Meeting planners are generally optimistic about the overall direction of business, according to the Fall 2020 Meetings Outlook published by Meeting Professionals International, with the majority (58 percent) foreseeing favorable business conditions heading into 2021.

By contrast, the Summer 2020 outlook was completely inverted, with 59 percent of MPI members overwhelmingly negative about the business outlook. That’s “a huge flip-flop versus last quarter’s weakest-ever prediction,” the MPI analysis said.

However almost three quarters (73.7 percent) of the respondents expect it to be 2022 or later before meetings recover their pre-pandemic levels. MPI members who say meetings will return faster are in the minority, with just over a quarter (26.2 percent) looking for a recovery prior to the end of 2021.

This is somewhat less optimistic than other surveys have found. In a poll taken in August by i-Meet, a platform for meeting professionals, 69 percent of participants said they anticipate seeing the resumption of face-to-face events sometime in 2021.

Live attendance projections are creeping back up from an all-time low: 27 percent of respondents now envision favorable in-person numbers over the next year (last quarter, only 11 percent said the same).

The survey found projected virtual attendance remains “incredibly strong,” with 83 percent expecting favorable remote numbers over the next year. At the same time, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) worry that the proliferation of virtual/hybrid meetings will permanently affect the desire or support for face-to-face gatherings in the future.

Jessie States, director of the MPI Academy, said “it’s encouraging to see that more senior professionals are beginning to project improving business conditions for 2021.” She added that a partial rebound in positive market forecasts “is a good first sign.”

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