The event industry is in the most precarious position it has ever seen, and the future is shrouded in uncertainty. The outlook for events will depend on a number of factors: resurgences of the virus, medical advances, restrictions on travel, the economy at large…
But the industry will persevere. Event planners are a resourceful breed with a strong sense of community fortified by various networks of support.
EventMB’s commitment to bring event planners messages of hope and inspiration underpinned with the no-holds-barred truth has never wavered. The Future of the Event Industry enlisted the help of 22 industry leaders who shared their insight into the future of our industry from a range of lenses from safety and F&B to event tech and security.
The event recording is now available on-demand and a detailed report is forthcoming. In the meantime, here are five lessons that highlight some of our favorite moments.
We first interviewed infectious disease epidemiologist Brian Labus at the end of May on whether or not live events could be safe. The conclusion was that the live events had to be short, small scale, and local. This policy was reinforced as the pandemic unfolded, and adherence to social distancing and safety recommendations proved hit or miss.
For the Future of the Event Industry, Labus reprised his role as our resident expert to reaffirm our convictions. From an epidemiological perspective, the industry is by its very nature at odds with the fight against Covid-19. The best practice is to keep people apart, but events exist to bring people together.
For Labus, the way to reconcile those things is by concentrating on density. Whether you achieve this by lowering your headcount or scaling up your venue, you need to keep attendee density down to avoid the risk of spreading the virus. Once you’ve done that, the next step is to cover as many bases as possible by layering other measures like mandatory masks on top.
Engage Emotions Over Experiences
Our research shows that keeping attendees engaged is the biggest challenge event planners face when hosting virtual events, and event veteran Tahira Endean joined us to talk about how to tackle that challenge and approach it as we slowly begin to transition to hybrid events.
One trick, Tahira shares, is to acknowledge the format. Virtual events and event elements are limited in terms of their ability to engage all the senses — something planners are used to having at their disposal when it comes to designing experiences. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give attendees a memorable experience.
The key is to engage them on an emotional level. Create content that resonates with your audience and relates to the challenges they face — and encourage them to show their face.
The number 1 virtual event challenge according to a recent EventMB survey was engagement. How can you keep a virtual audience engaged?
1. Be people-centric and purpose-driven
2. Let participants choose their own adventure
3. Engage emotions over sensations#FOI20 @TahiraCreates
— Event Manager Blog (@EventMB) July 30, 2020
Try New Formats
Virtual events present planners with a new opportunity to challenge the event planning status quo, and hybrid events are going to present even more dynamic options. Pierre Metrailler shared his view on the business of events going into 2021, and he stressed the importance of trying these formats.
One aspect of this event format experimentation is to alternate with live and on-demand content. 60 percent of SpotMe’s customers do not simply deliver a one-day event — they extend the digital experiences with, for example, smaller taster events to boost engagement leading up to the event.
Enforce Your Own Rules
Safety and security protocols have always been a key part of event management, but Covid-19 is a new factor that complicates everything from health and safety to legal liability. One of the biggest challenges is that, even where safety protocols are in place, compliance is low.
But this has wider-reaching ramifications than just health and safety. Steven Adelman is a lawyer who specializes in events, and his discussion of the future of event security helped to shed light on the effects these measures have on your liability.
As it turns out, when planners publish safety protocols that are designed to let people know the risk mitigation measures being undertaken and make them feel safe attending the event, that constitutes a promise to them that those measures will actually be in force. If people arrive and they aren’t being enforced, the planner has broken that promise and is culpable if anyone gets sick.
The upshot? Follow your own rules. If you say masks are mandatory, make sure people wear them. If you say social distancing is mandatory, make sure people keep six feet apart.
Diversify Your Supply Chain
Nobody could have expected that 2020 would bring about so much change, but not all of it has revolved around the pandemic, and not all of it has been for the worse. Systemically entrenched racial injustices have been exposed and have finally been given the media attention needed to inspire real change.
The events industry is not exempt from this movement, and organizations in every sector are aligning to make positive changes. This comes with its own set of challenges, and as an organization that has recently been galvanized into forming its own DEI team, one of the biggest is knowing where to start.
Ashanti Bentil-Dhue of UK-based DEI consultancy Diversity Ally offered some guidance into how to approach diversity and inclusion and form a company culture that is conducive to making all employees feel welcome, happy, and supported. One of the tips she mentioned was to take the quick wins.
Many organizations within the events industry are not financially in a position to hire anyone, but one way to diversify is through partnerships. Supporting Black-owned and operated companies is something planning organizations can do right now to move the needle forward, and sets a positive tone for the rest of their efforts.
One thing the industry is craving is reliable, up-to-date guidance on what to expect and how to proceed. Most of us are operating in a paucity of certainty, and that can be really unnerving when lives and livelihoods are on the line.
The Future of the Event Industry brought the expertise of leaders in almost every sector to bear on the most pressing issues we are facing in events. We’ve shared five snapshots here, but there is plenty to check out on demand. Stay tuned for our upcoming report for more highlights.