Industry Update
Opinion Article16 August 2021

What Exhibitions Tell Us About MICE Recovery

By Larry Mogelonsky, Managing Director Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited

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Freeman (www.freeman.com) is the global leader in exhibition management. Family owned and operated, they are the ‘go to’ folks behind numerous convention centers with a bevy of services to create memorable, large-scale events. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to stay behind at the end of a tradeshow, or for that matter set up a booth, you’ll be amazed at the speed and capabilities of their team members.

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I recently had an opportunity to chat with Mickey McClay Wilson, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer. My interest was simple: can Freeman shine a light on the recovery of a business inextricably tied to the hospitality industry? Specifically, when is MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) going to make a proper comeback to help hotels rebuild their midweek occupancies?

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on your operations?

The world as we knew it has changed and so has our approach. We have taken this time to challenge and evolve the way we’ve always done things to find the right solutions for our customers given their specific busines needs. In the future, events will no longer be exclusively digital or in-person. There will be a variety of options to engage with customers to optimize connection. We’ve experimented and innovated this year with new approaches like broadcast and gamification to produce content that resonates.

What are you seeing in terms of MICE recovery?

We’re starting to see events return across the United States in places like Las Vegas, Orlando and Dallas. Soon, other major cities will join including Chicago and New York. According to our Freeman Event Research published in late April, 78% of attendees expect to attend in-person events this fall. That number jumps to 94% by winter, suggesting that events are back in a big way. Corporate travel restrictions also play a role in event recovery and the majority of attendees and exhibitors anticipate no travel restrictions by the fall, which supports the research findings for event participation growing in Autumn 2021.

What steps are you taking to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19 at events?

Our SafeConnect policy provides clarity around what Freeman will provide when serving as general service contractor for events. We will continue to abide by recommendations from the CDC. Freeman has also released a suite of standards, protocols and service offerings to help our customers ensure their events are safe.

How will you treat cleaning or event management differently now versus, say, a few years ago?
Health and safety will be table stakes moving forward for events. We will continue to work with our trusted partners to deliver the safest environments possible.

Do you believe we will ever get back to ‘business as usual’?

The pandemic gave us an opportunity to improve ‘business as usual’. We are not looking back, we are reinventing and creating a path forward that is frictionless. For example, this year we’ve learned that event attendees like to consume content in different formats. Learning and education has been embraced digitally while networking is something that is better done in-person. With so many events taking place virtually, our customers have been able to collect new data points about their attendees and their preferences. Moving forward, our customers will make more data-driven decisions. These insights will help us shape the future of the industry. The best events do more than generate business. They make moments that matter.

Do you see a full recovery and if so, by what year or quarter?

We are well on our way to a revived and revamped events calendar with large-scale events returning this month and in Autumn 2021. We view 2021 as a bridge year as our customers determine which event elements will take place in person and online.

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