After two years of cancellations, postponements, and numerous challenges when it comes to hosting and attending live events, many of us are keen to get back into “business as usual”. But although associations are planning to resume live member events in 2022, the general feeling amongst association leaders about planning events and conferences for next year is “steady as it goes.”
Until there is certainty around borders being open and freedom of movement, and there is a sense that the threat of cancellation or quarantine has dissipated, attendee numbers are expected to remain low. Venues are keen to return to some form of normality, with venue managers working with association leaders and event managers to secure the best dates and review risk management protocols. But organisers of large-scale events will need to think carefully about the best way to plan and manage their events in these circumstances.
Additionally, there are some other issues affecting events in 2022. Here are some of the critical concerns amongst association leaders that AES has identified in recent surveys.
Many state borders have now reopened or are on the cusp of reopening. Queensland has recently pushed their reopening forward for fully vaccinated travellers, and states such as Tasmania and South Australia will also open up in the coming weeks. Western Australia is expected to open borders sometime in early 2022.
However, the situation is volatile. Outbreaks of COVID-19 have caused snap lockdowns and border closures before, and doubtless this will continue to be a reality for months to come. Although vaccination rates are keeping the threat of lockdowns at bay, the risks of arranging a large event are too great for many associations. Until all state and international border restrictions to travel have been removed, we are unlikely to see the big conferences and similar events of previous years.
The event industry has been decimated in the past eighteen months, and many skilled and qualified event management staff have left the industry. Additionally, many associations have shed their event staff to reduce costs. The cumulative effect of this is that organising and running an event is far more difficult than it was before.
Associations are largely seeking to replace their event management skills base, but this process will take time.
In some positive news, association leaders who responded to our surveys reported that regular sponsors are still willing to sponsor face to face events in 2022. However, and understandably given the economic climate of recent times, sponsors are not committing to increasing funding.
Sponsors are an important element of any major event, with contributions from sponsors often allowing for the venue hire, conference set up, refreshments and more. It is vital that association leaders work closely with these valued sponsors to work out appropriate funding that works for the sponsor and can still facilitate an event.
One of the greatest obstacles on the road to normal events for associations is the cost of event insurance. This has always been a regular expense item for associations planning their conference, which need to be covered in the case of any accident, injury or otherwise. However, since COVID-19, insurance premiums for conference events have nearly doubled in some cases, depending on the location and risk. These costs may make an event unsustainable or financially impossible for many organisations. Additionally, David Federici from Focus Insurance has indicated that insurance premiums will increase in the future regardless of external factors.
Although the possibility of hosting and attending the large-scale events of pre-2020 feels unlikely in the coming months, there is a silver lining. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have become adept at virtual and hybrid events, and these sorts of online gatherings will continue to be a popular alternative going into 2022.
Our association leaders have also let us know that they plan to host far smaller meetings of members face to face in 2022. These smaller events have the benefit of allowing people to ease back into networking and socialising, while minimising the risk of virus spread and the losses associated with lockdowns and border closures.
We hope that by April 2022, we will have some certainty about the future of business events for the remainder of the year. Until then, we have no doubt that our resilient group of associations will continue to provide value to their membership base.
Let us know what your plans are for face-to-face meetings with clients or members in 2022.
If you need to discuss the planning of your conference or event for 2022 and beyond, call our events team on 03 8393 9382.
With over 30 years of management expertise, Executive Director and Founder of AES, Nick Koerbin is one of the most experienced NFP leaders in Australia. He has held positions as the CEO of Materials Australia, theNational Parts Code, as well as senior positions in the Institute of Insurance, Australian Quality Council, the Financial Planning Association, the Australian Human Resources Institute, and the Furniture Industry Association of Australia. Nick created AES with a vision of creating a set of management practices that could be consistently followed to ensure success. Over his 30 years in the industry, he noticed that inconsistent management practices often impeded delivery of services to members, which in turn created issues with membership renewal. By establishing AES and creating the NFP Association Best Practice Self-Assessment, Nick has been able to assist leaders in becoming more confident and informed decision makers so that they can create more effective strategies and implementation plans.
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