GBTA: How the Pandemic Will Change the Meetings and Events Industry for the Better

For this week’s Collaboratory 2020 webinar series, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) welcomed CEO and founder of Cvent, Reggie Aggarwal, to share his insights on the future of meetings and events and how technology will play an even bigger role moving forward. In the week’s headliner webinar, “Virtual, In-Person, Hybrid: What's Next for the Meetings Industry?,” GBTA interim executive director Dave Hilfman spoke with Aggarwal on diverse topics related to the meetings and events industry, leading to several key takeaways. These included:

More Arrows in the Quiver

The necessary shift to all-virtual meetings over the past eight months will create benefits for the industry in the mid- and long-term. The positives of virtual meetingsincreased attendance, cost and time savingshave allowed more participants to engage in meetings and events they might not have before.

“Meeting and event programs will be more powerful now with companies having not just one arrow in their quiverin person eventsbut three, with the addition of virtual and hybrid meeting capabilities that allow companies to grow their audience, ushering in what we call the golden age of events,” said Aggarwal. “Virtual event capabilities have also allowed companies to keep their meetings and events staff on board, which puts the organizations in a stronger position to hit the ground running when in-person meetings ramp up again.”

Accelerated Technology and Innovations

Technology has rapidly accelerated and opened the door to exciting innovations for the industry. Video conferencing technology has been around for 10 to 15 years but, according to Aggarwal, “growth that would normally take five to seven years has happened in the first 30 to 60 days of this pandemic, and will continue.”

Aggarwal cited Cvent’s new Virtual Attendee Hub, it’s all-in-one virtual meetings solution, as an example of a rapid technology pivot. “Just like with in-person events, meeting planners need to be able to measure the success of their virtual events, and this new platform makes it simple to assess 25 different engagement actions in virtual formats specifically, giving event hosts deep insight into buyer interests and preferences—thus helping to strengthen their total meeting and event program and resulting in higher ROI.”

A Positive Outlook for 2021

Early indicators show a positive outlook for meetings and events in 2021. From their insider perspective of working with hundreds of thousands of meeting and event programs around the world, Cvent is starting to see bookings for later in 2021, including their own customer conference which is planned for the third quarter of next year. “We know that attendee engagement levels are much higher for in-person events than for virtual, but I project that companies will take a hybrid approacha combination of the in-person and virtual experienceto secure that high level of engagement while also being able to reach new attendees who may not be able, or feel comfortable, to attend in person,” said Aggarwal.

He added: “The meetings and events industry will not only survive, but find ways to thrive, coming out of this pandemic. People have been missing the texture of life, a big part of which is seeing customers and coworkers in person and will never again underestimate the power of the human connection. I would never bet against the determination and perseverance of those who work in meetings, events, travel or hospitality, and with the latest news on the progress being made on a vaccine, our industry is poised for a truly great resurgence in the months and years ahead.”

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