Many of you have likely not attended a business event – or any event, for that matter – in a few months with the sweep of event cancellations due to coronavirus concerns. Even as some states open up “nonessential” businesses and lift stay-at-home orders, large events remain off the table for safety. However, human interaction isn’t any less important than it was before the crisis. In fact, it’s a lifeline for people in isolation dealing with stress and anxiety. The only difference between then and now is how we interact, not why.
This has ultimately led to changes in the event industry – from leadership team meetings to large scale conventions. It is without a doubt that live events will look differently post-pandemic, so industry professionals must be proactive in shifting to the best of their ability. Below are four trends impacting the industry to help event professionals plan for not only the now, but for the what’s next.
4 Trends Impacting the Future of the Event Industry
1. Develop Long-Term Solutions
Returning to normal will depend on a number of factors, including the availability and effectiveness of a coronavirus vaccine as well as personal preferences. It could still be a while before some people – especially those who are at risk – feel comfortable leaving their homes, let alone attending large events.
This is a long-term problem, and it needs a long-term plan. Take a moment to step back and look at your planned events and strategic leadership meetings as a whole, along with the goals and objectives tied to it. Consider how you can shift this strategy for the long-haul, whether it be through strategic communication campaigns, prolonging virtual events from the traditional 2-3 day conference to a six-week experience, or developing a phased approach to re-entering the live space.
2. Adopt Hybrid Events
Pre-pandemic, event attendees would hop onto planes without question. Now, brands are asking, “Can we do this virtually?” The industry was forced to evolve, and brands will likely consider a dual audience option. Hybrid events, which cater to both in-person and remote attendees, will become increasingly common, especially through the rest of the year as health concerns linger.
Sales meetings, product launches, strategy retreats and other knowledge-sharing events can be recorded or streamed out of respect for a digital audience, while still hosting more intimate live experiences for those comfortable attending in-person. As a bonus, you can archive the video and repurpose it as training or marketing material for future use. Be sure that the virtual audience can still participate in typical in-person opportunities like Q&A sessions, networking and gamification.
Conferences, panels, and other networking-heavy events will need a more creative approach. Consider completely separating the audience into two groups. Holding audience-specific segments will encourage engagement without limiting the virtual experience. You could also use technology tools to facilitate one-on-one and group discussions among attendees. Braindate, for example, helps attendees network both virtually and in-person. The bigger the event, the more important it is to tailor it to the individuals in attendance.
3. Increase Your Focus on Virtual Engagement
Ironically, before the coronavirus pandemic, brands were eager to digitize in-person gatherings. Now, everyone’s asking, “How do we make this feel real?”
In the live event setting, it was easier to see when attendees were checked out of an event. Now, in the comfort of their own homes, it’s much harder to hold people accountable or guarantee retention or participation. Instead of forcing people to attend an event, why not design one that they actually want to be part of?
Savvy companies across all industries are finding ways to personally engage attendees. Instead of hiring famous speakers, some are inviting more relatable people with unique stories to tell. Others are encouraging participation through gamification and rewards. Demonstrate that you respect attendees’ time and understand that you’ll be competing for their attention. If you don’t think it’s interesting, chances are that your audience won’t, either.
4. Prepare For Future Changes
With this change, event professionals will have to embrace new considerations that may have never been a focus before. From how food and beverage is served and what cleaning protocols are followed to which events truly require travel and how to administer health inspections. Being proactive about these changes now will only better prepare brands for success when they re-enter the live space.
One of the most visibly noticeable changes we’re seeing are the signage and branding that come with the new restrictions and requirements. Work with your teams to come up with a physical communication plan that meets legal requirements, accurately showcases guidelines and protocol, and placement directions so your team is prepared in advance. Develop protocols that outline things like social distancing procedures, maximum capacity and cleaning requirements to have a clear plan in place that not only keeps your team and attendees safe but allows for seamless transition once the time is right.
Corporate events have changed, possibly forever. In many ways, this is a good thing. Events in the future have the potential to be more accessible and safer for everyone. With the right planning and execution, they can also be incredibly impactful experiences for both organizers and attendees.
How might you rethink your next corporate event with these ideas in mind?
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