Iwas lucky enough to be invited to a think-tank session in London recently. The event was hosted at The Royal Lancaster, London, in conjunction with The Landmark, London – both beautiful hotels. Billed as a corporate forum, a select group of event planners discussed the state of the meetings and events business in 2022. I was in good company, with event planners from other associations and trade bodies, as well as both large and small businesses. The word that was repeated time and again was ‘relationship’. Every topic landed back at that key point, reinforcing what we all already know, and a great reminder of the importance of partnerships and trust.

The Covid and post-Covid era

At HOSPA, we have been lucky enough to run our annual conference throughout the pandemic. I would love to say it was due to great planning but luck bundled with bravado and calculated risk may be more accurate. In 2020, our conference was due to take place in the wonderfully large Nine Kings Suite at The Royal Lancaster. However, filling a room with hundreds of delegates was not an option. With an eye on the future, the hotel built a studio and we took full advantage.

The UK’s Covid restrictions in November 2020 allowed up to 30 people to hold work-related activities. We gathered all our speakers together, kept ourselves socially distanced, wore masks, had packed lunches and went for it. We broadcast our conference live as close to the normal format as possible for HOSPA members and guests. It was an honour to have the opportunity to experience what was effectively a TV studio but, more importantly, we were able to impart knowledge and share experiences both globally and across the UK.

Our conference was very different to a webinar format as it was live speakers came on and off the ‘stage’ and the interaction was real. Of course, we were in the lucky position of already having a close relationship with the hotel but, without trust on both sides, we would not have been able to make such a success of our event.

As we approach the second half of 2022, events are still not back to normal. Restrictions and guidelines in different countries across the world prevent that, along with a reluctance from many to throw themselves back into large gatherings. There is still a lot of nervousness around mixing in large groups, business travel has not returned to 2019 levels and the acceptance for online meetings is greater than ever. The anecdotal, personal experience of the event planners in our think-tank suggested that once delegates make the decision to return to large events, they will rapidly embrace the value of face-to-face conversations and delegates start to wonder how two years have passed with limited personal exchanges.

The hybrid option

The rapid acceptance of online events during 2020 was, in hindsight, inevitable. The acceleration of technology was inescapable. Recordings of webinars and masterclasses gave delegates and viewers the opportunity to join in on their own terms – be it during the event, or an hour, day or month after it had concluded. The recordings also gave marketers great social media content – a win-win situation for many.

It was agreed that there is a valuable place for online meetings. It is great for those who cannot attend an event in person. However, face-to-face conversations are more memorable, more valuable and should be ultimately more fun. It seems the best way forward is to open the online option to those who genuinely cannot attend in person and to encourage actual attendance where possible.

Of course, everyone needs protection and contracts are an inevitability of doing business. During the forum, we heard some horror stories of venues holding clients to contract terms even though local and governmental guidelines were preventing conferences and events from taking place. The overriding sentiment in the room was that both venues and event planners had worked hard to make the best of a bad situation during the pandemic. Promises of future business were made and we all hope these promises are kept. Again, relationships and trust are crucial to success.

Energy price hikes, rising payroll and Brexit all serve as pain points to the sector. A common problem for event planners in 2022 seems to be a lack of responsiveness from venues. This probably comes back to endemic staffing issues. And, guess what? This also comes back to relationships as many event planners will only deal directly with venues, while others place their trust in their event planner or venue finder.

The feedback in our forum varied from using agencies to relieve pressure to the complete opposite and everything in between. In summary, each event is different and knowledge of the market in the event location greatly influences the level of reliance on agencies. For that all-important peace of mind, event planners prefer to create that relationship from the start, but that could just as easily be with an agent as with the venue. Either way, the human element is always a crucial part of every event. Another surprising benefit of engaging an agent would be to keep the expectations of the corporate client realistic.

Is Wednesday the new Thursday?

For years, Thursday evening was the night when many work events would take place as it was towards the end of the week, while not encroaching into the weekend. However, now that Friday is commonly a ‘work-from-home’ day, nights out are increasingly changing to Wednesdays. But does this contradict the ‘bleisure’ traveller attitude? Taking your family on a business trip and extending into the weekend may prove harder if events are earlier in the week. There is never a single answer and fewer are more aware of the fact that you cannot please everyone all the time than event planners.


Should delegate packs, awards brochures and name badges be printed? There were very mixed opinions in the room. It was generally agreed that digital versions were the way forward, but in the short-term, delegates have not accepted experiencing such things. What about the name badge stock that was purchased before we were all so environmentally conscious? Surely, it is better to use that than dump it? However, reputation is all-important and to be seen to be doing the right thing is certainly a step in the right direction.

Menu choices seem to be an easier decision to make from a sustainable viewpoint. Seasonality should absolutely dictate food choices, while reducing food waste and shortening your supply chain are also easy wins. Costs are increasing across the board but there are some easy solutions if channels of communications with the chef and their team are open.

These days, it is not unusual for meeting planners to request a venue’s policy on sustainability. The venue’s policy does not have to be perfect, but it makes absolute business sense to at least have one – with the ability to explain what changes have already been made and what plans are in place.

Peace of mind

Peace of mind is worth its weight in gold and it makes business sense for both parties to be flexible. Having an open and honest relationship makes all the difference and trust cannot be undervalued – once again, highlighting that relationships are key.