Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
Mark Schaefer, Grow Blog
Perhaps no single industry has been so devastated by the coronavirus crisis as the multi-billion-dollar conference and events business. Countless careers in catering, hospitality, travel, and public speaking (like me!) depend on the future of conferences. We’re all wondering about the future of conferences.
We need these events to come back. But when?
Public speaking has been an important part of my revenue stream so the “re-opening” of conferences is essential to my business planning. Problem is, I found absolutely no data or projections on the future of conferences that could help me. So I conducted my own research and the results provide an interesting snapshot of what might be occurring in the next 2-3 years. Let’s look at this today.
No government action is going to “re-open” traditional conventions and conferences. PEOPLE will allow conferences to re-open only when they feel safe enough to flock back to those airports, hotels, and convention centers.
My research was focused on diverse business executives likely to travel to conferences — when will they return, and what would make them feel safe to return?
In my survey, I purposely excluded anybody whose primary income is derived from events.** I wanted to get a read on the sentiment of our CUSTOMERS — conference-goers whose income does not depend on these events.
The survey was conducted during the week of May 03, 2020, and the sample size was 123, which included diverse leaders from
… and others.
I asked them three questions, and assured anonymity:
- What is the most likely timeframe large conferences (over 500 attending) will return?
- When is it likely small events will return (under 100)?
- What milestone event would have to occur to once again attend a conference?
This is not a scientific survey, but the results point to some useful insights that will influence my decision-making in the months to come.
What is the near-term future of conferences?
Here is when respondents believed they would be returning to large conferences:
We can tease a few facts from this response:
- 36 percent believe they will be returning to large conferences within the next nine months.
- About 30 percent believe things will be normal no sooner than the second half of 2021.
- About 15 percent believe both 2020 and 2021 will be a wash-out for large conferences.
Let’s turn to views about smaller events with 100 or fewer attendees:
This was a more optimistic response, with about 40 percent of the respondents believing that we’ll have this figured out by the end of 2020.
About 34 percent believe that even small meetings of less than 100 people are at least a year away.
What will help people return to conferences?
The answer to this question was nearly universal: The virus has to go away … or at least become contained by vaccination or medical treatment.
More than 90 percent of the respondents included “vaccination” or some sort of effective medical therapy in their response.
Perhaps this respondent comment sums it up best: “I want to attend a conference without having to wear a mask.”
No short-term answer
Robert van Exan, a cell biologist who has worked in the vaccine industry for decades, predicts we won’t see a vaccine approved until at least 2021 or 2022, and even then, “this is very optimistic and of relatively low probability.”
So even if the world gets incredibly lucky and cuts the previous “speed record” of four years to 1.5 years, we would be late into 2021 just for approval of a vaccine.
After approval, millions of vials will have to be prepared, shipped, and distributed. Some vials will be stockpiled ahead of time and several manufacturing facilities will be built in anticipation of a cure, but not enough to vaccinate the world, or even America, quickly.
Whenever we do hit “after coronavirus,” some parts of life will return to normal quickly. But big conferences only happen with months, sometimes years, of lead time.
The process of planning a schedule, assembling speakers, booking a space, reserving hotel rooms, marketing it to the world so people can convince their bosses to let them go — it all takes a long time. And almost none of that process can begin until planners know when it’ll be safe to gather thousands of people in a tight space.
Whenever that day comes, the local gym may be open, but big conferences will still be months away due to the planning time gap.
Conclusion based on probabilities: The low probability of having a vaccine quickly seemingly contradicts the relatively optimistic views of the respondents.
Impact of finances + regulations
About one-third of respondents also mentioned budgetary concerns or the lifting of regulatory constraints as impediments to attending conferences. Many companies have eliminated business travel in an effort to remain solvent and a significant economic rebound would be necessary to justify non-essential travel.
There are several factors that point to extended business travel restrictions:
- Projections that the virus will linger in the U.S. at least into 2021
- Significant business losses racking up in 2020
- Projections of a recession or depression that may last for years
- Increased effectiveness of online meetings and events
Conclusion based on probabilities: Economic conditions through at least 2021 will not be favorable to lifting bans on many corporate travel restrictions. Large company meetings probably will not come back in 2021 and could be vulnerable even beyond that timeframe.
The issue of insurance
There is another factor that could severely threaten large conferences: An inability to obtain event insurance.
The insurance industry could be devastated by the pandemic. A multibillion-dollar standoff between the nation’s leading insurers and the restaurants, hotels, gyms, and theaters that purchase their policies has spilled into a political clash over who should foot the sky-high costs of the coronavirus outbreak.
The battle hinges on whether insurance providers should have to pay claims to companies that have shuttered unexpectedly as a result of the deadly pandemic.
Conclusion based on probabilities: An inability to obtain event insurance in the face of lingering pandemic surges could prevent the near-term scheduling of events, especially large conferences and festivals.
Virtual event evolution
We are certainly getting better at online meetings and events. Virtual conferences won’t do much to help airlines, hotels, and every other industry that supports this industry, but could they afford a new opportunity for speaking professionals?
The future of conferences very well could be virtual for the foreseeable future, but long-term success will require a bold integration of science, technology, entertainment, and innovation from the speakers themselves.
Conclusion based on probabilities: Professional speakers will find a home in virtual events but until the quality of the events drastically improves to justify registration prices, revenue potential will be less than what speakers are accustomed to.
Is there any good news?
I’ve identified major obstacles to resuming “normal” in the conference industry. If you’re following my logic, it looks like any business supporting conferences — including public speaking — is in for a challenging ride until at least 2022.
What is the future of conferences?
The answer to this question is unknowable but I hope this post represents a rational thought experiment.
People won’t return to in-person events until they can be assured of safety.
“Mask-free” safety for large events probably can’t be assured until late 2021 or beyond.
Respondents are optimistic that small events will come back quickly.
Many safety-related and economic travel restrictions will remain in place through next year.
Some conferences may be in jeopardy until the insurance situation sorts out.
Youth-oriented events and conferences in countries that have rebounded from the virus will return more quickly.
Virtual events will thrive and rapidly evolve but probably won’t offer “normal” opportunities to many professional speakers until a technological breakthrough makes them more attractive for paying registrants.
What’s next? You’ll have to come to your own conclusions.