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Meeting & Event Planning

2021 Reflections & 2022 Industry Insights

Posted January 27, 2022 By Ryan Simonetti


A Message from Ryan Simonetti, CEO & Co-Founder of Convene

As we come to the end of the first month of the year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come, where we are, and where we’re going as an organization and industry in 2022 and beyond.

At our core, Convene is a people-first company and our journey over the past two years has been a testament to that value. With that said, I could not begin without acknowledging those who continue to humble and inspire me as a Founder and CEO: #TeamConvene, a heartfelt thank you for your resilience and congratulations for all that you achieved in 2021. To our incredible clients, members, and partners, your unwavering support has helped us navigate through the uncertainty and reimagine our business.  It’s truly a testament to our entire community that we are entering this next chapter with so much excitement and optimism. 

As I look back at our 12+ year history, it’s clear that our vision to elevate the workday experience for the modern workforce is coming to fruition, although at a rate significantly faster than anticipated. Our unwavering trust in our team, faith in our mission, and commitment to creating world-class experiences for our clients have carried us through these challenging times and positions us for continued growth in the future. 

2021 Reaffirms the Value of Face-To-Face Connection

Despite the initial enthusiasm for virtual meetings and get-togethers, after much time apart, the desire for face-to-face interaction has never been stronger. Covid-driven isolation has shined a light on the harsh realities of a dispersed workforce. ​​33 percent of U.S employees report that they are not feeling engaged at work according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace study, while our internal survey shows 63 percent of full-time high performers want to spend more time with their colleagues. In this new hybrid world, companies are now faced with the challenge of employee morale, engagement, and culture.  

To both reconnect and revive engagement across a scattered labor force, leaders are turning to the ideal environment for communication: in-person. We witnessed this desire to reunite gain momentum as our meeting and event bookings grew 187% year-over-year. Q4 of 2021 bookings mirrored pre-pandemic levels in Q4 of 2019. I expect to see a surge of demand for local meetings and events in 2022 and beyond as organizations truly embrace hybrid work and realize the value of bringing teams together with intention, to build trust, and reestablish company values.  

The Future Is Flexible 

With phrases like ‘The Great Resignation’ dominating headlines, employee satisfaction and retention is top of mind. So, what do employees want? 97% of the talent market desires a flexible work environment, and the ability to work from anywhere has become the number one sought-after benefit.  In fact, workers value flexibility as the monetary equivalent of a 10% pay raise. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that the way we work and live is overdue for an evolution, and while this shift was in motion pre-pandemic, the calls for change have amplified and there’s no returning to the way things used to be. The challenge at hand is what organizations, landlords and workplace providers will do about it.

Real estate ultimately has to catch up with the reality that companies are going to want and need more flexibility, and they’re going to want to outsource more of the workday experience. It’s one of the reasons our WorkPlace product bookings are up 320% in the last six months – and that’s not just because we’re coming out of the pandemic. Many CEOs and founders have said, “Do I want to sign long-term leases? Do I really want to be in the business of designing, building and managing my own office experience?” And the reality is more and more are saying, “No, I’d rather have a partner handle that for me.” Workplace-as-a-Service is here to stay.    

Work-From-Home Shifts to Work-Near-Home 

For many of us, especially those with long commutes, there is no greater employee “perk” than the ability to work remotely. However, working from home comes with a new set of unavoidable challenges regarding both concentration, resources and feelings of isolation. Ensuring access to reliable internet, the right office set-up and quiet corners can be hard at home (especially for parents), and this has led many wanting a third option closer to home, but not quite the traditional office experience, either. In fact, unreliable internet access was the number one challenge for remote workers.

These new workplaces offer great atmospheres that support productivity, amenities such as snacks and coffee, a sense of community, and technology enabled meeting spaces to gather with colleagues that live locally or are dialing in from a space of their choosing. We see a huge opportunity to bring the Convene experience to suburban markets outside of major cities. This is a core part of our future growth strategy as we plan to repurpose obsolete retail spaces into workspaces of the future.

