Northstar Meetings Group's Pulse Survey captures changes in sentiment and expectations as the meetings industry responds to new challenges and imperatives brought by the worldwide pandemic. Meeting planners are encouraged to participate in every Pulse
Survey, so that we may share the most current perspective on your collective needs with industry stakeholders worldwide.
Below are the results of each survey. To view the most recent survey, head here, or take the current survey here.
Planner Pulse Survey ending August 15, 2020
With coronavirus cases declining in the United States, it's not surprising that Northstar Meetings Group's latest Pulse Survey reveals slight but encouraging gains in industry expectations.
Comprised of more than 800 planner responses from around the world, with just over 80 percent of them responsible for events in the United States, the Pulse Survey shows that
planners are generally confident and rebooking activity is on the upswing. However, far fewer planners are expecting to produce in-person events in 2020, and most planners believe the second quarter of 2021 is the earliest they are likely to produce
such gatherings. Fear remains the biggest obstacle; not just fear of travel, which impacts the viability of business events, but also the fear that uncertainty brings.
Highlights from this research cycle include:
- Booking and sourcing activity has increased since the last PULSE Survey, albeit slightly.
- Planners are generally confident. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most confident, planners' confidence level for their immediate future averages 6.25. There is no material difference in confidence levels across regions and among planners responsible
for meetings in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Asia.
- Local and regional events, and events of 100 or fewer attendees, have gained favor, as planners indicated they will plan more of them next year.
- Boutique hotels and resort properties currently are the most favored venues for near-term meetings.
- On-site technology tools are growing in interest relative to virtual, indicating a growing confidence in the return of physical events.
- Face masks and other safety protocols are now accepted as "industry standards," but testing — either on-site or prior to events — is not seen as a requirement.
- Planners are accepting digital events as solid options, and that they need to make virtual events an ongoing component of their portfolios. They are beginning to gain confidence in the business potential for virtual events.
Clearly, the meetings industry is in a state of flux. Confidence levels for the near-term future ebb and flow with Covid-19 case levels, with business-travel restrictions and with the perception of the value of in-person events compared to virtual alternatives.
Most respondents agree those alternatives not only are here to stay, but also will improve over time. One takeaway is unanimous: As soon as it is possible, planners want to get back to meeting face-to-face again.
"I do believe we’ve started
to see a turn in the negativity over the past five to six weeks, and more of an opening and positivity, and a push toward hosting events that are already scheduled," said Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International.
"However, planners might be more open to hosting or encouraging live events because it's what we do. We recognize the need and value of live events, the innovation and creativity that comes from them. We're benefitting from the quick dive into hybrid
events, but we're also seeing the limitations."
"I think people are still very much trying to figure out their own organizational priorities as they relate to their workforces," said Amy Calvert, CEO of the Events Industry Council, the umbrella
organization that represents more than 30 member industry associations. "I would be cautiously optimistic. I think organizations are very much wanting to get back to the business of meeting face-to-face again; people are feeling a bit burnt out on
this whole Zoom endeavor."
As planners have had to learn how to move their events online, 76 percent of respondents said they are anticipating the need to provide virtual alternatives concurrently with physical events in the future. As one
respondent commented, "There is no longer a 'going back to normal.' I'd like to be part of shaping the 'new normal,' but I don't know where to begin."
That "new normal" is already here, as evidenced by the growing numbers of virtual events
already being produced worldwide, and the overwhelming majority of planners who report they will require virtual platforms for the foreseeable future, according to the latest Pulse Survey results.
Already employers are looking for planners
with experience in this area. Dawn Penfold, president of MeetingJobs.com, an industry job board, recently received notice of two planner openings — the first such listings since the lockdowns began — both of which require candidates to have skills
related to producing hybrid face-to-face and digital events.
NMG's Pulse Survey, launched in March 2020, tracks how the global pandemic has affected meeting planners, including their job status, business plans and projections for the future
of their events.
Following are additional findings from the Aug. 25 Northstar Meetings Group Pulse Survey.
STILL WORKING HARD
The vast majority of respondents to the current survey (84 percent) still are employed, with 62 percent working remotely and 22 percent working from their offices. Those surveyed also report that their current focus continues to be on rescheduling events
(55 percent), while many are researching potential new events but not ready to issue an RFP or lead (29 percent). Just over 10 percent of the sample has been furloughed to some degree.
TIME IS RUNNING OUT ON 2020
In our July 15 survey, just 25 percent of meeting planners were expecting to hold rescheduled events this year, down from 40 percent in the June 17 cycle. Only 16 percent now expect to produce live meetings or events for the balance of the year. The second
quarter of 2021 is seeing the most action, as 34 percent of planners working on rescheduling are moving events there, and 22 percent are working on new meetings for Q2. The first quarter of 2021 also is seeing plenty of activity, as 23 percent of
those surveyed are rescheduling meetings then, along with 21 percent of those working on new events.
Planners acknowledge they need to make digital gatherings an ongoing component of their portfolios, as 76 percent of those surveyed said they will require virtual-event platforms for the foreseeable future. As more is being learned about virtual events,
more planners are gaining confidence in their business potential.
KEEPING SAFETY IN MIND
Face-mask requirements and safety protocols are accepted as "industry standards" now — 77 percent of those surveyed say they are now requiring face coverings for all — but testing for the virus, either on-site or prior to events, is not seen as a requirement.
RESPONDENTS ARE RESHAPING THEIR VIEWS
In verbatim comments, some planners showed enthusiasm for the changing nature of the industry.
As one planner said, "This is an exciting time in our industry. We can finally showcase the strategy that should have existed all along. The folks
who think of themselves as 'planners' might not have a future here. But the folks who think of themselves as strategic advisors and producers will thrive."
And some noted they have been able to host in-person events successfully, taking all
the necessary precautions:
"I just held my annual event with significant safety protocols in place. It worked," was one comment.
"We just hosted an annual local meeting," reported another planner. "We capped attendance to allow for
6 feet of social distancing, temperature checks, waivers and masks. We received nothing but compliments and there have been no Covid cases reported.
