Skip navigation

Face-to-Face in 2021: Think Small and Local

Could attendance restrictions at in-person meetings help planners create FOMO?

Organizations planning a face-to-face meeting strategy for 2021 should think small and local if they expect participant buy-in, according to the results of the latest Business Events Compass report from the Professional Convention Management Association. The idea isn’t rocket science in the Covid era, but the report’s statistics put an exclamation point on it.  

Only 16 percent of respondents to PCMA’s research say they are “likely” or “highly likely” to attend a regional or global business meeting in the absence of a Covid-19 vaccine or herd immunity. However, for a local meeting where significant travel is not required, that figure doubles. Thirty-three of respondents say they are “likely” or “highly likely” to attend a local event, and another 29 percent described their opinion as “neutral.” (Only 15 percent are neutral about attending national or global events.)

Further, the report suggests that exclusivity may be an important attendance driver: “In-person demand is growing for small, impeccably executed events. In addition to strict hygiene protocols, event participants are looking to attendance restrictions as a way to encourage their participation in 2021.”

PCMA began publishing the Business Events Compass this summer, reporting on the meetings industry response to the pandemic from multiple sources, including surveys of global executives, participants, chief human resources officers, and other sources. A subscription to the full bi-monthly report costs $495 for members and $895 for nonmembers, but members receive an executive summary of the findings, from which this article is drawn.

Here are four more takeaways from the latest report, released this week:

• Considering three possible macroeconomic models, global executives say the economy’s return to pre-COVID levels in Q3 2021 is slightly less likely now than was reported in the July Business Events Compass. Executives believe the most likely scenario now is for the economy to returns to pre-COVID levels in Q3 2022, with most live events beginning to return at the end of 2021 but limited in size and geography.

• Overall, expectations for participation in face-to-face meetings in 2021 remains weak. Thirty-nine percent of respondents to a September participant survey see a 50 percent or greater decline in their 2021 face-to-face business event participation, relative to 2019 levels. There are exceptions to this in the Asia-Pacific region and other parts of the world were the virus is contained.

• Demand for virtual events is fueling technology advances and the need for meeting professionals to learn new skills. A large majority of event participants (68 percent) say that effective networking platforms would get them more excited to participate in digital events.

• Chief human resources officers were surveyed in May 2020 about how long they expect restrictions on in-person events to last at their organizations. In the U.S. and Canada, 19 percent of CHROs said it would be more than 12 months and another 29 percent said six to 12 months.




Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.