Hybrid: A Reliable Format for Meeting & Event Planners 

Much like in the workplace, the shift to hybrid is also evident in the meeting and event industry. In an effort to comply with ever-changing restrictions and regulations, hybrid has become the go-to flexible format for meeting and event planners. A whopping 79% of companies expect to host hybrid events in 2022

33% of our current meeting and event bookings are hybrid when they sign, while 62% pivot to hybrid after signing. Revenue for Convene Studio – our technology and production services designed for virtual/hybrid events – quadrupled year-over-year. 

Although adding a ‘virtual experience’ to in-person meetings and events seems rather straight-forward, without the proper infrastructure, planning, and support, a production of this sort can quickly become an unenjoyable experience for planners and attendees alike. To address this head on, we’ve made substantial investments into our platform to offer a truly end-to-end solution. Through the launch of Convene Studio, our community now has access to best-in-class event technology, plug-and-play tools for virtual, hybrid, or in-person events, and dedicated expert support from planning to post-mortem.

In 2020, our focus was on launching Convene Studio. In 2021, our focus moved to scaling it. Our event specialists partner closely with clients across industries, giving us the unique opportunity to improve on Convene Studio in real time. Working side-by-side with planners as an extension of their team has provided direct feedback on how best to advance our product design, tech features, and package options. 

Landlords Are Not In The Office Business Anymore

With the direct competition of the luxuries available when working from home, landlords are quickly finding that they are no longer in the office business – they are in the hospitality business. Tenants’ expectations have evolved quickly and great space, an efficient floor plate and a newly renovated lobby are no longer sufficient.

Coming out of the pandemic, companies are under increasing pressure to deliver a truly differentiated workplace experiences to their employees and they are turning to their landlords for help. Class A landlords must think differently and must now provide a full-suite of flexible space, and hospitality infused amenities (including F&B, health & wellness and more) supported by humans, and powered by technology to meet the dynamic needs of today’s workforce.

Thankfully for landlords, they don’t have to do this alone and can turn to premium, hospitality partners like Convene to help them manage the complexity of delivering a truly flexible and experiential Class A office building. We’ve seen more and more landlords adopting these types of win-win partnerships, with 25% of our existing portfolio and 80% of our current pipeline (~30 locations) are under some form of a management or partnership agreement – and we don’t see this trend slowing down. This is the future of commercial real estate.   

A Flight To Quality  

Which office buildings are recovering and why? According to CBRE, Class A properties are historically expected to experience a much faster improvement in demand, vacancy and rents. By leveraging location and quality, these buildings attract the workforce back to their spaces and the lead over Class B and Class C buildings can of course be attributed to more than just quality, but also pricing differences – however they earn the higher willingness to pay through the quality they offer.

Taking a closer look at leasing velocity and vacancy rates in major markets, we see there is a clear bifurcation taking place.  Building’s with robust amenities are performing well and notably recovering to command higher price points and low vacancy. On the other hand, landlords that haven’t invested the capital or resources to meet the consumer or market’s changing demands are struggling.

There is a similar reality being experienced in the flex space industry, as customers shift from lower quality operators to premium brands like Convene – as clients grow tired of the poor quality, design and service and crave a higher tech more hospitality-forward experience for their teams.  We saw the benefit of this last year and expect the trend to accelerate in 2022 & beyond.  

In Closing 

What’s happening in our industry today is not too different from what’s been happening in financial services, consumer products, healthcare and insurance, which are four industries that have seen, and continue to see, a tremendous amount of disruption. I personally believe over the next 10 to 20 years that technology and new business model innovation will continue to impact how we live, work & travel.  Web 3.0, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and a host of new technologies will fundamentally change the way that our workplaces are designed and built, sold and marketed, serviced and operated and how they are financed. There’s never been a more exciting time to be in the industry.  

Despite the uncertainty that comes with a global crisis, and the incredible shift we’ve witnessed in the role of the office and strategic meetings over the last couple years, my confidence in the team at Convene, our products, capability to innovate and the community we’ve built has never wavered. People and human experience will continue to drive our business strategy as we look to serve our clients in more places and exciting new ways, including in the Metaverse!  And with that foundation set, this year, we’re prepared to dream big and build the future of work together.  

I look forward to expanding our community and I hope to see you soon.


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