Download the full report here.
Planner Pulse Survey ending July 15, 2020
With a surge in COVID-19 cases in the United States, meeting planner confidence is waning, confirmed Northstar Meetings Group's latest Pulse Survey, which drew 1,160 meeting planner responses from around the world. Fewer are actively booking business;
in fact, cancelling or rescheduling has become the primary job function of 60 percent of respondents. And, as more turn toward virtual-meeting platforms, they question whether such events can meet business needs.
These findings are "closely
tracking with the situation on the ground," commented industry consultant John Nawn, co-founder of the Event Strategy Network and a Northstar columnist. He recently conducted research
for a client on attendees' willingness to travel and meet in-person. "Interest waned as the virus spread, so they cancelled their event for Q3 2020," he noted.
"Everyone is struggling with how to get shows and business events back up and running," said Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM, the chief executive officer for the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. "And I think we're all learning together."
David Dubois, CMP, CAE, president and CEO of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, pointed out that business stagnation and industry frustration won't change
as long as the virus numbers continue to rise. "We've got to see this COVID curve drop down to a very low, less scary level over a 14-day period of time," to begin rallying public support for the return of events, he noted.
optimism makes sense," agreed Kevin Iwamoto, chief strategy officer for meetings-tech platform Bizly,
"and this is no doubt causing a lot of change management. People are processing the stages of loss and acceptance. The bottom line is that everyone and every company has to reimagine and reposition as a result of the pandemic, and things are not going
to ever get back to where they were pre-COVID-19 — at least not for years to come."
While nearly 80 percent of respondents cite a growing need for digital-event platforms, they're unconvinced of their overall value proposition. "I'm sure the virtual-event payoff remains elusive," said Nawn, "but folks need to be taking virtual much more
seriously. It is here to stay, but we're still in the 'learning to crawl' stage. There's so much more that can be done to make virtual events more viable — and a genuine complement/extension of in-person events. Now's the time to immerse ourselves
in this new world and master it."Job #1: Postponing Meetings
NMG’s Pulse Survey, launched in March 2020, tracks how the global pandemic has affected meeting planners, including their job status, business plans and projections for the future of their events.
Sixty percent of planners now say their primary job function is to reschedule or rebook meetings and events. Another 27 percent are spending most of their time researching for possible future events, but not booking any business. Just 5 percent are focused
on contracting for new meetings.
Elsewhere in the world, there’s a bit less emphasis on rebooking, with a higher percentage of planners actively researching and sourcing for new business. However, a consistent 5 percent of respondents from the U.S., U.K. and Europe, and 4 percent from
Asia, cite booking new business as their primary responsibility right now. Prospects Dim for 2020
Just four weeks ago, 40 percent of meeting planners expected to hold rescheduled events during this calendar year, according to the Pulse Survey’s June 17 findings. With increasing uncertainty and rapidly rising COVID-19 cases in the U.S., that number has declined to 25 percent, per the latest results. More than half (56 percent) are now eyeing the first half of 2021 as the earliest
time frame for rescheduled meetings, while 17 percent are pushing dates into the latter half of 2021 or beyond.
The falling numbers for this year are in line with what other industry organizations are finding, according to Breden of the Center for Exhibition Industry research. "About 73 percent of our survey respondents will now not hold their events this year,"
she said. "And the remainder are looking for some type of contingency plan, either a hybrid or purely virtual event."Uncertainty Is the Biggest Obstacle
For new events, too, dates are shifting to later in 2021. Seventeen percent of respondents don’t expect to hold new events
until the fourth quarter of 2021 or later, up from 14 percent in June. There’s a notable contrast by region, however, with significantly lower confidence among U.S. respondents. Fifty-eight percent of planners in the U.K., for example, plan to hold
live events this year or in the first quarter of 2021.
The variability of COVID-19 cases by state and country is the most significant factor affecting planners’ ability to schedule in-person meetings. A close second is inconsistent guidelines and/or protocol enforcements by state/country, followed by concern
over business conditions and budget cuts, which had long been the top worry among planners. Flexible Contracts Will Help
"The back-and-forth dance of open, close, open, close makes it impossible to plan for in-person events," lamented one respondent. "Opinions and perceptions
"The agony just continues," said another planner. "I have cancelled August conferences now, and cancellations will likely spread into September, October, November and December."
With increasing uncertainty, planners are hesitant to commit to typical contract terms. Nearly one-third (29 percent) of meeting planners now expect that contracts will allow for cancellation without penalty, up from 25 percent in June, and another 51
percent believe those terms will be more forgiving. The Future Holds Fewer Meetings
"Pricing and contracting must change — in buyers’ favor — to get meetings back," noted one planner.
Confidence in the frequency of future events has dipped month over month. Thirty-seven percent of planners now expect to plan fewer meetings, even 12 to 18 months after the threat of COVID-19 has passed, up from 34 percent in June.Sports Will Lead the Recovery
declines are expected in international events, followed by national and regional gatherings. Confidence in local events has waned, too. About one in four planners (27 percent) believe they’ll hold more local events post-COVID, down from 36 percent
With the increase in cases cited as a key factor impacting meeting and event planning in the U.S., expectations for the current year have sunk significantly. More planners are currently looking a year out (or later) to book their
new events. In the meantime, if and when they can meet, they'll require (and supply) face masks.
Month over month, confidence in the future frequency of nearly all event types has declined, with the biggest drops in government, corporate meetings and trade shows, respectively. But planners are particularly optimistic about sports and esports recovering
after the pandemic. While 37 percent still predict a decline in frequency, 20 percent now believe we'll see more live sporting and esports events post-COVID, up from 13 percent just four weeks ago.Face Masks Will Be Meetings Attire
Safety protocols remain high on the agenda for future events, with more than 80 percent of respondents planning to implement physical distancing, signage, hand sanitizer and other best practices. Seventy percent will mandate the use of face masks as a
condition of attendance, and 72 percent will provide masks on-site. More than half (56 percent) will require participants to sign liability waivers to acknowledge possible health risks.
