How Will The Events Industry Look Post COVID-19?
Been to any good events lately? Nope, me neither.
Bar the massive surge in Facebook Live talks and Zoom webinars, the event industry is in full hibernation for the foreseeable future. But although this is a ‘marathon, not a sprint’, in order to plan effectively we need to start looking ahead at what the industry landscape could look like post-lockdown.
My crystal ball got broken during an energetic Joe Wicks session, so I’ve no more idea than you, but it’s looking pretty likely we won’t see a return of events this summer. But we can tentatively look at scheduling some sort of events for Autumn, and retailers will have us believe it’s never too early to think about Christmas!
And if you are a wedding venue, now it the time to get marketing! Wedding couples are sitting at home planning and pinteresting like crazy, and with 2-3 year lead times, they are going to feel pretty safe booking that date.
Don’t expect to see a return of those large scale events as soon as lockdown is lifted, particularly those with an international audience. In the same way lockdown gradually reduced the number of people gathered together to just our own households, we can expect a reverse as the peak passes.
The first events we can expect filling our diaries are those small meetings. Strategy days, away days and team building events to unite teams who haven’t been in the same office for months.
The pandemic will have had a financial impact on all businesses. Whilst delivery companies and online technology platforms may have seen booms in demand, many others will have been forced to cease trading. Sadly, this will spell the end for some. So budgets will be stretched. Companies will be reticent to splash the cash on showy exhibitions, incentive trips and gala dinners. As venues and suppliers, we will need to provide value for money and work to understand our clients’ needs more than ever.
The airline industry will suffer greatly, and not only will there be restrictions on international travel for a while to come, but flights will make global events cost-prohibitive to attend. And even when we look at our national events, will harder hit areas such as London recover at a slower rate than the ‘sticks’? Will we be looking at a surge in events being held in second tier cities?
Think about your town, and how it compares on the national scale. The fairly rural county of Gloucestershire has seen one of the lowest rates of cases in the country, but following race week Cheltenham has been a relative hot spot. Could Gloucester therefore become a more popular conference destination in the immediate aftermath?
The big plus following forced working from home is the rapid development of online meeting platforms. Even putting the concerns over security breaches to one side, platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Hopin have allowed us to stay connected, and even network more than we could before. Delegates no longer have to brave the crammed commute to attend events all over the world, saving them both time and money. Event organisers don’t have to pay hefty venue and catering costs and can present from their own spare room for a minimal budget. Will this new way of meeting be the future for events?
Personally I think we will all be itching to get out and see inside other spaces, drink other people’s coffee and shake hands again. There will be a celebratory surge of ‘real life’ meetings as soon as lockdown is lifted. But this will die down and we will see a period of settling into a new events landscape which combines both physical and virtual events.
That virtual technology worked for us before, we have created a ‘new norm’ of networking, and there were many benefits and cost-savings. But we can never fully do without physical gatherings. This is not wishful thinking from the perspective of a venue! Think back to those conferences you have attended. Did you not get as much inspiration and useful contacts from chance chats in the coffee break as you did from the keynote speaker?
BC (Before Corona), event organisers were starting to consider their environmental impact, from BYO lanyard schemes, to event apps replacing paper agendas. The pivot to online events has massively reduced the carbon footprint of events and greener organisers will seek to continue this new way of meeting.
However, the pandemic has seen a rise in use of disposable items across all industries (gloves, blue roll for cleaning, supermarkets returning to excessive use of plastic bags for home deliveries). Environmentally conscious event planners will have to investigate alternatives to each of these new legacies of corona. Can we find them the solutions?
Lastly, but arguably most critically, organisers will be addressing the purpose of each event. Given constraints on travel, size and budget, organisations will have to justify if their event is still valid in the same format, if at all. It will no longer be a case of throwing events just because we’ve done it every year.
How can we as venues and suppliers support this? Can we work with organisers to offer our event planning expertise? Can we offer new ways of delivering events that more fully meet their agenda and aims?
What are your thoughts on events post-COVID? Let us know what you are anticipating and how you are planning.