Attendance growth at all-time highs, challenges remain

Authored by

Elaine Pofeldt

There’s no doubt people want to get together but finding ways to make them happy at a reasonable cost seems to be the challenge of the day.

Shauna Arnott is seeing a new hunger for in-person meetings among the venture capital and financial services clients she serves at her Toronto-area firm Mobi Events. And many of the attendees are just as eager to have fun and make friends as they are to do business. 

“I’m finding people to be a lot more humanistic in how they approach meetings and events,” she says. “They’re looking for events that have more entertainment value or maybe there is more of a motivation of spirit, as opposed to just education, learning, growth and networking—all of those traditional things. I’m spending more money on interactive activities, entertainment and music.” 

Arnott is among many in the meeting and event industry who are finding business coming back into line with the pre-pandemic norm as attendees act on their hunger to reconnect. In the spring 2023 Meetings Outlook report, from Meeting Professionals Internationals (MPI), 38% of respondents say their business is already back to pre-pandemic levels and an additional 27% anticipate that return will happen at some point during 2023. If those percentages hold steady, 65% of meeting professionals will find their businesses back to pre-pandemic business levels by the end of the year.

“What I believe the pandemic, along with the past three years, has reinforced to us as people and industry peers is that in-person meetings are essential to all points where collaboration and grown intersect,” John Kirby, national sales manager, Encore Global, said in his survey comments. “There is just something about the feeling of seeing people face-to-face.”

Most respondents (81%) expect favorable overall business conditions over the next year. This is down a bit compared to pandemic highs, which peaked at more than 90%, but it’s clear the industry is strong and experiencing great demand. One factor that has been slowing the recovery—the labor shortage—seems to be less acute, with 52% of respondents encountering hiring challenges, down 6% since winter and 10% since last fall. 

With many organizers and potential attendees looking to meet in person again, the industry is jumping on the opportunity, according to the latest Meetings Outlook survey. Eighty-three percent of respondents made favorable projections for live attendance in the next year—with the percentage at 80% or more for the fifth consecutive quarter. In fact, 43% expect an increase of more than 10%, while another 31% expected a 6%-10% increase. 

Written by

SITE Staff


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