Facts & Figures
2020 was an extremely challenging year, but one that nonetheless brought many opportunities. Every business, every organisation or federation - in fact, every single one of us - had to adapt to the changed situation in record time. For many organisations, this meant they had to switch from live meetings to online meetings. But, what is on the horizon for 2021?
Now increasing numbers of people around the world are getting the COVID-19 vaccination, we can finally start thinking about allowing live meetings and events to go ahead. However, as working from home has become the new normal, online meetings and events have become more and more established as part of our working lives. Where previously online and live streaming had less priority, of necessity these have become the norm over the past year.
Meetings & Events 2019 compared to 2020
This was also borne out by our internal figures. In 2020, we organised and coordinated no less than 690 online meetings.
This is a massive increase compared to 2019. It comes as no surprise that the number of live meetings fell as a consequence of the pandemic.
Q1 Meetings & Events 2019 - 2020 - 2021
When we compare the quarterly figures for the past three years, it is clear that in 2019 we mostly organised and coordinated live meetings. During this period, only 6.6% of all meetings were held online.
This trend was still apparent in 2020 (Q1), although the first effects of COVID-19 could be felt: the number of live meetings increased slightly and the number of online meetings started to creep up.
When we look at 2021, we can see there has been a clear switch from live to online meetings. Whereas in 2019 we held mostly live meetings, in 2021 most meetings took place online.
Apart from this switch, we can see that more meetings were held in general. Meetings were smaller and shorter, but it is clear there was more communication between the stakeholders. Because the situation was so uncertain last year, companies tended to postpone or cancel their meetings. Our clients are fully aware that this does not represent a solution. Businesses need to keep communicating, even more so in a crisis.
What happened with EWC meetings?
When we specifically consider our EWC clients, we can see that 95.45% of our clients held their EWC events online in 2020. It was brought home once again that online alternatives offer new opportunities, including for EWCs.
What happened with interpreting in meetings?
We provided interpreting for the majority of our meetings in 2021. Interpreting for one to three languages was needed for at least 57% of our meetings. The next biggest category was meetings with four to five languages. 14% of the meetings needed interpreters in more than six languages. There were also a few meetings with no interpreting on the programme (6%).
How do we see the future?
Everyone gets that meeting online provides an alternative to enable us stay in communication and in contact with one another. But, given that we have been doing this for more than a year now, we are starting to see a degree of “Zoom fatigue” set in. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 300 million people have been using Zoom, Teams, VoiceBoxer, Kudo and other virtual platforms. Moreover, we are spending 30% more time in online meetings and that is undoubtedly having an impact on our mental health.
Therefore, we cannot underestimate the importance of face-to-face communication. For this reason, we believe a new switch is in the pipeline, this time from online to hybrid meetings (a combination of online and live meetings). Depending on the COVID-19 restrictions in their country, some employees will be in a position to travel and some will be able to follow the meeting or event from home.
How do our clients see the future?
We carried out a survey among our clients at the end of last year to ask how they see the future of their own meetings and events. The responses showed that the majority of our clients (69.9%) will now include online meetings in the mix for their new communication strategy.
Around 61% even indicated that they would switch to hybrid meetings after the pandemic. Only 17.7% said they would focus exclusively on online meetings.
If we go back to our EWC clients, we can see that here too the majority (65%) say they want to hold their EWC online or in a hybrid form. 35% would prefer the online alternatives for smaller meetings, such as their Select Committee meetings.
The future of the meetings and events sector
By Peter Van Den Steene (CEO of Presence and Paradigma)
Everyone is anticipating that face-to-face meetings and events will resume as soon as the COVID crisis is over. There can be no doubt many organisations will want to get the best of both worlds and organise what are being called hybrid meetings or events.
With this solution, some of the participants will be in the room and some of the audience will follow the whole meeting on a screen - from wherever they are in the world. This will undoubtedly ensure that an even wider audience can be reached, while substantially reducing costs.
