The immediate impact of COVID-19 has been dramatic for the meetings and events industry. However, a new international survey of 500 senior B2B marketers conducted by Space Global Strategy, a London-based strategy and M&A advisory firm, shows there is light at the end of the tunnel.
While B2B events spend in Q2 2020 was down 80 percent year over year, most marketers expect initial re-engagement with events to be feasible within the next three to four months (albeit with restrictions), according to survey results. Marketers from China and Italy were most optimistic about a quick re-opening, while those from North American, the U.K. and Russia anticipate a later re-start.
B2B marketers will remain cautious during initial recovery. While eager to return to events, they report they will do so at their own pace; event spend is still expected to be down by around 50 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Once the COVID-19 crisis has been overcome, B2B marketers surveyed say they expect a surge in spend on B2B events—including an expected 8 percent budget increase versus pre-crisis levels. A heightened need for face-to-face interactions to drive economic recovery will also contribute to events forming a higher share of pre-crisis budgets, according to survey respondents. When will this “return to normal” come to fruition? Around February/March 2021 and beyond, depending on availability of a vaccine, they report.
Re-starting events does not come without great effort, however. B2B marketers surveyed say that to begin live events again this fall, many precautions must be taken. Participant safety is paramount, and large companies are especially likely to call for as many protections as possible—even at the expense of foot traffic on expo floors.
In addition, B2B marketers surveyed are calling for a refinement of event value propositions. Organizers should expect heightened interest in matchmaking services and more regional events, the survey reports.
“B2B event organizers face a challenging road to recovery, but face-to-face interactions will remain business-critical,” said Christoph Schedl, Managing Director of Space Global Strategy. “Concerns around safety and logistics will cause short-term hesitancy around initial re-openings, but the underlying need for live interactions remains strong. Sustained absence of events has left B2B marketers itching to move out of the Zoom lobby and back onto the [event] floor.”
To download a full copy of the survey results, go here.