OK, so lets all agree, no one is going to Cannes right? Or are they? Now the news about lockdown being lifted, maybe things have changed? Cannes is the best example of how the industry is grappling with the post pandemic issues of events and perhaps is the best example of how we are entering a period of being able to create events, but being confronted by the reality of will anyone go?
I think this is the biggest challenge for the coming quarters, not whether events can happen, but rather, should they happen and will anyone go? As I think about events, there are a few areas to consider when trying to predict the future and where we will net out.
- Who is paying? We often start with the health dialogue or appropriateness of going, but truth of the matter is someone has to pay and that someone has likely significantly cut the budget. There are very few businesses who will not be coming into 2021 with a slashed events, travel and marketing budget. As most people in corporate work know, once its gone, its really hard to get back and two years of austerity will make that a mountain to climb.
- Who blinks first? Putting budget aside, the next one is whether or not when you send people to an event, or go yourself, you become part of a super spreader horror headline, where executives were red faced not because of Rose but because they all caught Covid whilst enjoying some International or even local event. So who wants to be the one that says ‘yes lets invest in this event and go for it.’ Who goes first?
- Virtual events are getting better. I attended an event With Mediatel where they used some latest technology to allow us to virtually mingle, network and chat before and during the event. It was actually pretty good, it created some challenges, there was no opportunity to politely escape a table (not that I needed to, had a lovely bunch) – there was less serendipity, but overall it worked well. I liked the big brother feature where messages were sent out like in 1984 to shepherd guests around. Bottom line this tech is only going to get better and better and so virtual events will continue to evolve and entertain.
- Virtual events are driving inclusion in our industry. Cannes or CES is an extreme of course but its the everyday events that I think our the hardest to navigate in person. Some are not going to be worth the time and effort, even if cost is not an issue to come to from say Manchester or anywhere over 2 hours, even if the content is solid. Now they are virtual, people from all over the country, even the world can join. I also think the charging model can change to be less aggressive knowing more people will join. I think that is really exciting for the industry and for those organizers and importantly sponsors. I was surprised at the event mentioned above that there were no sponsors in the networking area, or anywhere really, that is an opportunity and suddenly you may be reaching 1000 people instead of 200, that becomes interesting. We should embrace the chance to have more people from different backgrounds attend our events.
- Charging models. I believe that events need to really look at how they are charging now, it is a seminal moment to review events and consider the best way to maximize utility and commercial gain. Micro payments in my mind are still woefully under utilized. Let’s say there is an event on Digital Audio. It would be great if lets say you were going for a job in that sector to go to the site, pay a fee and get to watch the whole event. Perhaps there are subscription options as well for certain companies. All in all, commercials should now take into account larger audiences online, follow up micro or one off payments to a whole range of other people and perhaps a subscription model for all the events. Makes things interesting perhaps?
- Content has to improve. Anyone who was not a content organizer will say that the number of events and awards was getting out of hand, everyone enjoys winning but there is only so much that can be done and paid for in a year. I also think because of that content was not good enough, not prepared enough and rushed through in too many situations (not all). I hope that when we do have live events again, organizers realise that it should be quality over quantity or I think many cash strapped companies will politely decline. If that is a product of all this, that can only be good for organizers and attendees.
So as things start to ease and we plan our future, will we be rushing back to live events together, or will we be looking to have face to face for only the very most premium occasions and lets face it, in 2022, or will we be rushing back to how it was. I would love to see the return of some live events and perhaps for the first time, as with many things, people have realised that they took these events for granted and actually they do have a worth beyond the content.
There is an opportunity to change and adapt, I have seen some real progress already through lock down and I am certain there will be more to come, we should embrace these changes and make them work alongside our new working environment where I believe the combination of virtual and face to face will be very much the norm.