Planning for an uncertain future in the new events landscape
If you work in events, you live in the future. That future is your next event and could be anything from one week, to one month or even a year away – if you have the luxury of a lead time that long! During lockdown, live events ceased to exist almost overnight and calendars that were packed with site visits, client meetings and events were completely erased. For those of us used to running on adrenaline and flat whites, it was like someone had pulled the plug.
With the government announcement last month, at last we have the go-ahead date of 1st October for the live conferences and events industry to reset, restart and rise, phoenix-like from the flames of Covid.
Of course, we’re not coming back to business as usual, for very good reasons there are a lot of changes to accept and hurdles to jump over in order to keep everyone safe. One of the challenges to overcome is our own government’s guidelines on running safe events which seem to change on a weekly basis. To say that they are open to interpretation is a massive understatement. It’s clear to the majority of us that it’s up to our industry to ensure that we provide a safe, efficient welcome back to organisers and collaboration between venues, suppliers and clients is going to be crucial.
So what now?
Covid safety measures are going to have a big impact on events – social distancing means that venue spaces that could accommodate 400 will now need to restrict numbers to around 100. Delegates will now need to wear face masks, so it’s fortunate that as individuals we are now taking these with us whenever we leave the house – as essential now as your wallet, keys and phone.
As individuals, event planners are notoriously creative – it’s in our blood. Every obstacle presented by this crisis has provided us with an opportunity. We are not people who like to sit still. Before you could say ‘furloughed’, event organisers started to upskill on the opportunities presented by live streaming, virtual platforms and Zoom cocktail hour quizzes.
Most of us can now make a serviceable Negroni.
Taking into account the restrictions on venues and the current climate where there is understandable trepidation to bringing large groups together, it’s inevitable that some planned live events will go virtual. Having said that, we are seeing an equal interest in the possibilities of hybrid events. Since those first giddy months of Zoominars, broadcast live from someone’s three bed semi in East Ham, we’re now seeing a demand for a more sophisticated viewer experience.
Content has always been king, but now it’s increasingly important for your audience to feel engaged. Broadcasting live from a carefully chosen unique venue with, where appropriate, the option to attend in person, provides that extra layer of interest. Combine that with a seamless registration process, taking you to an immersive, animated platform with the facility to interact one on one with other attendees and presenters, view a personalised agenda, or engage with customers at your virtual exhibition booth and you are taking that experience to the next level.
We’re working with our own streaming system that can be integrated with multiple inputs – whether that’s a camera feed, a Zoom webinar, Slido poll or Facebook live chat or all of these combined. Our systems are portable, scalable and customisable to your event and venue.
Once you see the possibilities of the audience journey with both virtual and hybrid event formats, this new way of working feels less like second best.
It may be that in one or two years from now, we are back in the events world we recognise, but until then, we need to adapt and change, accept the challenges presented by this situation and be the world leaders in events that UK organisers have always been.
It’s our future and we’ll make it happen.