participants is impossible.
- Hotels accepting the cancellations of events incur a significant reduction in revenue and in turn are forced to lay-off their staff members to remain viable.
- The unemployment rate has increased with industry professionals unable to work indefinitely.
Even in a post-COVID world, meetings and events should be expected to look, and feel, differently. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations allow for the “back to normal” moment, event attendees will need a period of re-entry — a chance to get used to social un-distancing.
THE SHIFT IN THE EVENT INDUSTRY
During a March 2020 survey of B2B (Business to Business) marketers in the United States, 68 percent of industry professionals decided to replace their planned live events with web-based, virtual events. This meant that thousands, maybe millions, of people had an event “experience” that took place on a virtual platform instead of in-person. See the graphic below for more statistics.
The Government industry is among those that have converted their events from in-person to virtual. Many organizations depend on the Federal Government to hold information sharing, outreach, and engagement events. Ending those events could be just as detrimental as the COVID pandemic, if not worse. These agencies have initiatives that must take place because of their importance to the public and are being funded through the fiscal year. To organize events, government agencies hire contractors, like A-G Associates, to handle all event management details for their appointed initiatives.
To continue their initiatives yet remain in compliance, government agencies are holding meetings without being physically present. Instead, events are done through:
- Virtual meetings where the various topics are discussed, and debated, in-depth. These sessions still allow for two-way dialogue with facilitators and participants answering questions. These meetings can be done with large groups but also with break-out sessions and chat rooms.
- Webinars where the meetings are completed through a virtual platform with many participants. This type of meeting is usually focused on one-way communication and commonly used for trainings that accomplish specific objectives.
- Hybrid meetings where essential people (speakers) discuss a topic then engage with participants through a web-oriented platform.
While COVID continues to keep the event industry guessing, a significant amount of recovery time will be needed to get back to the booming industry we once had. However, industry professionals must continue to be diligent to creatively look for “outside of the box” opportunities to engage participants. Regardless of the engagement method, proper planning, and competent event-planning professionals make a massive difference to the quality of the event.
Article written by Stephanie Crews