11 Trends Impacting Association Events Right Now

Photo courtesy of Fernando Arcos

While COVID appears to be loosening its reins on the ability of associations to host in-person events again, the ripples have yet to be fully realized. Following are 11 trends we’ve found to be impacting association events right now, including both an overview of the challenges we’ve experienced first-hand and a recommended solution for you and your team to consider. 

Trend 1: Limited Hotel & Venue Availability

  • Challenge: Due to the volume of rebookings caused by the pandemic, hotel and venue availability is generally limited (and hotels/venues are being more choosy about the business they accept).
  • Solution: Flexibility is key, particularly around dates, patterns, and function space. 

Trend 2: Mutually Beneficial Hotel & Venue Contracting

  • Challenge: It’s a seller’s market. Hotels and venues no longer have to (and in many cases can’t) meet your standard concession demands and preferred clauses.
  • Solution: Sort out and communicate your must-haves vs. your nice-to-haves. Strive for a mutually beneficial relationship and outcome.

Trend 3: Staffing Changes & Shortages

  • Challenge: Hotels, venues, and third-party service providers (e.g., AV and expo companies) are short-staffed and/or have turned over staff (multiple times) during the pandemic.
  • Solution: Communication is key. Seek understanding of the current staffing situation for each of your partners, along with anticipated impact on expectations, timelines, and the like.

Trend 4: Steeply Rising Costs

  • Challenge: All costs are steeply rising at or ahead of the rate of inflation, including food and beverage, gas, flights, drapery, equipment, printing, signage, supplies, storage, etc.
  • Solution: Have consultative conversations with your partners to discuss desired outcomes and lean on their expertise/ recommendations. Ensure selected destinations are economical for attendees (e.g., travel and housing).

Trend 5: Misunderstanding of Hybrid Options & Expectations

  • Challenge: Many of our organizations are defaulting to some version of hybrid without an intentional strategy.
  • Solution: Gather data about your audience and their needs to determine what programs should go in person, virtual, and hybrid. Research the various hybrid options and choose the one that best fits your attendees, organization, and budget.

Trend 6: Consider Multiple Budget Scenarios

  • Challenge: Last year’s budget (or the one from 2019) can’t simply be copied and pasted with a few minor tweaks if we’re going to accurately reflect changes to revenue/expenses.
  • Solution: Consider budgeting for three different scenarios: low attendance, medium attendance, and high attendance. You may also need to rethink your expectations around profitability (e.g., individual events vs. the overall portfolio). 

Trend 7: Changing Attendee Behaviors & Unreliable Event History

  • Challenge: Attendees generally aren’t acting in alignment with past behaviors (e.g., registration, housing, and transportation timelines), rendering our event history useless.
  • Solution: Use event history as a reference, combined with more real-time member polling, to predict counts. Maintain open communication with your event partners.

Trend 8: Supply-Chain Delays

  • Challenge: In some instances, it remains difficult to purchase and timely receive necessary event supplies/promotional items, or the turnaround time for orders/production is longer. 
  • Solution: Assess your purchase needs for the next 6-12 months and try to place fewer orders as early as possible. Also, shop around to determine the best prices/turnaround times.

Trend 9: Speakers & Entertainment: Read The Fine Print

  • Challenge: Many professional speakers and entertainers are adding challenging clauses to their contracts that give them one-sided decision-making authority in light of COVID-19.
  • Solution: Read the fine print, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to negotiate (or choose a new speaker/entertainer). Rely on speaker/entertainment agencies to help you.

Trend 10: Continued Focus on Attendee Health & Safety

  • Challenge: Each day, people continue to come down with COVID-19 and other illnesses (e.g., flu, cold, allergies). The physical safety of attendees is of greater concern, as well.
  • Solution: Have clear and enforceable policies and procedures in place related to attendee health and safety. Don’t be afraid to escalate precautions should the environment change.

Trend 11: Don’t Underestimate Employee Wellness

  • Challenge: Our teams are navigating a lot right now: the ongoing effects of the pandemic, continued COVID exposure, work-life imbalance, stress/anxiety/sleeplessness, oppression (e.g., racism, sexism), and so much more.
  • Solution: Establish an employee wellness program of some sort, even if you start extremely small. Utilize 1:1 and team meetings as an opportunity to check in on one another.

If you or your team has recently navigated another trend impacting association events, please share it with us using the comments below or by emailing us at info@eventgarde.com.

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