A new Planner Pulse survey from Encore finds booking and sourcing new events at a post-pandemic high. However, it also found that lead times and cost increases continue to be a challenge.
The latest Planner Pulse survey from AV and virtual/hybrid platform provider Encore finds that booking and sourcing is on the rise — and likely to continue to soar for at least the near future. But along with that good news, it also found that budgeting will continue to be difficult for both corporate and association meeting and event professionals.
In early June, Encore surveyed 750 planners, half of whom worked for either a corporation (26%) or association (25%), with the remainder made up of third-parties, marketing professionals, admins and others who plan meetings and events.
First the good news: More respondents said they were actively booking or sourcing new events than had been the case since the COVID-19 pandemic first began in 2020. The number of respondents who were focused on rescheduling or rebooking — something all too common in the early days of the pandemic — also are at the lowest percentage we’ve seen over the past two years. Fifty-five percent were booking new events, while 16% said they were actively sourcing new events with RFPs. Another 16% were researching new events but not quite at the RFP stage yet.
In-person event planning has jumped forward even compared to Encore’s spring 2022 survey, with four out of five respondents saying they expected to have an in-person audience, compared to just a fifth who were planning hybrid events. And the in-person event planning continues to gain steam, with 56% saying they had live events on the books for Q3 this year, 59% saying the same for Q4, and 60% expecting to kick off the new year with an in-person event.
However, while lead times for small and medium-sized meetings are improving, only half of large events are being planned at least six months out, compared to 27% of medium-sized events, and just 9% for small events of 50 people or fewer. Just over a third of those who plan events for 250 or more attendees said they had just three to six months of lead time, while 12% are scurrying to get it all done in less than two months, and 4% within three weeks of their event.
Supply-chain challenges and inflation also are a key concern still, causing budgets to expand to accommodate increasing costs. Food and beverage was one of the top budget-inflation categories, with 58% saying they were spending more on F&B for their events than they used to. Air and ground transportation was an even bigger budgetary issue, said 59%. Hotel room rates were another top budget-inflator for almost half of respondents, while a similar percentage said they were expanding their AV and event technology budgets nowadays.
But perhaps that increase in spending will be worth it in the long run. Looking toward the future, 45% of planners said they anticipated their future events will better engage participants, while 38% said they planned to provide more networking opportunities. Also on the rise for the future: More attendee personalization, smaller in-person audiences, more advanced content delivery and larger remote audiences.
And even with in-person events on the rise, hybrid is not going away any time soon. The percentage of planners expecting to include a virtual element to their events from Q3 2022 through Q1 2023 held steady at 22%, while those planning purely online events declined slightly from 22% in Q3 this year to 18% in Q1 2023. As is the case with in-person meetings, the big challenges — and opportunities — in hybrid events are effectively engaging remote and in-person audiences, as well as reining in the extra technology costs involved in engaging those online attendees.