How will the shifting landscape of virtual, hybrid & in-person events impact educational & networking opportunities for the residential & commercial water quality industry?
When COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) March 11, 2020, work-related travel was paused for many, as shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders became widespread across the U.S. and globe. Now, more than a year later, as COVID-19 vaccines are increasingly available to the public and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to evaluate the threat of COVID-19 on public health, industry related travel may potentially resume, albeit with CDC-recommended precautions in place. So, what will this look like for the water quality industry? How will the shifting landscape of virtual, hybrid and in-person events impact educational and networking opportunities for the residential and commercial water quality industry?
From April 8 to April 23, 2021, Water Quality Products (WQP) surveyed its audience, composed largely of water treatment professionals that serve the residential and commercial markets, regarding industry attitudes for live event attendance. The survey asked respondents in the water industry to assess how they feel regarding attending live events, when they would feel most comfortable attending events and why they answered the way they did. The data pulled April 26, 2021, showed 38 respondents. To add your perspective and weigh in, visit the live survey here. Pending additional data, the WQP editorial team will continue reporting coverage on this survey. To all who participated in the survey and took time out of their busy schedules to share their insight with WQP and its readership, thank you for your time and consideration.
The following questions were posed in the survey. If you are looking for more information on a particular question, please view the appropriate subhead below. Responses are reported in anonymous aggregate form:
- Are you comfortable with traveling for work-related events right now?
- When will you feel most comfortable to begin traveling for in-person work-related events (i.e. sales calls, trade shows, conferences, ect.)?
- How comfortable are you with traveling to the following events (local, state, regional, national)?
- What safety measures would you like in place if you were to travel to live events?
- In your own words, describe what would make you most comfortable to begin traveling for work-related events?
Are You Comfortable With Traveling for Work-Related Events Right Now?
When survey respondents in the residential and commercial water quality industry were asked if they were comfortable traveling for work-related events right now, the results displayed a clear majority. 68.4% of survey respondents marked “Yes,” 23.7% marked “No,” and 7.9% marked “Not Applicable to Me.”
- Not Applicable to Me—7.9%
The results of this question are significant, showing that more than two-thirds of water industry respondents are comfortable traveling for work-related events right now. Subsequent questions further unpacked what timeline the remaining percent would feel comfortable and what respondents would like industry events to look like in terms of safety and emergency preparedness.
When Will You Feel Most Comfortable to Begin Traveling for In-Person Work-Related Events?
In this question regarding when respondents would feel most comfortable to begin traveling for ini-person work-related events, work-related events were defined as “sales calls, trade shows, conferences, ect.” WQP recognizes that for those respondents who marked “Not Applicable to Me” in the previous question, travel may either be not an option or never suspended. This question asked respondents to categorize their comfort level by quarter.
- Q2 (April, May, June)—60.5%
- Q3 (July, August, September)—13.2%
- Q4 (October, November, December)—18.4%
Given that 68.4% of respondents marked that they were currently comfortable traveling for work-related events in the previous question, it stands to reason that 60.5%—a majority—of respondents marked that they felt comfortable traveling in Q2 2021. The second most popular response to this question was Q4 (October, November, December) at 18.4%, which highlights that many survey water industry respondents are optimistic for the potential to travel in the latter half of the year.
How Comfortable Are You With Traveling to the Following Events?
The third question asked water industry respondents to identify how comfortable they are with traveling to events based on geographical location: either local, state, regional or national trade shows or conferences. Results on this question remained relatively constant throughout, suggesting that respondents that were comfortable traveling were generally comfortable with travel ranging from local to national. While inversely, respondents that were not comfortable traveling were generally not comfortable with travel ranging from local to national.
- 71% were comfortable/very comfortable traveling to local shows.
- 24% were uncomfortable/very uncomfortable traveling to local shows.
- 53% were comfortable/very comfortable traveling to national shows.
- 37% were uncomfortable/very uncomfortable traveling to national shows.
Overall, respondents seemed to be slightly more comfortable traveling to local events than national events, though this ranged.
What Safety Measures Would You Like in Place if You Were to Travel to Live Events?
The fourth question regarding what safety measures respondents in the residential/commercial water quality industry would like in place if they were to travel to live events asked respondents to answer in their own words in a short answer format. Masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer and none were the most common responses. Below is a handful of verbatim responses to provide a snapshot of industry attitudes regarding live event attendance safety measures:
- Masks, distancing, hand sanitizer
- COVID vaccination requirement
- Pretty much exactly what we had before the pandemic
- Common sense safety practices
- No buffets=food safety, extra room for large gathering seating
- Social distancing and outside/open-air classrooms
- I just finished a business trip — the issue was the airplane — no empty seats and nothing to drink — that needs to change before I do a long trip
- Nothing special. Have people keep up their immunities and we will all be ok. With faith, exercise, sunshine, water and immune boosting vitamins.
- Common sense. If you're sick stay home, if you are well, then let's move on and get back to work.
- Social distancing and outside/open-air classrooms
What Would Make You Most Comfortable to Begin Traveling for Work-Related Events?
Similar to the previous question, the final question of the survey asked respondents to answer in their own words and describe what would make them most comfortable to begin traveling for work-related events. Again, responses ranged from very comfortable to very uncomfortable. Below is a handful of verbatim responses to provide a snapshot of industry attitudes regarding what would make respondents most comfortable to begin traveling for work-related events:
- Higher vaccine rate, lower COVID rates
- I believe COVID is just a bad cold/flu
- Right now, I still want to see masks. I don't think I'm comfortable going to a large event until the latest wave of infections has gone down and we see at least 80% of adults vaccinated.
- Common sense safety practices. Masks in close interaction and social distancing for the most part.
- That all who attend provide a proof of their COVID 19 Vaccination with a COVID test done prior to events
- Herd immunity
- Others countries/areas doing it successfully and proving a model that works
- Social distancing on airplanes and in the airport — use of masks above the nose by everyone
- Virtual is the way to go
- I’m comfy now
- Nothing special. Thanks for all you do!
It is likely that COVID-19 and the events of the past year will continue to shape our communication practices and how we as an industry connect. Though survey respondent attitudes range regarding current travel comfort level, the verbatim responses provide a sense that the water industry is an industry craving connection. What form that connection will continue to take though, it is difficult to predict.