Face-to-face versus cost. Is productivity at risk? 

Louise Tawadrous
Louise Tawadrous

Client Services Director

The appetite for face-to-face meetings will wane this year with growing financial pressures being cited as the main reason. 

Our latest look at the meetings and events market was taken through the eyes of our Business Opinion Omnibus and found that nearly half of all business leaders (47%) said their company have used external facilities by the end of 2023. 

Many of these recognise that getting people together is good for business with external venues having potential to make a better impression or offer additional facilities, such as catering. 

However, looking at this year, 27% anticipate fewer offsite events, with a further 15% undecided and the balance expecting roughly the same amount – a net negative outcome that potentially means fewer events overall as businesses brace themselves for a challenging 2024. 

How does this effect spend? 

28% of businesses are expecting to spend more on external meeting facilities this year, but this is partially fuelled by an expectation of increased prices rather than a sign of greater demand. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter (24%) of the businesses who said they were likely to reduce spend this year claim it is due to a perception of bad return on investment. But surely bringing people together, will be valuable, productive and a good use of time and money, with benefits that go beyond the immediate facilities on offer?   

It’s not as easy as that, though, is it? There is nuance to every role, output, and its execution. 

In a recent conversation with Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, we were able to gain some insight into the concept of ‘flexibility’ in the workplace – a hangover from the pandemic that saw us all in our home offices, with pyjama bottoms on, kids running in and cats strolling across keyboards. 

“There is flexibility and there are relationships.  You can’t have ultimate flexibility and deep relationships – you’re trading one against the other. 

Flexibility can be defined as working wherever and whenever you want on tasks that are individually accomplished and modular, meaning the interfaces with other people’s work are uncomplicated.  As soon as the interfaces are more interdependent, and tasks more complicated, then flexibility is at odds not just with relationships but with quality of execution. 

Step back, look at the work first, what is the nature of the value that we are providing for our customers and how does that value get produced and if part of the answer is through teamwork, through the integration of people with diverse skill sets and areas of expertise, then we have to give deep and long thought to what kind of flexibility works best as a team.” 

This view neatly underpins the concept that leads much of Microsoft’s ‘Future of Work’ strategy with AI playing a significant role in making asynchronous participation possible and synchronous participation better. 

Conceptually this is all very encouraging, but experience on the day counts for a lot in reinforcing willingness to spend on meeting facilities in future. Event planner feedback from VenueVerdict CX shows a terrific improvement on this front in 2023 compared with 2022, but it still remains slightly below pre-pandemic levels. This needs to be addressed, as it is likely to be another factor contributing to any reluctance to gather the team.

The balance between output, connection and becoming more cost and ROI-conscious in the face of growing financial pressures is a tough one to strike.  

If business leaders’ predicted use and spend on external facilities hold true, we will see a shift towards fewer meetings and event,s and a need to better reinforce the value of those that do take place. One of the best ways to do that is for venues to deliver EPIC experiences and events that leave people invigorated, feeling productive and connected – wanting more, not less. 

Learn more:

Get in touch

Let’s talk about you

Be better