Nawn questioned why one-third of respondents don't intend to require masks. "Why are only 70 percent mandating and supplying face masks? Why isn't this 100 percent? What's the reluctance about?" Virtual Meetings Will Evolve
As more respondents are likely to have experienced digital events in recent weeks, confidence in their value for participants has improved, while they’re less certain of the value proposition for suppliers. Planners are evenly split on whether such gatherings
will fulfill overall business objectives. We're Craving In-Person Connections
One sentiment is universal: Nothing can replace the face-to-face experience. "Virtual events have been added to our portfolio, but in-person events will remain key," commented a planner.
realize, however, that they'll need to get comfortable planning and producing digital events. Nearly 80 percent expect an increased need for virtual event platforms. "Virtual/hybrid meetings are here to stay," said a respondent. "We need to become/get
experts on the technology and methodology to have successful meetings."
Many verbatim comments underscored the business need, and personal craving, for face-to-face gatherings. "Relationships are key to business success, and they can't be made and cultivated virtually. Meetings and events are essential to business development,"
a planner told us. "There’s both a direct and indirect relationship between meetings and economic growth. We won't have a healthy travel industry or overall economy without being able to gather again."
"Meeting in-person will not depend so much on what we do now, but how comfortable people will be conducting business in-person in the future," Nawn added. "And unfortunately, we have little control over that. That's not an argument for doing nothing.
It's an argument for focusing on what we can control, like how to meet safely, and letting go of what we can't control, like when we meet. In this time of crisis lies a real opportunity, if we're bold enough to seize it, to reimagine what business
we're really in and what value we bring to our stakeholders. It's more than just events."Don't Expect a Return to 'Normal'
"With the resurgence in COVID cases around the country, I feel less confident that anything resembling 'normal' will happen in the short term," commented a survey respondent.
"Regardless of what we do, the prognosis of the virus is going to dictate
the progress of the industry and the return to 'business as unusual,'" said Nawn, "because when we do meet in-person again, there will be little that's 'usual' about it."
Iwamoto agreed: "Business needs to get done, and everyone has to
figure out the new world, where the definitions of 'essential,' 'nice-to-have,' 'must-have,' and 'critical' are being redefined. That also extends to our personal lives, as well, which is adding more angst and stress."
Find this week's full results here.
Planner Pulse Survey ending June 15, 2020
Look for live meetings to return this year: Forty-one percent of meeting planners expect to hold rescheduled events before year-end 2020, according to the results of Northstar Meetings Group's latest global Pulse Survey.
But while planners are holding out hope, they acknowledge that it won't be easy. "To pull off our upcoming events, managing risk is a much higher priority," said one respondent. "Getting participants
and organizations to commit is a higher priority too. We're hopeful that with protocols established and cases under control, we can meet again — even if it's a lot smaller than we expected — before the year is out."
As for newly scheduled
events, a growing number of planners – now 79 percent — are choosing dates beginning in 2021, while only 10 percent will wait until 2022 or beyond.
These are among the many signs of optimism expressed by the 484 respondents to the Pulse Survey,
which tracks how the global pandemic has affected meeting planners, including their job status, business plans and projections for the future of their events.
As many states loosen restrictions, more planners — 20 percent — are back in their
offices. While a consistent 84 percent of respondents are working full-time, 13 percent remain on furloughs and five percent have left the industry or are unemployed.
Following are other highlights from the June 15 Pulse Survey.
Still Hesitant to Book
This week's findings show a slight decrease, to 36 percent, in the number of planners booking future business, and a corresponding rise in those researching for future business but not signing contracts (39 percent).
More Difficulty Reaching Suppliers
Two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents are finding it harder than usual to reach suppliers, with an uptick in those calling their experience "very difficult" (55 percent).
Wanted: Relaxed Cancellation Terms
Consistent with previous results, 25 percent of planners anticipate that contracts will allow for cancellation without penalty, and a growing percentage (up from 46 to 51 percent) expect that cancellation terms will be more forgiving when they book future
Fewer Meetings in the Future
One-third of respondents expect they'll be planning fewer events after the threat of COVID-19 is behind us, yet results show a slight uptick, to 8 percent, of those who think they'll plan more events going forward, and a decline (from 37 to 34 percent)
in those who expect event volume to decrease.
Strong Outlook for Small, Local Events
While respondents consistently anticipate a decline in the volume of international and national events, those dips have improved from previous lows. At the same time, a growing number expect a rise in the number of local events they will plan post-COVID-19.
In terms of event size, the greatest gains are expected in small meetings of 15 to 50, followed by even smaller gatherings of fewer than 15 participants.
Bullish on Resorts and Boutique Hotels
For the first time since the pandemic began, two types of properties — boutique hotels and resorts — are expected to host more business when the threat is behind us than before the crisis.
In all other venue categories, meetings business is projected to be lower in the future. However, results show significantly softer declines in nearly all venue categories, with the greatest improvement in gaming and sports facilities.
Seeking Medical Expertise
In terms of needed products and services, planners' priorities are virtual event platforms, medical education and medical experts, all cited by nearly 80 percent of respondents. This week's findings show a notable rise in interest in attendee-tracking
tools, noted by 57 percent of planners.
Top Worry: Travel Restrictions
More than half of respondents fear that business-travel restrictions will prevent people from attending meetings and events, followed closely by concerns about reduced meeting and event budgets, food-and-beverage safety and F&B prices.
Prevailing Safety Measures
More planners are onboard with safety-minded changes. Among the measures they'll put in place to reduce the spread of disease, results show an uptick in every category — with the largest gains in designing spaces to allow physical distancing (cited by
88 percent) and plans to implement temperature checks or other health-screening measures (58 percent).
Weighing Virtual-Event ROI
Confidence is mixed on the effectiveness of digital event platforms. Overall, planners believe such meetings are likely to satisfy attendees, but they are less confident about the value proposition for sponsors.
In Their Words
Verbatim comments from survey respondents shed more light on current sentiments. Among the contributions:
"I will consider looking at more secondary and other markets instead of big cities, as long as transportation to/from is adequate."
