Editor's note: This is Part 2 of our State of the Industry 2022. Read Part 1 here.
Safety and security. Clear communication. Convenience and control. These three “big pieces of consumer emotion,” as noted by futurist Michael Rogers, are the major challenges event professionals will need to address as clients reach out for assistance in celebrating impactful moments of their lives. Addressing these inherent needs, sprung from the way business relationships changed during the 16-plus months of COVID lockdown, is about, “what … should remain in the virtual world; what should come back to the physical world—and how do we connect between them,” says Rogers.
Clients want to know that their events are safe, and they want absolutely no BS regarding the communication that addresses their needs. Additionally, having control over how guests experience an event, be it from home, office, or in-person, is a predominant trending ask.
Another area of great concern in 2021 and beyond is staffing of events. “Everybody in the world is hiring at the same time!” touted the New York Times in April 2021. Pleas from companies broadcasting upcoming staffing needs run rampant on multiple social media platforms. Offers to pay travel, lodging, airfare to an event, and better than minimum wages have become more frequent. In bridging the gap between virtual and physical worlds, the onslaught of online staffing apps and programs have become a game changer. App features that collect vaccination information on potential staff, programs to reward workers with bonuses and perks—this connectivity helps the cause immensely. Some hiring managers have signed individuals directly from an online application and/or after a Zoom interview. The days of bringing candidates into the office are twilighting.
But there’s hope: Speaking at a November 2021 C-level business conference, Cathy Hardin, Chief Revenue Officer for Instawork (an online and app-based staffing program), noted, “People want to work. I’ve seen a lot about the Great Resignation, but what we are optimistic about is that it’s not necessarily everyone resigning, it’s what a lot of people are calling the Great Reallocation. People are changing the way they want to work, and we sit at the intersection of listening to workers and understanding how they want to work in the future. The number one thing they are asking for is flexibility.”
The Foreseeable Future
“There has been a massive buildup of asset-based household wealth in the U.S.,” says Carl Sacks, Executive Director of the Leading Caterers of America. “This is in part because of the remarkable (and sometimes perplexing) runup in the stock market [over the summer], and because of spending deferred during the pandemic. Most U.S. workers, particularly in white collar jobs, have remained employed during the pandemic. They have been banking a lot of their pay due to deferred spending on vacations, restaurant meals, sports and entertainment, and other typical activities.”
How does this impact the event industry? Here are his predictions:
- Life cycle events, particularly weddings, quinceañeras, and mitzvahs, are already recovering. Some of these have been rescheduled from the pandemic months, but much of this business is just part of the typical flow of life cycle events.
- Social entertaining is already generating incoming bookings and will start to recover substantially.
- Corporate marketing driven events, including VIP sponsorship events associated with sports and entertainment, started back up in fall 2021. Many sports and entertainment events were either held without spectators or cancelled altogether in 2020. When these events return, catered VIP hospitality events will as well.
- Small to medium local and regional meetings are starting to show up on the calendar for later this year. These include SMERF (social, military, educational, religious, and fraternal) events, as well as corporate events.
- Fundraisers and galas are already happening, sometimes as hybrid events, and sometimes as face-to-face events. It will probably be 2022 before we start to see fully reloaded gala schedules.
- Convention and incentive travel-related events will probably take some time to return to previous levels, but we are confident they will return eventually.
Put on your headsets?
Finally, look to online programs like AllSeated and other event planning platforms that provide a virtual reality component, allowing the ability to “walk-through” spaces, making the planning of destination weddings or other events happen, despite the lack of an on-site presence. Just another example of the connection our physical and virtual worlds hold for us all, as we move from 2021 into 2022.