Event agency heads shared their concerns over the lack of client confidence in going back to face-to-face events at our latest micebook leaders’ forum, with many predicting that live business will not properly return until 2022.
The virtual session, chaired by OrangeDoor Managing Director Dina Green, was attended by leaders from agencies including Cheerful Twentyfirst, Smyle, Sleek Events, Absolute Corporate Events, CWT M&E and Chew Events. It follows our August session, in which agency leaders had expressed concern over the outlook for 2021.
During last week’s forum, one agency leader said he expects 2021 to be as much of a write-off as far as live events are concerned as 2020 has been. Others are predicting that the first live events won’t be delivered until May or June 2021 at the earliest, and some have already seen incentives in the diary for next year cancelled or postponed till 2022.
On a more positive note, one agency said it had an event for 40 confirm for mid-October, while another had confirmed an incentive trip for 31 in January. Some have seen a small increase in enquiries for 2021, but these are all on a smaller scale, and UK only.
This all depends on government guidelines and how these change over the course of the next few months. It’s unclear how today’s announcement that gatherings of more than six people will be illegal from Monday 14th September will impact the planned 1 October date for business restarting.
The biggest concern for agency heads is the lack of confidence among clients. One agency head said that even those clients that are planning small meetings, don’t want to be seen to be organising meetings for fear of the stigma involved that they are taking risks.
Agencies with offices and clients in Dubai and other European countries, said they are seeing more confidence and enquiries for 2021.
Also on the positive side, many agencies agreed that they had seen a shift in attitude among clients that were holding off confirming virtual events, while others have seen a flurry of virtual and hybrid events confirm for this autumn.
“We’ve seen more acceptance among clients of the fact that we can’t do things the way we used to, but let’s be excited by what we can do,” said one agency MD.
There has also been an increase in enquiries and bookings for pure virtual events to have a small hybrid element – for example getting business leaders together in a studio setting and broadcasting to the rest of the business.
Agency leaders predict next year will be the year of the hybrid event, with live events hopefully coming back stronger in 2022. Despite the challenging environment and gloomy outlook, there was still optimism among some agencies that when live business does come back, it will come back thick and fast.
“Prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” was one leader’s advice.