People organize large-scale meetings for a variety of purposes, such as fan conventions or scholarly conferences. In any case, they need the expertise to manage massive numbers of guests and provide them with meaningful content. The event planning industry exists for this purpose, using the insights of optimal meeting design and established business connections to arrange the proceedings cost-effectively. Before COVID-19, it was growing steadily, but with the advent of the pandemic, lockdown rules were implemented that effectively outlawed the industry. With that said, once the problem passes, people are likely to want to meet in person again, renewing and potentially increasing demand. As such, anyone who intends to enter the industry should study it in detail and understand its drivers.
The overall meetings industry is enormous, as it needs to comprehensively accommodate a large number of needs and a substantial volume of orders. Littlefield (n.d.) claims that, in 2016, 1.9 million meetings happened across the United States, incurring $325 billion of direct spending and supporting 2.5 million industry jobs along with 3.4 million indirect and induced ones. Of these, 144,577 people were employed at 141,307 event planning businesses as of early 2020 (IBISWorld, 2020). As such, it can be assumed that most event planners work alone, with some possibly taking on assistants. Instead of providing the necessary services themselves, they contract other companies and serve as the center of the relationship network.
Prior to 2020, the industry grew rapidly, likely as a result of the overall economic growth of the nation. With that said, Littlefield (n.d.) claims that event planning job growth outpaced the average across the United States by 4% at 11%, possibly as a result of companies realizing that face-to-face meetings were more productive and assigning higher budgets for events. IBISWorld (2020) claims that this trend of rapid growth would result in stagnation, starting with 2020, as growth in key predictors decelerated. However, all of these predictions were upset by COVID-19, which had dramatic effects on meetings and the consequences of which are still challenging to evaluate fully.
Before the advent of the pandemic, the event planning industry saw some substantial changes as a result of technological and social developments. Social Tables (n.d.) highlights trends such as a demand for versatility, diversity, mindfulness, personalization, and sustainability. People are demanding events where they can be more productive without necessarily devoting all of their time to work. They also want to integrate new life-changing developments, such as heavy dependence on smartphones and individualized suggestions. Some steps have already been taken in this direction, and the hiatus during the pandemic offers event planners a chance to consider potential new options in-depth. Having considered new ideas thoroughly, they can propose innovative, feature-rich solutions and test them in practice while adjusting to new realities.
Overall, while the short-term outlook for the meetings industry is troubled, its medium- and long-term growth look promising. People are likely tired of having to stay home and communicate via tools such as Zoom with their associated problems. As such, as soon as meetings are permitted again, demand for them is likely to skyrocket. With that said, the industry may not be able to meet this need, with many businesses that depended on it likely closed or severely downscaled. To fully capitalize on the opportunities before them, event planners need to prepare in advance and establish connections with various venues and services. In doing so, they may be able to eventually exceed the industry’s previous high point as it evolves to adapt to new needs and incorporate fresh trends.
IBISWorld. (2020). Party & event planners industry in the US – market research report. Web.
Littlefield, A. (n.d.). 12 eye-opening statistics about the meeting and events industry. Web.
Social Tables. (n.d.). 5 future event planning industry trends you need to know about. Web.