"With large meetings industry conferences like IMEX and CONNECT cancelling, it's hard to convince clients that meetings will be safe and that they should move forward on their face-to-face events."
"The uncertainty is unsettling. It will take several years to build the level of trust in having safe and effective in-person events."
"In truth, between budget cuts and COVID-19 fears, most of our delegates will not travel until there is a vaccine."
Download the full results here.
Planner Pulse Survey ending June 2, 2020
More planners are sourcing and booking meetings, and confidence in holding future events has improved, according to Northstar Meetings Group's latest Pulse Survey.
While just 31 percent of respondents were signing contracts for new business as of May 19, nearly 40 percent are now doing so — reversing the downward trend and matching the level of activity last achieved in April.
While moving ahead with
the planning process, 75 percent of respondents intend to offer a virtual component to their live events as an alternative for those who are not willing or able to travel. But whether or not these virtual offerings will achieve business objectives
is an open question.
Improved planner confidence is in step with the gradually loosening restrictions around the U.S. and the world — indicating we might be moving from crisis toward recovery. What happens with respect to COVID cases and
ongoing protests over the coming weeks will be crucial in how that progression continues.
Northstar's Pulse Survey, conducted every two weeks, assesses how the global pandemic has affected meeting planners, including their job status, business
plans and projections for the future of their events. This week's findings are based on 790 planner respondents.
Business activity is on the rise
Throughout the crisis, meeting planners have been doing business. A consistent 85 percent of respondents are still working full time, with a slight uptick — from 13 to 16 percent — in those returning to their business locations.
For the first
time in nearly two months, more planners are booking business (39 percent) rather than just looking (35 percent). The number of planners who are not working — and not even keeping in touch with suppliers — declined from 9 percent to 5 percent.
with suppliers is still a challenge for planners, a consistent 65 percent of whom report difficulty getting business done. This is likely influenced by the dramatic 51 percent unemployment rate in the travel industry.
A positive sign, however, is that a growing number of planners are reaching out to these partners. Just 9 percent of respondents report they
haven't attempted to contact suppliers, down from 13 percent two weeks ago.
More planners look to 2021 and beyond
More new bookings are shifting out of this year and into 2022. While a consistent 64 percent expect to hold newly scheduled events in 2021 at the earliest, those planning live events for this year dropped by 4 percentage points (to 25 percent), while
the number of respondents who will push new meetings into 2022 rose by 4 percentage points (to 11 percent).
For rescheduled events, however, 43 percent intend to meet during this calendar year, and another 29 percent will go forward with
postponed meetings in Q1 2021 at the earliest.
Planners want flexible contract terms
With the uncertainty of civil unrest compounding COVID-related concerns, many planners are understandably hesitant to sign contracts with strict cancellation and attrition terms. In fact, the majority expect suppliers to be more forgiving on such clauses
for future bookings. Nearly one in four think contracts will allow for cancellation with no penalties, while nearly half (46 percent) believe cancellation terms will be more flexible.
However, given the hardship suppliers are experiencing,
and the possibility of reduced inventory and high demand, 21 percent of respondents anticipate even more stringent contract terms for new business.
Outlook for future events is improving
Even when the threat of COVID-19 has passed, respondents expect to be planning fewer in-person events overall. However, results show a small uptick in those who expect to hold more events (from 5 percent to 7 percent).
Respondents are more decisive
about future plans, however, as evidenced by a decline in those who say it's "too soon to know' (from 28 to 22 percent) and a an increase in planners who say the volume of meetings post-crisis will be "about the same" (from 31 percent to 35 percent).
week marks a particularly positive shift for future regional and local events. While planners consistently foresee a significant decline in the number of international and national events they will plan, they now expect to hold more events close to
Small meetings will see the largest growth
The largest events will see the greatest decline in numbers, but the extent of those declines has softened considerably, particularly for events of 1,000 and more attendees. Only the smallest events will see an overall rise in volume, with the greatest
growth in gatherings of 15 or fewer participants, followed by meetings for 15 to 50.
Virtual events won't meet all needs
Attendees are likely to find value in virtual events, planners believe, but planners have a very low level of confidence in the ability of such meetings to satisfy sponsors. As for overall business objectives, expectations for success are moderate.
for attendees, just 38 percent of planners anticipate a high level of satisfaction with digital gatherings. "Our events are very social along with being informative," commented one respondent. "Losing the in-person experience reduces a big portion
of why people attend."
For many, getting up to speed on digital alternatives is a significant source of stress. "I have 30 years of live event experience," commented one survey respondent. "I'm concerned about not being able to provide the
same level of expertise with virtual events."
With safety comes skepticism
For the strong majority of planners, a range of health-safety measures will be on the agenda for upcoming events. Results have shown a steady rise in those who plan to implement temperature checks or other health-screening protocols, now at 52 percent.
reveal some skepticism about safety measures, however. "Much of what is being suggested by industry professionals is an overabundance of caution," said one respondent, adding: "In practice, most of the suggestions are impractical. I don't see people
keeping six feet apart on the dance floor or sitting two people per 6-foot table. It's not gonna happen."
Of areas of great concern, 52 percent worry that business travel restrictions will prevent people from attending meetings. Worries have
intensified in recent weeks regarding food-and-beverage safety, deemed highly concerning to 46 percent of respondents, and F&B pricing (42 percent).
Changing rules present challenges
With each state in the U.S. setting its own pace and establishing its own rules for group gatherings, it's difficult for meeting planners to know where and when meetings will be permitted. Asked one survey respondent: "Who is going to keep track so that
we know if we are complying with all state regulations?"
(We have that answer: See our daily updates for the latest state and country regulations.)
Planner Pulse Survey ending May 19, 2020
Meeting planner optimism about the return of live events is waning, according to Northstar Meetings Group's latest Pulse Survey. Fewer respondents are actively planning and booking meetings. Those who are, meanwhile, are increasingly choosing dates in
2021 at the earliest. And even when we're past the COVID-19 crisis, we should expect to see fewer, smaller and more local events. A decline in confidence is evident throughout the survey's May 19 findings.
