As for meeting and event planners and all stakeholders of the meetings and events industry, we are still witnessing the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. But little by little, we see the light at the end of the tunnel: Some countries are already easing lockdowns, and even the first events and conferences are going to be live very soon.
However, will it be business as usual for event ?
The meetings and events industry has traditionally relied on the appeal of in-person networking for its success. After all, it is only when key stakeholders across verticals and functions converge at one place that meaningful professional relationships are forged – this, at least, was held as an indisputable fact on the pre-pandemic Earth. Now, with the need for practising social distancing topping the priority charts for every single human being across the globe, the prospect of attending physical meetings has all but disappeared.
Consequently, numerous events have either been cancelled or postponed since the beginning of the year, especially since the pandemic-led travel bans came into effect in the last couple of weeks the world over. So, how are event organisers and planners faring in the wake of the industry’s disruption?
In line with the adage “adversity is the mother of innovation”, the industry players have turned to technology to adapt to the unprecedented situation by overcoming two main challenges. The first involves mitigating the losses wrought by the pandemic and, secondly, meeting the event management needs of business stakeholders while complying with social distancing protocols. By initiating their journey towards agility, physical event players are increasingly integrating cutting-edge tech to facilitate virtual solutions for event stakeholders including organisers, planners, attendees, etc. Here are the two key ways in which this transformation is taking place:
Events are becoming 100% virtual
Many meetings and conferences have undergone a virtual makeover over the past few weeks as event industry players are focusing on improvising their service offerings. Using cloud-hosted live-streaming and broadcasting solutions tailored for each event, the setting of a physical event has been shifted to a virtual venue. In the present scheme of things, this option has emerged as an effective alternative for event-planners as well as event-goers to be part of events but not by risking their and their neighbour’s health.
The online ecosystem eliminates geographical boundaries for users such as people from anywhere across the world can interact with each other in real-time. In this way, organisers can use the right combination of technologies to execute virtual events while reaching out to a wider attendee-base that they would have in a traditional physical setting. Furthermore, since the meeting takes place on the virtual platform, the costs attached to traditional events such as venue rental, staffing and catering services, etc. are also removed. Hence, this alternative is also highly cost-efficient.
The emergence of the hybrid event model
Events are all about planning. It is a given that the effect of the virus will die down sooner or later. With this view in mind, organisers are actively exploring the idea of going hybrid: by mixing physical and virtual components to execute events. This model facilitates a larger number of non-local members to remotely participate in an event that is happening at a physical location.
This innovative alternative facilitates added benefits for organisers apart from those of the purely virtual option. Not only do organisers not lose on any advantage of a virtual event by using the hybrid model but they also stand to attract sponsors and delegates who may not be inclined to be a part of a live event.
Futurescape With technology functioning as the event industry’s lifeline under the given circumstances, it will likely continue to be a mainstay in the event management paradigm in the post-pandemic world as well. While some organisers have proactively begun their journey towards the tech-led transformation, some are just waking up to the possibilities.
Industry players can consider adopting the hybrid model to tide through the pandemic. At the same time, when the crisis is over and physical events are back on track, the added virtual dimension can function as a critical revenue generation supplement. Until then, organisers who are thinking of cancelling or postponing their events can instead consider virtual or hybrid models as viable alternatives. Doing so will allow the audience to still achieve the end goal: meeting prospective buyers & sellers as well as staying updated through conferences.