. Industry Watchers Share Insights From Covering Covid | Northstar Meetings Group

Industry Watchers Share Insights From Covering Covid

Northstar Meetings Group's editors discussed lessons learned during the IMEX Community Day event.

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View the full discussion of "Breaking News: Reporting on Covid-19's Impact on the Meetings Industry" by going here.

Several of Northstar Meetings Group's leading media editors from the United Kingdom, the United States and Asia shared their experiences covering the Covid-19 pandemic during a webcast, "Breaking News: Reporting on Covid-19's Impact on the Meetings industry," part of IMEX Community Day. the industry watchers touched on how they perceive the industry evolving and what they expect for the future.

"It's the first time I've ever known in journalism, every single journalist in the world, no matter who you're working for, what area, you are covering the same story," said Paul Harvey, deputy editor of Meetings & Incentive Travel, based in the United Kingdom. "Whatever beat you're working on, this is the story."

The editors discussed how the meetings industry has responded to the crisis, at first focusing on the immediate cancellations of events and the implementation of travel restrictions before shifting to more long-term strategies for managing the pandemic's many challenges.  

"Because we were the first region hit, we were talking about Covid back in February, and so it almost felt like we were educating the rest of the industry," said Lauren Arena, editor of M&C Asia, based in Singapore. "I recall being at AIM in Melbourne and they were gobsmacked about some of the measures that were already in place in Singapore."

But as Covid's impact spread across the globe, Arena described how it became increasingly clear that M&C Asia would need to balance the negative coverage of event cancellations with those providing something more positive.

"For me, that meant focusing on the stories of resilience and how leaders across the industry was supporting their teams, and what leadership meant for them," said Arena. "It was important to convey a message to industry professionals that you're not alone."

David Blansfield, executive vice president and group publisher of Northstar Meetings Group, who moderated the discussion, emphasized the importance of industry research and data to help planners understand how their peers were managing, and to understand the global impact on the market. For Northstar, that took the form of regular Pulse Surveys, the latest of which was released last week.

"The whole idea of doing [the research] was that we'll be able to track how opinions and processes and trends differ between the U.S., Europe and Asia," said Blansfield. "And the fascinating thing was that for months there was no statistical difference. There was a glimmer of hope in Europe and the U.K. over the summer, but really we saw how the pandemic is universal and impacts us almost the same all over the world."

With regulations changing constantly, Loren Edelstein, vice president and content director for Northstar Meetings Group, stressed that readers have been particularly hungry for the latest details on where groups can meet and what size gatherings are allowed both domestically and internationally. The larger effects the pandemic is having on the hospitality industry as driving audience interest, as well, she said. 

"The economic impact on hotels is something we update continually as well as the hotel protocols — what hotel companies are doing to keep their guests safe," said Edelstein. "People also want case studies — who's meeting and how they're doing it." 

Guidance on how to manage the financial challenges of the pandemic has also been in-demand, according to James Lancaster, editor of Association Meetings International, based in the U.K. This is particularly true of smaller organizations and associations that might only plan a few major events during the year but have lost a year's worth of meetings; they have been particularly interested in strategy articles that provide guidance on how to monetize virtual and hybrid events or develop sponsorships.

"What people want right now is advice — how do we get through the next six, 12 months?" said Lancaster. "At the moment in the U.K., you can organize events of up to 30 people, including staff. People want to know how they can do that effectively."

Arena said that in Asia, she has begun to hear "real talk around travel bubbles" with the recent debut of the Trans-Tasman bubble between New Zealand and Australia, allowing citizens of the two countries to travel back and fort; and now that talks between Singapore and Hong Kong are in the works to follow suit.

The panelists also discussed how the shift to digital events has in some ways expanded the reach of the content being produced — but also raised the expectations from audience members in terms of the quality and relevance of information being delivered.

"For digital, it's shorter, and it needs to be more engaging because people are checking their email or getting a snack," said Edelstein, who also plans content for many of Northstar's events. "As a viewer, I don't want something emotional, I want to know how to do my job better or serve my audience and organization better. I want real, practical information, and that's what resonates with our audiences."

This full session can be viewed on-demand here.