Covid-19’s impact on traditional event planning
Most of us are familiar with the myriad of traditional event formats that existed before the pandemic. In fact, attending a couple of industry-focused trade shows, conferences and corporate dinner and dances would be part of the fiscal work calendar. Even before the pandemic, industries would have adopted different event layouts depending on the agenda of the event and the demographic of the attendees. With professional industries engaging audiences through in-person events and entertainment industries incorporating a blend of digital and physical strategies to capture the market.
The pandemic has essentially pushed the events management industry into challenging spheres and as the industry tries to configure their next steps they’ve all had to tackle with the repercussions of the lockdowns differently. They have taken the onus to pivoting their strategies or uphauling the business model in order to survive but implications within the industry itself would differ from firm to firm. The shared implications would include reduced capacities due to social distancing and the complete cancellations of MICE events due to lockdowns and so in order to stay afloat, event management companies had to rapidly innovate.
Social distancing as a priority
Needless to say, the new-normal includes a bout of policies and regulations that prioritizes public health and safety. Due to the dominant need for businesses to continuously engage with their clients, new event strategies would be planned around optimising connectivity while staying safe. Luckily for the events management industry, staffers usually come from a diverse mix of work experiences and the community is filled with personnels that are multi-faceted. If anything, this pandemic has provided an opportunity for creatives within the industry to test the limits of their imagination as they figure out ways to service their clients using the best of both worlds – digital and traditional methods. Regardless, social distancing will remain a priority for a long time and so industry-makers will have to figure out how to optimize event line-ups for maximum engagement while ensuring all safety protocols are upheld.
The mainstream adoption of hybrid events
Hybrid events are a bridge between live and virtual events, usually peppered with elements of technology in its delivery. Hybrid events were beginning to take root just before the pandemic but with lockdowns and restriction on international travels, its adoption was accelerated and made mainstream. The crux of a hybrid event is in its accessibility and the ability to connect with its audience no matter where they are. A common misconception of hybrid events is that it’s filled with quirky, advanced technology such as augmented reality and virtual reality, where participants would get to see holograms popping around the event space. More often than not, a hybrid event is in its ability to seamlessly integrate technology to facilitate interactivity between offsite participants and the live audience. Hybrid events can be very appealing as its interconnectivity allows it to have increased reach and attendance as the lowered barriers to entry makes it easier for those who are time-starved to attend at their own convenience.
Virtual events and virtual events only
Most of us have relied on teleconferencing softwares to get us through work-from-home during lockdowns, companies have also relied on these softwares to hold large capacity webinars that essentially replaced annual trade conferences with a fully digital presence. As technologies like virtual and augmented reality become more commercialised and pervasive, adoption will happen at a monumental speed where most households would be equipped with the necessary set-up to be fully work-functional from home. Virtual events can have a comparative advantage to physical events, with a greater online presence, virtual events can source a larger following and more sponsorships while reducing costs for the organising committee as traditional overheads like rental, set-up and tear-down costs and manpower need not be accounted for.
A boom in the utility of augmented reality technology
A foreseeable future in the realm of event management could see virtual and augmented reality technology becoming a staple. Companies have shown great interest in utilising augmented reality technology to fuse physical and digital worlds. For the most part, augmented reality is used to bring forward complex ideas and designs in which creators are attempting to propose to their clients, but the use of augmented reality tech could see event organisers digitalising certain aspects of the agenda. For example, gamifying activities and using hologram based directories to guide participants around instead of the usual ushers. The real value of augmented reality lies in its ability to simplify daily tasks by visualisation and it can certainly add an element of fun to formal events. On the other hand, augmented reality can also be introduced via dedicated apps that are pre-downloaded before the event day or through WebAR solutions that serve to service the event management industry and its clients who are looking for a competitive edge.
Integrating artificial intelligence in events management
Artificial intelligence is a nuanced, pervasive technology that has underpinned a huge part of our daily interactions and this could massively change the way we conduct business. AI’s value lies in its ability to collect, sort and exclusively interpret data for better decision-making. Which is why the future of events could see artificial intelligence softwares singlehandedly manage logistics and attendee management to the tee. Technologies like facial recognition and biometric registration could very well be a mainstay for event-check ins and be a primary feature in event security. It provides a more accurate way to identify registered attendees and reduces human error but ultimately it reduces the long-term cost of manpower and staffing issues.
For the entertainment industry: less extravagant shows post-covid
The entertainment industry has taken a huge hit as large-scale events such as concerts, raves and even celebrity meet and greets had to be phased out. These past events made up a huge bulk of their sales revenue and were usually the highlight of the work year. In order to deal with the financial repercussions as a result of lockdowns and social distancing measures, entertainment companies had to pivot into online concerts and live streams to release new content. Even as physical events slowly resume, audience capacity and event space have greatly decreased and so, expect a much smaller crowd at your favourite musician’s next gig and attendees will most likely have to be vaccinated before they are allowed to attend.
For professional industries: Technology will be a mainstay
Traditional corporate events have already pivoted to online webinars so expect technological innovations to be even more pervasive than before. For event managers, this also represents a streamlining of informational packages and event swag to attendees. Logistical load on their end would be greatly reduced as in the foreseeable future, attendees can download apps that instantly feed them with the necessary information they need to navigate every item on their agenda list.
What to expect
The coronavirus was a black swan event and as we look beyond the events of 2020, we will find ourselves limited purely by our imagination as new technologies will emerge and eventually underpin the way we live and interact with one another. The future of events will shapeshift and take a completely different form that might not retain the slightest semblance to what it was pre-pandemic. As technology will be the mainstay in facilitating networking, individuals will have to innovate in order to let interaction be as meaningful and personable as before.