The event landscape keeps shifting as the pandemic continues to spread around the world. Eventprofs will need to adapt to a new job market as virtual and hybrid events become the norm for the foreseeable future.
This has been a year of constant change for the events industry, full of steep learning curves and new regulations. Many eventprofs have been furloughed or laid off, with some shifting their business models in order to remain relevant.
It has been eight months since the initial panic in March and April, and some events have begun to resume, with virtual events in particular taking off. People are still eager to connect, and clients are still looking to find ways to make their events happen.
Over 70 percent of planners don’t expect in-person events to return before the second quarter of 2021. As we look ahead to 2021, it’s crucial for planners to stay ahead of the changing job market and continue to adapt in order to position themselves for success in a post-Covid event industry. It’s impossible to know exactly what the landscape will be like, but there are nevertheless several things that planners should keep in mind.
More Specialized Roles
Back in June, we began to see increased demand for skills such as video and digital content development, and we predicted that roles such as Virtual Event Production Specialists would become more prominent. This has indeed been the case, as high production value has become the holy grail of online events.
Event technology specialists are on the rise as well. A position that we anticipated in February has become even more necessary now.
47 percent of event professionals are not comfortable with virtual event technology, but 74 percent say that they have become more proficient as a result of the pandemic.
We spoke with Robert Kenward, Chief Talent Officer at YOU search & select, to get a better idea of the skills that will be required going forward. Kenward is a recruiter with extensive experience in events. He emphasizes the importance of specializing in certain roles, as many agencies and event companies may no longer have the budget to bring on a full-time general event manager and will instead be looking to employ freelancers as specialists for certain tasks.
Whether these roles entail art direction or technical production, it will be important for planners to hone and refine their skill sets in order to be able to provide the specialized skills that clients will be looking for. Kenward also mentions that client dynamics are shifting, and that planners may have an opportunity to take on a more consultative role to guide clients who may be unfamiliar with virtual and hybrid events.
In addition, eventprofs will need to be able to sell themselves more than ever and be able to clearly show how their existing skills — such as being able to effectively manage teams remotely and across different time zones — will transfer and add value to their new projects.
Although some hybrid events have been taking place over the past few months, the majority of events this year have been fully virtual.
“At the moment, there are a lot of event professionals who are live event professionals, and then there are others who are specialized in virtual,” notes Kenward. “But the hybrid model is where I see the biggest growth and recruitment opportunities.”
The hybrid model essentially requires two separate event experiences, so live event planners who can master the virtual component, as well as how the two interact, will be in a good position as hybrid becomes more and more common.
Part of mastering hybrid events also involves the safety aspect — from both an in-person and online perspective. In recent EventMB research, 55 percent of planners selected safety as the biggest challenge in planning them. In terms of the physical audience, it will require regularly monitoring evolving health and safety guidelines in the areas where the event will be taking place. From a virtual perspective, this means being familiar with the principles of cybersecurity, as well as relevant laws regarding privacy and recording participants.
A Focus on Brand and Community
One of the main benefits of virtual and hybrid events is the increased reach, and as Kenward notes, being able to capture your audience before and even after the event concludes is key: “It’s not just about what [the content] is going to look like, but how it’s going to pull people into the event and keep people talking about it afterwards.”
In order to achieve this without much (if any) face to face interaction, brands will need to work to build recognition and community online. They’ll need to focus more on their audience and how to build content around them in order to convey a clear value proposition for their events and get people talking positively about them online.
Roles like digital communications specialists and social media managers will likely be especially valuable in this space moving forward, as they have the skills and experience required to execute digital marketing strategies and build online followings.
While no one knows exactly what 2021 is going to look like for events, it’s safe to say that virtual and hybrid events will be around for some time. Planners should therefore look to develop their skills in these areas — which may require more specialization — and be able to clearly explain the value of their existing transferable skills.