Northstar's Pulse Survey, conducted
every two weeks, assesses how the global pandemic has affected meeting planners, including their job status, business plans and projections for the future of their events. This week's findings are based on 805 planner respondents.
More are looking, fewer are booking
The job market for meeting planners has remained stable, with 82 percent still working full time, and a slight uptick in the number of those based in their business locations rather than at home. However, the percentage of planners sourcing and booking
has steadily declined, from 40 percent in mid-April to 31 percent in the most recent Pulse Survey. At the same time, fewer are doing the legwork now for future meetings and events. Nearly 28 percent are in a holding pattern and not actively planning
meetings at this point.
Working with suppliers is a growing problem
For almost two-thirds of respondents, reaching suppliers has been more difficult than usual or "very difficult," while the number of planners who haven't had a problem has dipped to 23 percent. The fact that unemployment in the travel sector has reached
51 percent is likely the driving factor. The impasse has widened in the past four weeks, per the
Pulse Survey, pointing to an opportunity for suppliers to be more accessible to clients and prospects..
Events are shifting into 2021
Rescheduled events are moving out of 2020 and into next year. Results show a steady decline in the number of planners expected to hold live events this summer at the earliest. Half of respondents have pushed dates into 2021 and beyond.
The decline in confidence is more significant for new (not rescheduled) events. Just 28 percent expect to go forward with meetings this year; of those, fewer than 5 percent plan to meet this summer.
Fewer meetings will be held next year
In terms of the number of events respondents will plan for next year, the overriding sentiment has shifted from "too soon to know" to an understanding that fewer events will be held next year. In just two weeks, those expecting the number of events to
decline rose from 30 percent to 36 percent.
The largest events will see the greatest decline
Not surprisingly, once the threat of COVID-19 is behind us, meetings that draw 5,000 attendees or more will see the steepest drop in frequency. More than half (55 percent) of respondents expect to plan fewer events of that size in the 12 to 18 months
following the crisis. That's up dramatically from 40 percent just two weeks ago.
The more local the event, the more likely it is to happen
Even when COVID-19 is no longer a threat, more than half of respondents say they'll plan fewer international events. That declining confidence is notable for national and regional events, too. For local events, the only category where a slight uptick
in volume was anticipated over the past month, the expectation now is for that business to remain flat.
Big venues have the most to lose
It stands to reason that a dramatic drop in the number of large events being planned will coincide with less need for large venues. While every type of venue should expect a decline in business, per survey results, the most dramatic losses will be felt
by cruise ships, gaming facilities, sports venues and convention centers. Those that stand to lose the least are resorts, boutique hotels and suburban properties.
Digital, legal and medical advice is needed
With the only certainty being that live meetings will be dramatically different, planners recognize the need for knowledge about digital event platforms, virtual site visits, legal guidance and medical advice. These imperatives have remained consistent
week over week, along with strong needs for information about the logistics of live events going forward.
Travel policies and airfares are top worries
Planners have a long list of concerns. Chief among them, cited by 86 percent of respondents, is that business travel policies will restrict people from attending meetings. The survey shows consistently high levels of concern about budget cuts, reduced
demand, F&B safety and the ability of hotels and venues to safely accommodate their groups. Meanwhile, this week's findings reveal a dramatic increase in concern about rising airfares and the availability of flights.
You told us more
Verbatim comments indicate that meeting planners are worried not only about logistics, but about making their concerns known to decision-makers and stakeholders. "My biggest struggle is trying to keep our executives and board grounded in reality," lamented
one respondent. "They are very optimistic that our fall 2020 event will not only take place but will be just the same as other years. I have been doing my best to provide realistic options and manage expectations, but so far I worry that I am not
Uncertainty is clearly disconcerting. "It's impossible to know what the future holds; all we know is that it will be different," another planner commented. "Our industry will be better as long as we all collaborate and are aware
of our responsibilities to our clients and our industry — and not just ourselves."
Planner Pulse Survey ending May 5, 2020
Meeting planners have adjusted their expectations for when live events will resume, revealed the findings of Northstar Meeting Group’s latest Pulse Survey. The majority (58 percent) still expect to hold meetings in this calendar year, but that’s down
significantly from 71 percent two weeks ago. While most are still working full-time, they’ve grown a bit more hesitant to put new business on the books, as uncertainty about the threat of COVID-19 remains an overarching concern.
Northstar’s Pulse Survey, conducted every two weeks, assesses how the global pandemic has affected meeting planners, including their job status, business plans and projections for the future of their events. This week’s findings are based on 736 planner
respondents, with the majority headquartered in the United States, followed by Canada and Europe. Survey participants represent a wide range of industry segments, including association and convention planners (41 percent), third parties (24 percent)
and corporate planners (21 percent).
Download this week's results here.
Looking, Not Booking
While unemployment has risen in the U.S., job losses for meeting planners did not increase in recent weeks: 83 percent of meeting planner respondents report they’re working full-time, consistent with the previous survey. However, the nature of their business
has shifted somewhat from booking to just looking.
Last month, 40 percent of respondents were still sourcing and booking business, according to our previous survey, conducted from April 14-21. That number declined to 31 percent in the subsequent 14 days, while the percentage of those doing the legwork
toward future events but not making decisions rose from 31 to 43 percent.
While uncertainty is a known factor, it also hasn’t been easy to reach suppliers, which is likely due to layoffs and furloughs. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents
have had difficulty doing business, up somewhat from 59 percent last month.
See You Next Year
Many who were bullish on holding their rescheduled meetings this year have tempered their expectations. Those who intended to go ahead in 2020 with the meetings they had put on hold dropped to 58 percent, down from 71 percent. More of that business will
roll into 2021, as 39 percent foresee holding those delayed events next year at the earliest; another 3 percent will wait until 2022 or beyond.
