Meeting organisers have more on their plate as attendees seek hybrid events and purposeful travel

Although the lifting of travel restrictions has seen a rise in European and US association in-person meetings in 2022, the way these conferences are held has changed, as trends point towards the need for more purposeful conferences, and the continuity of hybrid events.

This was shared by Mathias Posch, president & chairman of International Conference Services, at the Meetings After Covid – How Conferences Have Changed And What’s In Store For The Future conference, at IT&CM Asia last month.

Mathias Posch speaking at the Meetings After Covid – How Conferences Have Changed event at IT&CM Asia

“With live conferences back, people want to attend live conferences, while attendance for virtual conferences is decreasing,” he stated.

However, the higher cost of travel, as well as prevalent travel restrictions in China and certain destinations up until recently, has impacted the number of attendees travelling overseas for international conferences.

“China is a huge market that we are missing this year,” Posch lamented.

One trend he noticed was that hybrid meetings will stay, although they may become more complex.

This is because that is no “single hybrid solution”. For instance, presentations can be done live, and recorded for those not at the session. There are also livestreams, where the audience and conference are in two different locations, but this is more “complex and expensive”.

This preference stems from two years of working from home, which has affected the meeting model.

“People are used to getting content online. The expectation, to whatever is presented live will also be made available online, is probably even higher,” he elaborated.

Quoting a 2019 medical conference survey, Posch said that 80 per cent of the respondents expected content to be posted online after the meeting.

Given this observation, Posch encouraged organisers to ensure conferences are more purposeful so that people would be more inclined to attend.

Aside from the content, Posch suggested adding components such as organising tours related to the delegate’s field of expertise, like providing earthquake scientists with an opportunity to visit ground zero; or arranging for speakers to give community talks, such as a health specialist giving a lecture at a hospital.

Posch also suggested that event organisers provide lounges and breakout areas for specific kinds of interests where delegates can mingle with like-minded counterparts, as opposed to mingling at a welcome party.

Moving forward into 2023, Posch predicted that the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, shortage in manpower, and inflation will impact how organisers are going to run meetings.

“For example, the war in Ukraine affects where we can hold a conference. It does not just affect the conflict zones, but goes beyond that,” he stressed.

He related how the European Society of Medical Ontology had to cancel their meeting in Prague three weeks before the event because the conference centre had to be turned into a refugee camp for displaced Ukrainians.