A lot has changed since we last asked our readers, back in pre-pandemic times, the question: “What do you like best about your job?” So, we asked meeting professionals the same question again in our most recent COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard, and gave them a chance to vent by asking the opposite question, “What do you like least about your job?”
We collected responses from planners and suppliers separately — the bright spots are listed first for each group, and then what they like least.
What Planners Like Best About Their Jobs
We know from previous surveys that meeting professionals love to travel, but apparently that doesn’t extend to commutes — many of you listed working remotely full-time or most days as your favorite thing about your post-COVID job. Flexibility came in as a close second. Working from home has made “office hours” more flexible, and many planners report getting to spend more time with their families as a plus.
Planners also reported the challenges that come with expanding into digital events as their favorite thing about their jobs, including planners who worked at organizations that were doing virtual events for the first time. “Incredible learning opportunities that keep the brain nimble — if it doesn’t explode,” wrote one. “I learned some new things,” another said, “but it was such a challenge.”
The demand for digital was leading to new opportunities to apply their talents and exercise newly acquired skills, many said. Among the likes: “being able to flex my creative muscles to produce a true hybrid event,” “more social-media engagement,” and “learning to present in new ways.” Another respondent said a favorite thing “was the trend toward live/hybrid events and knowing that we can provide support in all areas.” Being “much more prepared for doing virtual events” was another comment on the plus side.
The pandemic era had given some respondents a more strategic role in their organizations, they reported, and pride in their — and their team’s — ability to adapt and change. It was also bringing, one wrote, “better event technology” and a chance to “be a part of the recovery.” “New business is coming back,” another said.
Others ranked planning for in-person events as their favorite part of their jobs and appreciated having the time to work thoughtfully toward events scheduled for 2022 and later, and the renewed appreciation for in-person experiences. As one put it: “The rejuvenation around the importance of in-person events.”
What Suppliers Like Best About Their Jobs
Suppliers were more likely than planners to say that the thing they liked best about their jobs was the fact that they had a job — or in the case of many respondents, had resumed working after a period of unemployment. And they were less likely than planners to mention the ability to work from home as what they like most about their jobs, although many mentioned appreciating greater flexibility.
Like planners, suppliers were happy to be learning new things and thinking in new ways about where and how digital events fit in with their companies. As one supplier wrote, “the fact that we will forevermore focus on both in-person and virtual events” was a positive. Another take: “There’s an unbelievable amount of free online learning.”
When talking about their favorite things about their jobs, suppliers used words like “reimagining,” “strengthening partnerships,” “stronger relationships,” “providing solutions,” and “reorganizing and rebuilding.”
Many mentioned the meaning and purpose in their jobs: One appreciated how digital events have “overcome the physical barrier and how accessibility is becoming a more considered/prioritized criteria.” Another liked “bringing economic development to our communities.”
“The broader scope of my responsibilities as a result of job cutbacks has allowed me to grow, apply new approaches, and learn at a higher level than pre-pandemic,” wrote one.
Respondents also mentioned appreciation for extra time to plan future meetings and seeing signs of life in the return to in-person events: “We’re returning to live events — albeit slowly,” wrote one.
What Planners Liked Least About the Jobs
The adage “One person’s meat is another person’s poison” rang true when we looked at what planners said they least liked about their jobs: Not everyone is loving working from home. A number of planners listed the loss of travel, as well as the loss of in-person social interaction as their least favorite things about their jobs in 2021.
And for every planner who listed virtual meetings as a plus, it seems as if there is at least another who counts working on a virtual meeting as a minus. “I don’t enjoy planning virtual meetings as much as I like planning in-person meetings,” said one. Another disliked “how much more work virtual events take.” Others found virtual meetings to be “demanding and unpredictable” and “boring.”
Some were chafing at the resistance of others in their workplaces to virtual events. Dislikes included “pushback from old-school colleagues” and “resistance of many people to evolve.”
People also disliked meeting online, citing Zoom fatigue, a lack of collaboration and communication over Zoom, and the uptick in the number of meetings overall. “The constant Doodles to schedule calls,” wrote one. And some found that working from home was not bringing more work-life balance. One planner disliked “being overly connected to work, now that I am constantly online and take fewer breaks than I would in person. It seems like everyone is trying to justify their existence by becoming a workaholic, to ensure that no one at the office thinks they are riding the wave and not pushing themselves due to life and other distractions at home.” Working from home created “high stress,” another wrote, “and expectation of perfection.”
But by far, the most frequently mentioned dislike was uncertainty — in terms of timing, budgeting, the reopening of travel and venues — just the “the nonstop quicksand of uncertainty around live gatherings and travel,” as one wrote. “I usually have a plan for all kinds of scenarios,” another wrote, “but not this year.”
Those responses echoed responses to a survey sent to meeting professionals at the end of March 2020, when Convene asked you to tell us what your biggest challenges were: Uncertainty was the most common response then as now.
What Suppliers Like Least About Their Jobs
In fact, the place where planner and supplier responses most overlapped was their mutual dislike of the uncertainty the pandemic brought to the meetings industry. “Feeling like the industry recovery is still very fluid,” wrote one supplier. “The rules keep changing!” wrote another.
The stress of managing “a very unknown future,” one wrote, was increased by the demands of working with smaller teams and altered client relationships. There is “constant stress and strain on the team,” another said. One disliked “selling the same rooms over and over,” as groups kept canceling into Fall 2021. “Combative contracting,” another wrote. “Those that take advantage of pandemic circumstances,” wrote another. “Difficult negotiations and hard conversations too often.”
Many also mentioned the toll that furloughs and layoffs have taken, both in terms of the emotional toll and increased workload. “So many are out of work, and many more are pessimistic,” one wrote. “I’m doing multiple jobs that used to be under other roles,” one supplier commented. Another wrote of the difficulty of “figuring out how to manage/support both types of events with the same or less staff.” In at least one case, for some positions, hiring workers was a problem: “Demand is outpacing workforce availability.”
Others missed face-to-face interaction and cited “the difficulty in making deeper human connections via a screen and camera.” “I miss the social interaction of the office and business travel,” one respondent lamented. From another: “Waiting. For. Everything. To get back to normal and having no control.”
Barbara Palmer is deputy editor at Convene.