In setting dates for new (not rescheduled) events, 50 percent of respondents will wait for the first half of 2021, and 10 percent will opt for the second half of next year at the earliest, representing a 10 point shift in sentiment from the previous survey
toward holding new events in 2021 rather than 2020. Another 9 percent won’t book until 2022 or later.
As the Calendar Thins
Almost half of respondents plan more than 12 meetings per year – or at least they did in 2019. Will they plan fewer events in 2021? That’s the expectation for 30 percent of respondents, up somewhat from 27 percent previously. Many who said it was “too
soon to know” in the previous survey now expect to plan fewer meetings post-crisis.
Findings show a shift, too, in the size and type of meetings to be held next year. Specifically, small and local meetings will become more prevalent, while the
largest and farthest meetings decrease in number.
Twenty-six percent of planners will hold more local events, and 22 percent expect a rise in regional events after the threat of COVID-19 has passed. Meanwhile, fully 50 percent anticipate planning fewer international events, and 38 percent are bracing
for a decline in trade shows and exhibitions.
As a consequence of a declining number of events, almost all venue types declined in favor among participating planners since the previous survey. No venue type can expect to host more meetings when the industry recovers than they did before the pandemic;
the number of respondents choosing “less frequently” exceeded “more frequently” for every type of facility. That said, the best-performing property types based on the difference between planners who expect to use them more frequently vs. less frequently
were suburban hotels (with a delta of -6 percent), followed by boutique hotels (-9 percent), resorts (-10 percent), downtown hotels (-11 percent) and golf resorts (-11 percent). Note that about three-quarters of the respondents who book each of these
venue types expect no change in the number of meetings they hold at those venue types post-pandemic.
Cruise ships, however, stand to lose the most future meetings business, with a negative delta of 63 percent separating “more frequently”
and “less frequently,” and just 30 percent of respondents saying they would select the venue type at about the same frequency after the pandemic.
Of Gravest Concern
Planners’ worries are many, but the biggest concerns are about factors that could make it impossible or not feasible to hold face-to-face meetings at all. At the top of the list is the worry that corporate policies will restrict or prohibit business travel,
followed by reduced demand and insufficient budgets. In terms of logistics for meetings that do go forward, a growing majority are anxious about implementing new best practices for gatherings, and about the ability of hotels and venues to meet more
stringent health and safety standards.
As they look toward future events, the need for new products, services and expertise is apparent to the strong majority of planners. The greatest needs, cited by 84 percent, are for virtual event platforms. Another 77 percent will depend on virtual site
visits and 66 percent cited a need for virtual hosted-buyer events and fams as they make their destination and venue decisions.
In addition to reliance on virtual tools, planners recognize the need to educate themselves on health and safety requirements (84 percent) and engage medical advisory services (74 percent). Nearly as pressing, more than two-thirds say they will need to
understand and address new legal concerns, and 55 percent expect to retain professional legal advisory services to that end.
These findings indicate that a growing number of planners realize the post-COVID world will require completely new protocols for the foreseeable future. This shift is marked and significant.
Attendees Are Eager to Meet Again — And Soon
A large-scale study released yesterday by Enigma Research and supported by the Northstar Meetings Group and its SportsTravel brand underscores the need to implement new safety measures, while also painting a very favorable picture that should allay any
fears about demand. The survey of 2,000 event-goers concluded that 94 percent of respondents “very much” or “somewhat” miss attending live events.
Ninety percent are likely to return to large trade shows and conferences when they resume. In fact, 36 percent will do so immediately, and another 23 percent will wait just 1 to 4 weeks. Just 18 percent will wait until a vaccine is available before attending
New protocols will up the odds of getting them there. For example, simply providing hand-washing stations and sanitizer throughout a venue would make 75 percent of those surveyed more likely to attend a live event. Only 36 percent of those surveyed would
prefer that all attendees wear masks.
Planner Pulse Survey ending April 21, 2020
The worldwide pandemic has been particularly harsh for the meetings industry, but a deep dive into planners’ individual experiences and expectations reveals that a majority are working on future business and anticipating fundamental changes, according
to Northstar Meetings Group's latest Pulse Survey, conducted from April 14 to April 21, 2020.
"The future of events is changing, and we can shape it but we don't have much control over it at the moment," commented one respondent. At the same time, planners are looking ahead and preparing for significant changes in the post-COVID-19 meetings world.
These insights are based on 1,045 meeting planner respondents from across the globe, with about three-quarters located in the United States. Survey participants represent a wide range of industry segments, including association and convention planners
(one-third), third parties (26 percent) and corporate planners (19 percent).
Download this week's results here.
Planners Are Still Working
Regardless of location, size and type of meeting or event, meeting planners’ experiences are remarkably similar. First, the majority have held onto their jobs, with 83 percent still working full time. Fourteen percent have been furloughed, either full-
or part-time. Just three respondents are out of work and don’t plan to stay in the meetings industry, while another 23 who have lost their jobs are hoping to find new employment in meetings and events.
Meanwhile, the business of meeting planning has not stopped: Forty percent of those working are currently sourcing and booking events, and 36 percent are researching for future events but not yet booking at this time.
For many, this is a tough time to do business, the survey confirms. Twelve percent are finding it “very difficult” to work with meeting suppliers, and another 47 percent report “it’s been more difficult than usual.” This finding is consistent across geographies.
Getting Back to Business
Planners in the U.S. are slightly more optimistic about meetings returning as early as this summer than those in other regions. Eighteen percent are holding steady to rescheduled dates for events that will take place prior to September, while somewhat
fewer share that expectation in Canada (14 percent), U.K./Europe (12 percent) and Asia (13 percent).
At the same time, respondents predict a downward trend in the number and size of events they will plan after the COVID-19 pandemic passes. Twenty-seven percent expect to plan fewer meetings overall, while 35 percent say it’s too soon to speculate.
Large Events Will Lag Behind
The most significant dip is anticipated by those who plan large meetings of more than 5,000 delegates; nearly half (47 percent) expect a decrease in the number of such events they will plan when business returns. Meanwhile, many expect to see a greater
number of small gatherings, particularly those with 50 or fewer attendees.
