The business of meetings and events isn't easy to define, and planners are still struggling to get a seat at the board table. Is that about to change?
In-person meetings and events took a severe bruising from the Covid pandemic. Events were stopped in their tracks, meetings and event companies had to lay off staff members, and the pandemic drove some providers into liquidation.
“There has been a significant contraction of personnel. Many are experienced professionals whose expertise is now lost to the industry,” said Chris Elmitt, CEO at LIVVE, a virtual event platform.
At the height of the pandemic, there was a pivot to virtual events. Frantic activity took place to ensure clients’ expectations were met, but the sector’s image suffered. “People observed the level of stress the profession had,” said Shawn Cheng, senior strategist at DAHLIA + Agency.
Although the pandemic may no longer be an issue for some organizations, there are new challenges. For example, inflation, energy provision, and other supply chain issues are significant obstacles.
“Despite Covid-19, there’s never been a better time to be in the experiences business, as brand marketers continue to recognize the value of experience,” said Kim Myhre, experience designer and consultant. As demand for personalized and technology-enhanced experiences grows, the meetings and events business will need to evolve.
Environmental Crisis and Events
“I believe that the environmental crisis will mean that events will be less about traveling the world and more about connecting the world,” said Elmitt. “We need highly-skilled people using breakthrough technologies to grow national and international trade through events, while significantly reducing the carbon footprint of those events. If we get that right as an industry, then the alchemy of events will be even more powerful than five years ago, and the lure of working in such a sector would equally increase.”
Attracting students to event management isn’t an issue, said Lynn Minnaert, professor and head of subject, tourism and languages, Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. “Students are looking for skills and knowledge that reflect our times, so there is a stronger emphasis on technology, data analytics, and inclusive event practices,” said Minnaert.
There is no clear path to a career in the events industry. It is different from setting out to become a doctor, lawyer, or accountant. And therein lies the opportunity as well as the obstacle.
New entrants are often encouraged to join event associations to continue learning, but for some students, the concept of an association can be tricky to understand.
“Younger generations are less likely to join associations, and we need to make more efforts to welcome them into that world,” said Minnaert.
It’s not just students and new entrants that need to understand what the sector offers. Seasoned event professionals can also benefit from taking a fresh look at what clients need. “Event organizers need to shift their focus from real estate, attendee numbers, and logistics to creating value around content, experiences, and connections,” said Myhre.
He advocates for a more audience-centric approach to experience design. By embracing the value of inclusion and diversity and facing the real challenges of sustainability, organizers can discover that purpose is not simply a priority but is also profitable.
Cheng echoes his view. “I think the industry needs a massive brand makeover of some sort to completely change the image of event professionals.”
According to Victoria Matey, who specializes in event psychology, developing and strengthening the events sector requires advocacy and discussion with clients about what an event planner’s job entails.
What do you say when someone asks what you do? If you are reluctant to mention events, maybe you agree that it’s time to refresh what it means to be part of the industry.
Photo credit: Jason Goodman / Unsplash