But, my feeling is that we can expect to see more movement in this fascinating market. Online technologies have radically changed the meetings and events landscape and we will only start to see the effects of this in several months' time or later.
The real challenge for meeting planners in 2021, and even more so in 2022 and beyond, will not only be combining online and face-to-face solutions for the sake of a wider reach and cost/time savings, but bringing together both worlds as fully-fledged, complementary solutions.
We need to grasp the extent to which the COVID crisis has changed our view of human interaction - between people and within organisations - and how effective it is. We can be sure people will continue to communicate face-to-face. We are social beings and that is not going to change any time soon.
However, online solutions will continue to be used for shorter meetings in future. People will weigh up the time and effort involved as well as the financial investment when deciding whether to hold a meeting live. As you can imagine, the many options on offer will allow clients to make even more targeted choices.
Imagine if you will that you can analyse everything that happened during your event and you can draw conclusions to keep improving future meetings as well as to optimise your budget.
- What did the participants think about your product, speaker or presentation?
- Which participants had which interests?
- Which workshops were most to people's taste?
- And, while we're on taste: what did your audience think of your catering? The coffee?
- Who listened in which language? Do you still need an interpreter for languages in which few if any people listened?
You've got it: technology is here to stay.
The next revolution is already upon us: this revolution is green and based on more automation and more virtuality.
- The green wave
These 'green events' are the future, because your audience and your customers are seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. And, what better way of doing this than by attending a session online?
This process of growing awareness will only build in strength in the future.
And, just imagine the other gains you are likely to accrue through a reduced need for technical crew, catering, interpreters, etc. during your meeting or event.
- Automation and virtuality
Time is money as the Americans say and so meeting planners in the future will demand that everything runs as quickly and efficiently as possible.
All questions need to be answered as promptly as possible and everything participants need should be no more than one click away.
The winners will be those who take as much of the work as possible out of the hands of their customers and who are able to offer a seamless experience. Customers are not interested in how every minor detail works, as long as it does work.
Finally, the future will become even more virtual, even to the extent that the boundary between the real and the virtual will blur. There are numerous experiments underway to allow participants to meet both online and face-to-face.
This has everything to do with virtual reality. You “meet” the other person in “reality” without ever leaving your office. Is this online? Is it face-to-face? It is both and neither.
Don't be so sure! Big companies and organisations have been organising all sorts of events in “second life”.
You can find out more here: https://www.connect.secondlife.com/.
So, the future still has many surprises in store for meeting planners, along with plenty of challenges.
And, from all this, I am left with the pressing question: what is it that is most important about human interaction?
Maybe more than we can imagine… or less? Or, something different entirely?
Case study: Total
For one of our clients in the Petrochemical industry, Total, we provided interpretation, AV-equipment and project management services for over 70 live meetings in 10 different cities in 2019.
Due to COVID-19, Total was forced to cancel scheduled live meetings because of travel bans and health & safety restrictions. Unfortunately, cancelling meetings would have been disastrous for them. So they came to us, looking for advice on how they could keep their communication going.
We set up a series of 18 multilingual online meetings to keep continuing negotiations in up to 6 languages. In this setting every participant was following the meeting from their home via laptop or tablet.
Going forward, depending on the restrictions, they will keep meeting online if needed. Their annual EWC assembly took place earlier this year as a hybrid event. This allowed them to plan the meeting as being live (with the benefits of a live meeting, especially the human contact and networking), but had a backup plan for the participants who would not be allowed to travel.
We used both our technical equipment and the equipment installed to optimize budgets. A series of tests (beforehand), together with their IT department, were conducted and successful, to ensure a trouble-free experience.
"Live, online and hybrid meeting solutions offered by Presence, with simultaneous interpreting into 6 languages have given us the agility we need in the context of the ever-changing travel restrictions imposed by the coronavirus crisis. The flexibility of the responsive and helpful team at Presence in making a rapid shift from one solution to another contributed to the success of our meetings."
Julie Decorse, Total SE