Furthermore, planners foresee a decline in the number of events they will plan in specific meeting categories, including international meetings (48 percent), festivals and fairs (41 percent), trade shows (35 percent), sports/esports events (32 percent),
corporate meetings (32 percent) and government meetings (31 percent).
Among other key findings:
- Large venues will lose business. Coinciding with a decrease in large events, planners expect to use large venues less often. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of respondents will use cruise ships less frequently following the COVID-19
pandemic, followed by fewer bookings of gaming properties (32 percent), sports facilities (31 percent) and convention centers (26 percent).
- New skills and services are needed. Recognizing the need to pivot, fully 82 percent expect an increased need for virtual event platforms, along with virtual site visits (76 percent), education specific to health/safety (74 percent),
virtual hosted-buyer events (66 percent) and professional services for ensuring the health and safety of meeting participants (64 percent).
- New precautions will be necessary on-site. From hand sanitizers to room design, an overwhelming majority of planners are considering the following for their future events: providing hand sanitizers (88 percent), implementing social
responsibility best practices/protocols (75 percent), displaying signage addressing prevention and controls (74 percent), new meeting room designs to allow distance between attendees (66 percent) and measures for reducing and managing crowd densities
- There’s still a lot to worry about. Amid such an all-encompassing crisis, concerns are many and all relative, but the ones that planners are “very concerned” about from a business perspective are policies restricting business travel,
cited by 53 percent, reduced meeting/event budgets (47 percent), less demand for in-person meetings (42 percent), hotel and venue safety preparedness (40 percent) and establishing or adopting new best practices for gatherings (38 percent).
Northstar Meetings Group’s Pulse Survey is conducted every two weeks, capturing changes in sentiment and expectations as the meetings industry responds to new challenges and imperatives brought by the worldwide pandemic. Meeting planners are encouraged
to participate in every Pulse Survey, so that we may share the most current perspective on your collective needs with industry stakeholders worldwide. Respondents have the benefit receiving the results in advance of publication, if they so choose.
This week's results can be found here. The next survey is open as of today and will close on Tuesday, May 5th.
Planner Pulse Survey ending March 31, 2020
- No major changes were seen in the distribution of cancellations, postponements and virtual event alternatives. This week there's a slight shift to cancellations from postponements, as more meetings have been cancelled outright, with an increased interest
in virtual meetings as an alternative to a live event.
- As more planners have cancelled and/or are cancelling their events, fewer planners are experiencing difficulties doing so as the crisis persists.
- A similar favorable shift can be seen as planners postpone/reschedule their events. Last week, 64 percent of the respondents reported their experience was easy to neutral, while more than 71 percent reported their experience rescheduling/postponing
as easy to neutral this week.
- Like last week, well over 75 percent of all planners reported their rescheduling has not impacted their contract terms, across all key considerations (attrition, space, costs and concessions).
- As time passes, more planners have rescheduled or intend to reschedule their postponed meetings to later in the year. Last week, 53 percent of respondents reported rescheduling their events to September, Q4 '20 and Q1 2021. This week, more than 57
percent reported doing so.
These verbatim comments show what some of the respondents are experiencing these days.
- "As for working with hotels, all but one were easy and compromises were met on both sides," said one planner.
- Another said finding dates was easy, but renegotiating was hard: "Our hotels don't want to reduce liability for reschedules. We have scheduling conflicts with attendees and we anticipate a drop in attendance. There is also the fear factor of people
not wanting to travel, or firms restricting business travel."
- One planner already had an event in place for next year, so rescheduling wasn't an option: "It took extreme circumstances for the hotel to agree to allow us to cancel without penalty."
- "Our biggest challenge is determining when we are comfortable hosting events in the future," said another planner.
- The contract held firm for another planner. "We had to cancel outright with force majeure being enacted and accepted with no liability," they said.
- And every experience is different. "It's been dependent on the property. Trying to postpone our May event, one hotel would require us to pay all the losses they would incur. We will keep trying to reason with them. On the other hand, for an event
scheduled for July, our hotel is happy to work with us for a win-win," said another planner.
- Going online continues to be an option: "We're not looking to postpone or reschedule. We're doing a condensed virtual format over the same dates that the live event was to happen."
As the industry continues to shift with developments related to the crisis, so too will our Pulse Survey. We will be posting a new survey with new questions shortly. Thank you to all of the hundreds of planners who continue to participate in the Pulse
Survey. Your participation provides guidance to industry professionals as we seek to work our way through our current challenges.
Please download this week's results, and comparisons to last week's results, here.
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Planner Pulse Survey ending March 24, 2020
Click here to download the results [PDF] of this week's survey, and to see how it compares to our previous surveys.
Now that the world is hunkered down, trying to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, and gatherings everywhere are coming to a halt, NMG's weekly pulse survey turned to the experiences event planners are having as they handle all the details of cancelling
and rescheduling. Answering the survey were 535 meeting professionals; the findings below reflect responses from Tuesday afternoon, March 17 at 3 p.m. ET, to Tuesday morning, March 24 at 10 a.m. ET.
The key findings of this week’s pulse survey are as follows:
• Cancelled meetings prevail. Nearly two-thirds of respondents have already made that decision for some events.
• Thirty percent of those surveyed said they are planning to produce a meeting virtually — demonstrating solid traction for the online option, not to replace physical events but to provide some means of connecting groups during this period of disruption.
• More than 45 percent of those who have postponed their meetings have already rescheduled them, leaving more than 50 percent still working to reschedule their postponed events. Should the stimulus bill boost confidence and physical distancing restrictions
loosen, planners might become more actively engaged in rescheduling, and soon.
• Six in 10 planners said the process of cancelling their events was easier than they expected; conversely, in these challenging times nearly 30 percent said cancelling was more difficult, and that they had expected more flexibility given the circumstances.
• Among planners who have postponed and rescheduled, or are seeking to, the largest segment of respondents (more than 37 percent) reported the process as being easy or relatively easy. More than a quarter (27 percent) said they are continuing to work
through challenges with no determination of outcome.
