Since the start of COVID-19, thousands of events have been postponed, cancelled or pivoted to virtual platforms. While the vaccine has allowed many businesses to resume events and meetings as usual, new variant waves have continued to stall the return to face-to-face encounters. So, what does all of this mean for the future of in-person meetings?

In early December 2021, Encore surveyed a number of meeting and event planners to gain insight into what trends they are seeing and what they predict for meetings going forward. Keep reading to learn more or check out Encore Global’s Winter 2021-2 Planner Pulse Report.

More planners are requiring vaccinations

Many organizations across the country, including the event planning industry, have implemented new protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help attendees feel comfortable attending in-person events. Last fall, event professionals noted that reduced interest for in-person gatherings was due to a perceived lack of safety precautions. From requiring masks to creating socially distant floorplans, event planners are taking additional measures to promote a healthy environment and build confidence about meeting in-person.

According to our survey, 48 percent of planning organizations now require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to attend in-person events. Meeting professionals have opted for enhanced protocols to create both a safer meeting environment and more peace of mind for attendees.

Planners continue to use hybrid platforms

It’s no secret that the rising number of COVID cases and the presence of the Omicron variant have led to some hesitancy to attend public events. That is why hybrid events have been one of the leading meeting formats over the past 18+ months.

Our survey indicated that 49 percent of meeting planners have executed hybrid events during the last six months—a 4 percent increase over the number of hybrid events conducted since conducting our survey in fall 2021. While the goal is to get more attendees to participate in-person, planners are starting to make virtual meeting components a permanent option.

Planners anticipate higher spending in 2022

One of biggest ways the pandemic has impacted the events industry is by how many resources businesses and organizations are willing to invest in their meetings and events. Thankfully, there is a lot of optimism going into 2022. According to our latest Planner Pulse survey, 11 percent of event professionals indicated that their meeting spend has already recovered to pre-COVID 2019 levels, while another 46 percent are expecting to do so this year.

Planners predict an increase of in-person events

While virtual events have taken the industry by storm since early in the pandemic, many attendees are eager to get back to face-to-face gatherings. As previously mentioned, the vaccine is allowing for in-person events to make a comeback…slowly. While there is no specific timeline on how quickly in-person meetings will start to be a more regular occurrence, meeting planners are confident that we will see a steady rise in the second quarter of 2022. Event professionals are suggesting to other planners that they use this time to learn how they can leverage some of the best practices from their virtual and hybrid events.

Meeting planners are optimistic that the number of in-person gatherings will continue to increase throughout 2022—stateside and worldwide. Encore not only has the solutions you need to present your events through virtual and hybrid formats but is also dedicated to promoting how in-person meetings can happen safely. 


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