Creativity has shown time and time again that it loves a crisis. Our most innovative, original ideas tend to come out when our backs are against the wall. It is that same spirit that will most inspire the event management industry over the next year as we begin to emerge from the COVID19 pandemic.
Getting back to normal will take some time, and events will look very different in the interim. Expect more sophisticated virtual participation options, smaller satellite events complementing larger gatherings, and people carefully examining the return on investment from attending.
Smaller But Better Events
It will take a while before people are comfortable with large gathering settings and events so expect smaller satellite events complementing larger gatherings. That will be especially true in the early days, when people might be wary of larger gatherings but more willing to attend smaller ones.
The most important aspect of a physical meeting will be value. With budgets tight and attendees still wary of the danger of the virus, meetings and events must add serious value to attract people. These more intimate and interconnected events will leverage some of the technologies that emerged during COVID and can be a boost to attendance by reaching audiences that are often restricted by seniority, budget, or time constraints.
Virtual Is Here To Stay
The coronavirus forced many companies to explore work-from-home options, relying heavily on Wi-Fi, streaming, and video conferencing. So far, the tech came through with flying colors. There’s no doubt that business travel and meetings will look very different when we come through the other side of this crisis. Smart event organizers also realize that budgets are tightening so they’d better offer compelling virtual participation options.
Virtual integration will be an increasingly important aspect of in-person events for attendees, speakers, and sponsors alike.
If done correctly, this hybrid format can greatly improve the quality of speakers that you can attract to your events since travel and accommodation logistics can be easily resolved by opting for live streaming on-stage interactive sessions.
By offering a discounted virtual ticket, attendees who don’t have the travel budgets or time to attend in person can still opt-in and network with conference attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors alike.
Despite the hype around virtual events right now, there is no need to reinvent the wheel in order to prove ROI for sponsors and exhibitors of virtual events. Data is still data and it’s still the best way to demonstrate success. With hybrid events, sponsors can literally have the best of both worlds — the traditional exhibit halls and signage they long for at a physical event with the rich and insightful data sets they are excited by from virtual format.
As we prepare for a new landscape in the hospitality and events industry post-COVID-19 we must consider what changes may occur, and what opportunities lie within them. Only by embracing the creative destruction over the past year can we blaze the path forward over the year ahead.
Megan Van Petten
Van Petten Group INC.