• Fewer than 2 in 10 planners are reporting rescheduling to be relatively difficult or very difficult, while nearly 10 percent reported that they haven't tried to reschedule yet.
• Across the board, prior agreements are being readily honored -- attrition, space, cost and concessions all appear to be rolling over from prior contracts to the rescheduled dates.
• For attrition terms, conditions are skewing more favorable, but for a minority of planners: 12 percent are getting more favorable attrition terms, while just over 10 percent report less favorable attrition terms
• For space, costs and concessions, though the majority of planners reported they are getting similar terms, conditions are skewing less favorably for a minority of planners. Given supply-and-demand factors, these difficulties could widen as more planners
seek to reschedule within the same time frame.
• Some planners said they are rescheduling meetings as early as May (7 percent), while the majority (54 percent) said they have moved events to September (19 percent), Q4 2020 (19 percent) or Q1 2021 or later (15 percent).
These verbatim comments
illustrate planners' current experiences:
"Some (hoteliers) have been exceptionally understanding and others exceptionally challenging. I have had hotels proactively reach out to invoke force majeure, while others who should be understanding
are being unreasonable, myopic and obtuse," said one planner.
Another wrote in: "Each cancellation/postponement is different. It was difficult at first with hotels pushing back, but as news gets worse, hotels are being more flexible."
have cancelled with plans to reschedule at a later date, but are not yet choosing dates. Too much uncertainty," said another.
Independent properties have been most helpful, according to one respondent: "We have had to cancel, postpone and
try to reschedule multiple events with varying challenges. Boutique properties are the winners here! The challenges are with the big brands."
Another spoke of the burgeoning online trend for groups: "We did not postpone but actually flipped
to a virtual conference in six days."
This afternoon we will reset the Pulse Survey, to see how these numbers change over the next week, and to learn more about the process of cancelling, postponing and rescheduling your events. As with previous
surveys, the polling will close on Tuesday morning, March 31 at 10 a.m. ET, and will be posted here later that day.
Click here to download the results [PDF] of this week's survey, and to see how it compares to our previous surveys.
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Planner Pulse Survey ending March 17, 2020
In the past several days, as confirmed cases and deaths related to the coronavirus have continued to rise in the U.S. and worldwide, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, countries and states have advised against
or banned meetings, events and social gatherings. It comes as no surprise, then, that the results of NMG’s coronavirus Pulse Survey, now in its third week, reveal a pronounced shift in meeting planners’ actions and attitudes since the previous week.
This week’s results reflect responses since the survey was reopened Tuesday afternoon, March 10 at 3 p.m. ET, and closed to responses Tuesday morning, March 17 at 10 a.m. ET.
• Among all planners, there has been a marked shift in thinking,
as more are acting to alter their plans for upcoming events. Far fewer planners are now "undecided." Well over two-thirds of respondents this week have either cancelled, moved or rescheduled their events, regardless of location.
• U.S. meetings have seen the biggest week-over-week shift. While slightly more than one-third of meeting planners "cancelled, moved or rescheduled" last week, more than 75 percent of respondents had done so by this morning.
meetings outnumber "rescheduled" and "moved" events across all regions, with a major shift toward cancelling events in the United States this week. Nearly 50 percent of respondents report cancelling their events across the U.S., Europe and Asia.
A greater percentage of Asia meetings have now been cancelled (over 50%), relative to other regions.
• More planners are adding options for virtual participation; nearly 50 percent reported they are doing so, compared with 36 percent last
• Lastly and not surprisingly, more planners now believe "we should cancel or delay all meetings for the next few months." More than 50 percent expressed that sentiment today, vs. only 15 percent advocating for broader cancellations last
Click here to download the results [PDF] of this week's survey, and to see how it compares to our previous surveys.
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Planner Pulse Survey ending March 10, 2020
A week has passed since we first took the pulse of our community concerning the coronavirus outbreak, and the landscape has changed dramatically as meeting planners are re-evaluating positions they held just a few days ago.
Planners are staying
calm (so far). Though events are being canceled and rescheduled, many are still not considering canceling
or remain undecided compared to last week. This is what the data indicates for U.S. and European planners, while a higher degree of confidence is now being shown for meetings in Asia, indicating Asia might already be starting to normalize.
further down the line, only 15 percent of our sample believes meetings should be canceled for the next few months, up from 9 percent last week, indicating continued resiliency on the part of event organizers. However, while 54 percent
of respondents stated last week that they would continue to hold meetings in areas that are not significantly affected, this week only 40 percent demonstrated the same degree of commitment. Forty percent are still gathering information, so facts and
shared resources remain vitally important.
Nearly 500 people weighed in this week, indicating a strong interest in understanding and collaborating with other planners to manage their events in light of the current health crisis.
check in with you again next week as this story continues to develop.
Click here to download the following results in PowerPoint format.
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Planner Pulse Survey ending March 3, 2020
(Click here to download a PDF of the below charts.)
If you have meetings planned in the following locations, did you cancel, move or reschedule events? (Select all that apply.)
• Not considering canceling: 117 (29%)
• Undecided: 173 (43%)
• Rescheduled: 32 (8%)
• Canceled: 70 (18%)
• Not considering canceling: 26 (7%)
• Undecided: 56 (14%)
• Rescheduled: 19 (5%)
• Canceled: 40 (10%)
• Rescheduled: 12 (3%)
• Canceled: 32 (8%)
• Not considering canceling: 6 (2%)
• Undecided: 14 (4%)
If you are going forward with planned meetings, are you implementing any of the following? (Select all that apply.)
• Issuing a statement regarding health measures: 240 (60%)
• Providing additional hand-sanitizing stations: 166 (42%)
• Advising against handshaking: 170 (43%)
Which best reflects your opinion about going forward with meetings
• We should continue to hold meetings in areas that are not significantly affected: 218 (54%)
• I believe we should cancel or delay all meetings for the next few months: 35 (9%)
• I'm not sure; still gathering information: 147 (37%)
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