COVID-19 has had an undeniable impact on every major industry around the world. For better or worse, it’s forced us to ask important questions about the way things have always been done. As we close in on two years since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, we’ve also had to ask questions about what the future looks like.
The events industry is no different. What’s made these questions more complicated is the fact that the industry varies so much in scale. COVID-19 has had as much impact on small conferences as it has on global events like the Tokyo Olympics and EURO 2020 – two sporting tournaments that had to be pushed back by more than a year as countries went into lockdown.
Those two tournaments alone needed millions of dollars to organize. They both involved planning over many years, intercontinental collaboration, infrastructure, marketing, licensing, and many other costs that made postponement near catastrophic. Today, however, the story is different. Both the Olympics and EURO 2020 happened (albeit a year later) with large in-person attendances. Stadiums are being filled across the world.
On a smaller scale, many parts of the US and abroad have eased restrictions on gatherings. But what can these events tell us about the future of the industry? We’ve seen the effects of COVID-19 in the past, but what are the ramifications for the future?
A cultural shift in consumers
The e-commerce boom of 2020 might not seem that important to the events industry. In truth, the rise of online retail doesn’t hold much for organizers in the grand scheme of things, but it offers vital insights on a group that both sectors rely on: consumers.
Both live events and brick-and-mortar stores suffered when lockdown regulations kept people from them. The initial shift to online events and shopping was necessary, but it happened on such a large scale that it shifted consumer behavior across the board.
Where people who enjoyed in-person events and traditional media once hesitated to entertain online spaces, they fully embrace them now. The sheer necessity of being able to engage with the world digitally pushed consumers out of their comfort zones and deeper into the digital age.
As a result, the events industry survived thanks to things like video streaming and online transactions (ticket sales, online merch, NFT tokens, etc.). Ultimately, consumers being acclimatized to cyberspace are what allowed hybrid and fully online events to take off. Even as restrictions ease up on in-person events, many of these measures won’t be going away, either.
Continued reliance on digital events
Video conferences were a survival tool for event organizers in 2020. However, this trend is likely to grow in 2021 and beyond. The internet’s ability to connect events to people around the globe has opened up enough possibilities to make digital transformation a worthwhile endeavor long-term.
Rather than returning to in-person events, organizers are now investing in better recording equipment, sharper cameras, and more reliable internet connections to bridge the gap between cyberspace and the real world.
Markletic released a report with interesting statistics around this:
- 70% of event organizers say that strong audio is essential to a successful event
- 41% of small event organizes host their events on Zoom, with a further 29% preferring Microsoft Teams
- 38% of marketers say they still run into technical difficulties while running their events
That last statistic is particularly telling, given the importance of technology to post-COVID events. Another standout insight from the report is that 67% of virtual events bring in external speakers. Most of those speakers have had to adjust their skill set to accommodate a virtual environment (e.g. learning to speak to an “invisible” audience).
This trend also affects staff. MCs and hosts with experience specific to online events are in high demand.
Vaccines and attendance
Going forward, it’s going to be impossible to discuss events without talking about vaccinations. For example, to allow fans back into stadiums, sports fans across Europe have to produce a negative COVID test.
There is speculation that some leagues may eventually require vaccine cards. While this is a contentious issue, it’s one that usually follows a government directive. It may become something that event organizers – especially for events with more than 500 attendees – will have to work around, especially with mutations like the Delta variant increasing the need for COVID safety measures.
Of course, online events negate the need for at-the-gate screenings. Online events still present a safer option where COVID-19 is concerned. If nothing else, that’s one fewer liability risk for organizers.
Ultimately, future events will be defined by two factors: perfecting online events and maneuvering around new and existing guidelines. Event organizers who can navigate both cyberspace and real-world legislation are the ones who’ll take the lead in the industry.
About Streampoint Solutions Inc.
Founded in 2001, Streampoint Solutions Inc. is a leading provider of event management software. With solutions ranging from tailored online and on-site registration, integrated solutions, housing management, lead retrieval and more. We empower event industry professionals to seamlessly manage their conferences, trade shows, festivals and corporate events. For more information, please visit www.streampoint.com.