“To put it mildly, 2020 has been a year,” begins Scott Graf, global president for BCD Meetings & Events, leading off the company’s newly released annual forecast report. And while uncertainty has made it “difficult to truly understand what 2021 will bring,” he says, the company has delivered a report that others can benchmark against and learn from.
The forecast has three main sections. The first is a report from each global region. There’s an unsurprising uniformity to the outlook for North America, Latin America, the U.K, and EMEA: Ongoing uncertainty in the face of increasing Covid spread has led to few face-to-face meetings and an increased focus on virtual and hybrid strategy. However, the Asia-Pacific region offers some welcome tidbits: no attendance caps on events in China, business as usual in Taiwan, musicians touring in New Zealand, and a reopening of Victoria, Australia. Parts of APAC are enjoying the kinds of developments the rest of the world looks forward to in 2021 and 2022 as vaccines become available and countries get their outbreaks under control.
The second section of the forecast presents the results of a detailed client survey. Questions address meeting policy, budgets, meetings formats, and the challenges presented by other virtual and in-person meetings. Here are five highlights:
• 61 percent of BCD M&E’s customers are in the process of creating a long-term virtual meeting strategy.
• Covid is having an impact on supplier networks. More than half of the respondents have either issued new requirements to suppliers or are renegotiating existing agreements.
• The three biggest challenges for virtual events are audience engagement, technology platform knowledge, and the skill set of the internal team.
• Respondents gave their best guess on when meeting and events volume would return to 2019 levels, and most (58 percent) believe that will be in 2022. However, almost a quarter are more optimistic and see 2019 levels returning in 2021.
The final section of the 30-page forecast looks at three trending topics for the coming year: duty of care, stakeholder engagement, and hybrid meetings, offering specific ideas for how organizations can navigate the challenges. As Graf writes, “The conversations we are having are not necessarily new. It is the perspective and renewed vigor on topics such as duty of care, hybrid event design, and stakeholder engagement that has shifted. The ability to react quickly to changing and refined needs while remaining flexible to pivot again is mandatory.”