Feeling optimistic about group business? You should. Events are roaring back. But they won’t look the same as they did in 2019. Here’s what you need to know now.
The Good News
There’s a lot for hoteliers to celebrate. According to Encore Summer 2022 Venue Pulse and Planner Pulse reports, demand for in-person events remains high.
- 71 percent of the event professionals surveyed are currently focused on booking or sourcing events
- 80 percent of the meetings in the next year will have an in-person audience
- Hotels remain the most popular event venue (consistent at 49 percent)
- Only 5 percent of planners are focused on re-booking meetings
Not all hotels are recovering at the same pace. Survey respondents for the Encore Summer 2022 Venue Pulse were asked when they thought their group volume (room nights/F&B) would return to 2019 levels.
- 28.4 percent said it’s already returned
- 6.5 percent said by the end of 2022
- 39.8 percent said 2023
- 21.9 percent said 2024
- 3.4 percent said 2025
Trends to Watch
Meetings and events are consolidating. As a result, the size of in-person meetings are roughly 30 percent larger than they were pre-pandemic, according to the Encore Summer 2022 Venue Pulse report.
Event budgets are also increasing – primarily for transportation, technology and food and beverage (F&B). The reason why more money is being allocated for transportation and F&B is to cover inflating costs. But the reason why event professionals are spending more on technology should interest hoteliers wanting to future-proof their venues.
The Era of In-Person+ Events
Remember when we said 80 percent of events will be in-person? More than half – 60 percent – will only have in-person attendees through the end of 2023.
However, one in five in-person events will include remote participants. That’s the main reason more than half of event professionals plan to increase their technology budgets. Next to in-room audiovisual set ups, they are investing in three core areas:
- Broadcast/streaming technology
- Digital tools to enhance remote audience engagement
- Digital tools to enhance in-person audience engagement
Welcome to the era of in-person+ events, where attendees are both in-room and remotely participating. With in-person+ events, planners are no longer bound by four walls. This is true even when participants are 100 percent in-room, because digital tools used during the pandemic can be repurposed to engage and keep focused face-to-face audiences.
Hoteliers partnered with innovative event technology providers are best positioned to adapt to evolving meeting and event professional expectations. Understanding shifting event professional needs and translating those to our hotel partners is a core reason why Encore regularly surveys event professionals.
What Event Professionals Want
The Top 3 ways participant expectations are projected to change events are reflected in what planners want for their events now:
- Better audience engagement (45 percent)
- More networking (38 percent)
- Personalization (37 percent)
During the pandemic, even the least tech-savvy employees learned how to interact with Zoom rooms, online polls and chat windows. They were empowered to provide real-time feedback and connect with fellow attendees instantly. They also had to adjust and learn how to multi-task in a home environment. This has changed the baseline comfort level participants have with meeting technology. It’s also changed audience expectations around how they will interact with content and each other.
Bringing Digital Tools In-Room
Event professionals can repurpose digital tools used for online meetings for in-person and in-person+ events. These mobile event platforms, like Chime Go and Chime Live, allow participants to engage with content and provide feedback the way they’ve become used to doing it. Examples include:
- Real-time polling
- Q&A with audience up-voting
Encore’s latest platform version also introduces new in-room applications, such as:
- Second-screen functionality
- Pinching and zooming presentation slides
- Rewinding presentations
- Saving slides
This functionality enhances the event experience. It also harnesses participants’ impulse to multitask while helping them focus on the conference content.
Pre-pandemic, event professionals were willing to use multiple technology providers – one for in-room tech, one for the mobile app, one for the event website, etc. – but they are no longer willing to deal with the headache of managing multiple teams. Nearly three out of four event professionals (72 percent) now prefer to work with one event technology provider. This is great news for venues that work with companies like Encore, which provides end-to-end creative, technology and production solutions.
The key expectations planners have for event technology providers is they will provide superior:
- Value of investment
Partnering with an ace in-house event technology provider like Encore also alleviates what event professionals worry about most: How to effectively plan in-person+ events and engage both audiences these events serve.
Event Lead Times and Venue Expectations
How far out are people booking meeting and event space? Forty-three percent (43%) of events with one (1) to 50 participants are being planned one (1) to two (2) months prior. Forty-three percent (43%) of events with 51 to 250 participants are being planned three (3) to six (6) months out. And half the events (50%) with more than 250 participants being planned at least six (6) months prior.
Most of the event professionals surveyed estimate they will produce roughly 20 events next year. Out of that number:
- 9 will be small, medium or large in-person events
- 4 will be in-person+
- 7 will be virtual
Next to availability, destination and cost, meeting room layouts are the next biggest selection factor. Technology can help hotels increase the flexibility of their meeting spaces. Having a dedicated in-house technology partner like Encore also helps hotels offer customers the most innovative technology to maximize meeting/event spaces, digital engagement tools and event platforms for in-person+ events. Technology is particularly important when hotels have challenging room layouts, as it can overcome sightline issues, help cavernous spaces feel more intimate, and help all participants feel engaged and connected to what’s happening onstage.
Interested in knowing what’s next? Download the Encore Summer 2022 Planner Pulse report here: https://www.encoreglobal.com/planner-pulse/
Mike Stengel has served as Encore’s Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Venue Relations since September 2020. He leads Encore’s focus on developing relationships with hotel chains, hospitality ownership groups and management companies. This team also concentrates on business development with individual event venues, such as hotels, conference and convention centers, and stadiums. Stengel joined Swank Audio Visuals in 1995 as Manager of Hotel Services in St. Louis, and served as its Regional Manager, Divisional Manager and Vice President of Operations before the integration of Swank and Encore. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, daughter and son.
Boundless Possibilities for Event Engagement
The No. 1 planner focus is on increasing attendee engagement. Help your convention sales team understand how to achieve this through event design and technology application by downloading a free copy of the Encore handbook Boundless Possibilities for Engagement here: https://www.encoreglobal.com/boundless-possibilities-for-engagement-dl/.