In the Midst of a Recovery?

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In the Midst of a Recovery?

By Michael Pinchera | Nov 2, 2020

Last quarter saw the most negative business projections in the history of the Meetings Outlook survey. The saving grace then was hope, optimism and the knowledge that meeting professionals excel at thinking on their feet.

The latest survey results, however, actually show a sizable shift in business projections over the next year, suggesting a perception, at least, that the industry has or will soon be turning a corner (albeit, with some major medical developments necessary before business can truly take off again). More than 58 percent of respondents expect favorable business conditions over the next year, with 34 percent anticipating a negative landscape. Compare that to the results from last quarter’s survey (36 percent favorable, 59 percent negative) and we clearly see a polar shift.

“I believe that 2021 will start out pretty much virtual with some hybrid events. Hopefully a vaccine will be tested and widely distributed by the end of 2020 or early next year,” says Timothy Neill (MPI Oregon Chapter), sales manager, AV Rental Services. “Even when this happens, there will be reluctance to resume meeting in person, especially in large groups. Based on this, I believe all of 2021 will be hybrid, with the ratio of in-person versus virtual attendees slowly transitioning to more in-person.”

“It will be better than 2020, but nowhere close to returning to pre-pandemic levels,” Neill believes.

In fact, the majority of respondents (65 percent) believe business won’t return to pre-coronavirus levels until 2022 or 2023.

Virtual is Here to Stay

While it’s certain that live, face-to-face events will come back, 63 percent of respondents are concerned that the proliferation of virtual/hybrid events during the pandemic will permanently affect the desire for face-to-face gatherings in the future. Some respondents even commented that face-to-face meetings/events will never return to pre-COVID levels.

“Hybrid meetings are here to stay and will be a major portion of all events moving forward,” Neill says. “The pandemic has irreversibly changed how meetings will look. Despite the early fears that virtual events would supplant in person events, it never happened. Now with the measures we needed to take to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the virtual element has become an integral part of our events. When in-person events open up to more attendees, there will still be a large portion of attendees who will prefer to attend virtually, whether from fear of contracting a virus, security fears, travel constraints or time commitments. Hybrid and virtual have been slowly increasing their share of the market for years. The pandemic has greatly increased that share and I don’t foresee it ever returning to pre-COVID levels.”

The data suggesting a fuller return to live, face-to-face events is reinforced in the survey’s attendance projections, even though respondents overwhelmingly report that virtual technology options are indeed here to stay and will be leveraged in place of some events that, pre-pandemic, would have been in-person.

Live attendance projections are creeping back up from an all-time low, as 27 percent of respondents now envision favorable in-person numbers next year (last quarter, only 11 percent said the same). At the same time, projected virtual attendance remains incredibly strong, with 83 percent of respondents expecting favorable remote numbers over the next year.

Hear from more meeting professionals and explore even more data in the complete fall 2020 Meetings Outlook report.



Michael Pinchera

Michael Pinchera is an award-winning writer and editor for The Meeting Professional as well as a speaker, technologist and contributor to business, academic and pop culture publications since 1997. Read more of his work at