Peter Heath, founder, Venue Performance, looks at what the events business has learned and what the future holds
“We've all had an absolute shocker during the pandemic, but we have come together, we have supported each other and we have realised that we can right the wrongs and do things better.
“We found that when we went to government as an industry to ask for help, there was very little coming our way and, in part, that was due to lack of proof. If you go to your boss wanting a pay rise they will want to see proof of your achievements.
“The government ignored us because we didn't know what was going on in our own industry and we suffered for it. But as a result, our sector has woken up to data and so now, if anybody should ask a question, whether it's a boss, or whether it's a government minister, then we can go back to a data source that is accurate and robust.
“So what is the data telling us? It’s telling us to stop looking at 2019, because that’s gone, it’s history; the world has changed, prices have changed, everything's changed. So if you're writing your budget based on 2019, that’s possibly not the best strategy you should write your budget based on what you need to achieve in 2022 and beyond.
“This year, the analogy I like to give is of someone walking through a desert. Think about the heat and the sun and how, after two days without water, you suddenly come across a big pond. It’s not a mirage, it’s real water. And you're going to drink disproportionately from that pond.
“Now in 2023, when you think about that pond when the water is flowing, when you’ve travelled with your bottle full, you're probably not going to drink as much water because you didn't need replenishing. And that’s what we expect to see with events and this year the pent up demand is going to lead to unprecedented levels.
“In 2019, the average size of events was 59 people, in 2022 it's 81. That's a 37% increase. The average price is 2019 was £80 per head, in 2022 it’s £109 per head, so a 36% increase. What those numbers show is that the world wants to meet again, we all want to meet again, we all want to do bigger and better than ever before. If you haven't had a party for years, when you do have a party, you're going to make it a good one. It's like we haven't met for years. Let's go crazy and even with all the increases in costs and the other issues, companies will prioritise events.
“Conversely, this will probably mean the severe dampening of the sector’s need (and desire) for virtual events. They are so depressingly ineffective and morale sapping (not to mention the cost), that they will be dropped like a hot stone. If we look at data for the number of events that have virtual that confirmed for 2022, they are dropping off a cliff early in the year.
“It won’t disappear completely, because it has merits when you are operating internationally, but those big conferences will not be replaced by virtual events. Apple’s latest product launch will be streamed, but not the networking and there will still be masses of people in the room. Everyone wants THAT invite.
“This year let’s enjoy that pent-up demand. In all likelihood 2023 will be a slower year, but if history has told us anything, let's not look too far ahead. Let’s drink from that pond today.”