8 Trends from PCMA Survey of COVID-19 Impact on Event Professionals
A few weeks ago, PCMA sent out an email invitation to event planners and suppliers asking for participation in a survey on how they were reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic and their expectations moving forward. More than 1,200 responses came in within a day’s time.
This week, the organization released the results of the open-ended survey, which provide fresh insights into the industry’s resilience—and what the next few months and rest of the year may have in store.
Here are the highlights from PCMA’s report, which included responses from 1,776 total participants, with nearly 70 percent identifying as business events professionals (and 30 percent as suppliers):
57 percent said their employment been affected by COVID-19.
Yet, 12 percent experienced a salary reduction. Only 2 and 4 percent, respectively, were furloughed or laid off.
87 percent have canceled events as a result of the pandemic.
While event cancellations were minimal in February, they exploded in March. The largest number of event cancellations have been for events planned in March, April, May and June; however, it’s encouraging to see that after June, cancellations (so far) drop off.
81 percent are reconsidering how they handle contracts and insurance.
Talk about a wake-up call. Going forward, the vast majority of event professionals report that they will be more specific with wording of contract language, specifically surrounding cancellations and what unforeseen circumstances the force majeure clause covers. Some respondents also indicate they will consider reducing room blocks in the future to prevent losses.
There’s a lot of uncertainty about rescheduling.
While 66 percent say they’ve postponed events as a result of the pandemic, 61 percent are still in the midst of deciding whether to cancel or postpone an upcoming event. Many events still hang in the balance for August, September and even October, and some respondents were even unsure about events in November and December. May looks to be the month when decisions will be made. For those who’ve already decided to postpone, fall was the most often-reported new event time frame, with 25 percent of respondents rescheduling for September or later.
Virtual isn’t mainstream—yet.
Only 18 percent said they plan to move their face-to-face event entirely to a virtual platform; about half said parts of their content will be migrated to a digital format. The most common form of this was a virtual exhibit or expo, in addition to peer coaching, private Facebook groups, virtual networking lounges and podcasts. However, one major missed opportunity: Only about half of respondents anticipate being able to collect data from virtual attendees that they’re not able to collect on-site.
Budgets are taking a hit.
When asked if they’ve revised event budgets or revenue projections for this year, 43 percent reported a decrease in these areas. Nearly half have not yet made changes to their budgets or revenue yet, but do plan to do so.
Skills are critical.
The majority of planners said they have considered or have started re-skilling as a result of this business disruption, starting with mastering virtual meetings and digital technologies, as well as online engagement strategies. Some worry about leaving the events industry altogether, while independent business owners are feeling the most stress around their career right now.
Recovery will take time.
About a quarter of respondents believe there will be a pent-up demand to meet, yet 48 percent think that an overall hesitation to travel will have an impact on event attendance. One planner remarked that they had received emails from members saying they would not be traveling for a long time, as well as emails saying they’ve never had a stronger desire to connect face-to-face with fellow industry members.
View the full PDF of the survey results here.