Over the last thirty years, the event industry has endured many calamities. Some were economic challenges; others were caused by human treachery or natural occurrences. The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the subsequent financial dilemma it caused, is undoubtedly one of the most challenging crises our industry has faced. But, like every other crisis we have tackled, we will overcome and, in the process, become even better than we were.
The attitude of “the show must go on” is engrained in the fiber of every professional involved in planning, creating, producing, fabricating, and implementing events. Event industry people are deadline-driven and attendee focused. It takes a certain level of tenacity, commitment, and determination to be successful in our industry. That’s why we all will adapt and thrive.
As we slowly move from months of isolation to being able to dine with friends, it becomes evident how vital human-to-human contact is. Our event industry statistics consistently reveal that people attend live events mostly to network, talk to brand representatives, and discover learning opportunities. There is no other medium that can effectively replace that.
Getting Back to Work
The most critical aspect of successfully getting back to work and keeping us working is safety for employees, our families, and our clients. A recent Fortune survey asked CEOs what their top concerns were for recovery. Over 97.2% said employee safety and productivity. There’s strong C-suite support for implementing safety procedures. The necessary basic precautions include:
– Continual sanitation of the workspace
– Social distancing (working at least six feet apart)
– Staggering working hours if possible
– Avoid handshaking
– Wearing masks if appropriate
– Staying at home when ill
– Ensuring availability of hand sanitizer
– Providing directional signage to avoid crowds
– Structural changes to avoid continuous contact
– Visiting clients and vendors practicing the same precautions as employees
Review the CDC’s complete Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers for full details.
Alternatives to Large Live Events
If you have had to cancel your trade show, conference, or other live event participation in 2020, you don’t have to wait until 2021 to engage your prospects and clients. There are alternatives that don’t involve attendee travel, are smaller and make it easy to practice social distancing, and can be highly experiential. Here are a few ideas:
Road Shows: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people’s willingness to travel, especially by air. It’s unclear when most of the public will be willing to do so. If your prospects and clients can’t come to you, go to them. Road shows can be a brief meeting during breakfast, a luncheon, or an all-day seminar. Road shows are location flexible, and small rental spaces in hotels will be easier to book as we continue on the road to reopening the country.
Mobile Tours: One thing we have learned from the pandemic is that we need to be flexible and able to adapt to changes quickly. What could be more flexible than taking your meeting space on the road with you? RVs, vans, and tractor-trailers can be converted into mobile experiences for your attendees. You can take them anywhere you can drive.
Outdoor Events: You might have seen or read about DJs who created outdoor events for which the audience stays in their cars. That’s a great example of adapting to a bad situation. You have the same ability. All you need is an open parking lot, field, or, better yet, a drive-in theater.
Pop-Ups: There are available spaces in many areas of most cities, and owners are willing to rent them for short periods. Pop-ups are great for product demos, small seminars, or full-blown experiences. In the post-COVID-19 period, it is essential that you have total control of the environment and the number of people in the facility at any given time, and rented spaces allow that.
Virtual Events: The use of virtual events was growing before COVID-19 devastated the live event industry, and now they are exploding. Companies like Zoom, a virtual event platform, are enjoying fantastic growth in both subscriptions and stock market value. We have seen some very clever use of virtual events recently, including remote office meetings, wine-tasting parties, speeches, seminars, and even full-blown concerts. The next wave of innovation in virtual events will bring digital engagement to a whole new level.
While virtual events may not have the same personal impact as live events, they are proving to be an effective substitute during the crisis. There’s good reason to believe that the increased use of digital technology now will prove the value of virtual events and will favorably impact their growth after the crisis.
When major live events return, and they will, many event professionals will utilize digital event components. These hybrid trade shows, conferences, and other events will use virtual elements to reach a larger audience and will become a standard in our industry.
So What’s Next?
The event industry has a proven track record of resilience, spirit, and adaptability. Allied Market Research, which published Event Industry Market – Opportunities and Forecasts prior to the pandemic, predicted the industry will grow by 10.3% a year, and by 2026. While these statistics may differ now, the overall sentiment stays true.
People want to mingle with other people, find opportunities to network, be entertained, learn, discover the new, and have immersive experiences. If we have learned nothing else from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that people want—no, need—opportunities to do all these things. That’s a need we event professionals fulfill. So let’s get started.
For more information on how to get ahead in the new environment, download our Adapt and Thrive playbook.