By Shannon Byck and Joe Nishi
Back in November 2020, we blogged about the impact COVID was having on people employed in the face-to-face business events industry. The financial impact was devastating for many and organizations like ours immediately took a “safe harbour” approach with their teams and business models. Even still, we lost many talented people in our industry. The strain on mental health as we restructured and re-imagined our value was and continues to be a huge challenge.
During the depths of COVID, we were in a constant state of uncertainty and with no playbook to follow. We found ourselves relying on our experience and industry relationships and ultimately, we adapted and learned together. Our lack of focus on our well-being was evident and burnout was and is still something that we do not talk enough about. For those that left or were forced to leave the industry either temporarily or permanently, were fortunate to find opportunities that provided new skills and experiences that for most, would not have had the opportunity to do so had it not been for COVID.
Bottom line, we cannot help but reflect on the past three years and think of words such as resiliency, agility, balance and well being.
With that in mind, we find ourselves asking the following questions:
- “Did we do the best we could for our clients, our team and ourselves?”
- “What could we have done differently” and
- “What did we learn?”
Two years ago, our team provided their thoughts on what they had learned so far and their answers are even more relevant now than they were back then:
- Technology is highly advanced today but will never replace the emotions and connections of face-to-face meetings.
- Appreciate your friends, family, neighbours more than ever.
- Be thankful with how fortunate I am in so many ways despite the less than ideal circumstances.
- Your parents were right….it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to save for a rainy day.
- Exercise and the outdoors are the best Rx!
- Control what you can control and let the rest go.
- Taking one day at a time and learning to focus on the present, realizing even the smallest win in a day should be celebrated.
- I’ve learned to embrace the wrinkles and gray hairs and see growing old as a gift not everyone gets to experience.
To quote Bill Gates, “Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react and reinvent.” COVID certainly made us have to do this, whether we wanted to or not.
So, where do we go from here and what can we expect in 2023? Certainly, everyone’s expectations need to continue to be kept in check as our meetings industry continues to evolve. Year over year, pricing increases in all aspects of the industry (and not just rooms rates but F&B, AV, labour, transportation, travel, just to name a few) are going to continue to increase; in some cases, in double digit percentages over 2022. Systemic change has occurred in our industry and our experience shows us very quickly, that return of investment needs to change to the return of experience.
Meeting venues were already challenged with availability over key dates due to re-bookings from the last two years and will continue to see new requests. Demand for space has far outstripped supply in many of the major markets in Canada in 2023 and 2024 and we are seeing meeting space being offered to the first group that will sign the contract first and dare we say, maybe that is for the best.
So how can we collectively work through these challenges and what can you do to better prepare your decision makers before you get the proposal from the venue for your next meeting?
Set Your Priorities – Be very clear on what the “GOALS” of the event are and the “WHY”. That will help you truly understanding the criteria for the meeting in terms of location, type of venue, your numbers, budget etc.
Have Multiple Options – While it is more difficult to hold space tentatively especially for longer than a few weeks especially in 2023, there are locations and regions that may not be your traditional meeting location but can do an outstanding job. Consider tier 2 or 3 cities, as many still have availability, economical pricing and will roll out the red carpet for you and your group. Cities such as Edmonton, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Victoria, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Quebec City, and Halifax are a few key cities we love to talk about.
Have Realistic Contract Expectations – Back in February of this year we wrote about contract inclusions due to COVID and while these are still very important, properties are becoming less and less willing to work these into future meetings. It is not uncommon for every hotel brand to have its own version of a Force Majeure clause that mentions pandemic or epidemic so ask for it! Deposit clause, attrition percentages, cut-off dates, cancellation clauses are all becoming more and more challenging to negotiate. Ensure you give yourself plenty of time to work through these with your hotel sales manager or your venue sourcing professional.
It is going to be another year full of challenges, adversity and flexibility and patience will be tested every step of the way. Luckily, we have many new industry professionals entering the workforce that are bringing a new energy and perspective. The past few years have been challenging and we are stronger because of it and we could not be more excited for the future and resiliency of the business events industry than we are today.
Shannon Byck and Joe Nishi are with Meeting Encore Ltd., which recently celebrated its 32nd year of assisting clients with their strategic sourcing needs. Meeting Encore’s team of industry professionals can be reached at 905-403-9646 or via their website at www.meetingencore.com.