New research finds majority of events have been cancelled or postponed

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A new research study investigating the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak on the events industry has found that most organisers are postponing their events to autumn/fall this year. The survey also shows that 50% are moving their events online, with the majority opting for smaller-scale events with streamed sessions, virtual attendee engagement and networking.

The research study, titled ‘The Impact of Coronavirus of Meetings & Events’ was conducted by Eventsforce in April 2020 and is based on the views of 550+ event professionals based in the U.S. and the UK, representing corporates, associations, government and educational institutions, PCOs and event management agencies.

The Impact on Meetings and Events

One of the main objectives of the study was to investigate the proportion of events that have been cancelled or postponed as a result of the outbreak, as well as when events are being rescheduled to. The findings show that 45% of organisers have postponed, 27% have cancelled and another 25% are searching for solutions to move their events online.

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Most of the events that have been postponed have been rescheduled to the second half of the year, with 36% in the autumn/fall season and 11% in winter this year. Another 25% have moved their events to 2021, while 23% are still trying to decide.

“The results show that the Coronavirus outbreak has had a shocking impact on our industry with the cancellation of many major events this quarter. More than 50% have also postponed their events to later in the year – while others like Facebook and Microsoft won’t be hosting any large physical events until summer 2021,” said George Sirius, CEO of Eventsforce. 

“Although we expect things to improve over time, it is likely we’ll see more organisations follow their lead and postpone their large events for the second half of next year and move their smaller ones online.”

The findings show that deciding whether to cancel, reschedule or go digital is one of the toughest challenges organisers currently face in the job.  Other challenges include difficulties in planning things given the fluidity of the current situation (66%), changing contract terms with suppliers, sponsors and exhibitors (34%), dealing with refunds and cash flow issues (28%) and making sure delegate comms and expectations are managed in the right way (25%). Nearly 30% are also having to deal with job cuts and long-term financial loss.

Productivity is another area that is impacting some event planners – with 17% having difficulties in keeping teams motivated, and another 14% finding remote work a challenge.

The Need for Virtual Events

The research study shows that the current situation has forced many organisations to take the leap into virtual events.  The findings show that 50% of organisers are now moving their events online – and another 30% are considering the move.

When asked what would stop their organisations from hosting virtual events, 43% said it would be difficult to replicate their events to a virtual model. Other key barriers include uncertainty on whether attendees will come on board and a lack of experience in running online events.  Organisers also voiced concerns that the technology may not work as well as it should, which would have a negative impact on the event itself.

The study also looked at how organisers are making the move to virtual. Only 24% of event planners are moving their entire in-person event experience online – with the majority opting to run a scaled-down version of their existing events (38%). Another 32% are choosing to host their sessions online with some attendee engagement and networking – while 29% are delivering event content through webinars alone.

“The survey results show that most organisers are looking at virtual events as an effective way of continuing support for their stakeholders and wider communities. By using tools like Eventsforce, event planners can easily stream all their content online via live or recorded sessions, while managing things much in the same way they would for their in-person events,” continued Sirius. 

When investigating the kind of technology organisers are considering for their virtual events – online meeting software like Zoom topped the list with 75% of respondents.  More than 40% are looking at solutions that would support live streaming sessions, while another 25% are considering video sharing platforms like Vimeo for streaming pre-recorded content.  Only 13% are looking at live streaming sessions through social media tools like Facebook Live.

The Impact on Event Planners

The Eventsforce study also found that almost 70% of organisers now have a lot more time on their hands as a result of the ongoing situation.  Many are focusing on education and personal development (54%), while others are making improvements to their event planning processes (50%) and marketing activities (51%).  Technology is another key area with 37% of organisers taking steps to evaluate their event tech and another 36% making improvements to the way they collect, manage and secure their event data.

Adam is the co-founder and editor of www.eventindustrynews.com Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.

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