We Are In A Whole New World – Embrace It.
I have always loved how the events sector is fast paced, agile and innovative. From tech to entertainment, food ideas to room décor – no month is ever the same, there is always something new creating a buzz.
Since March, the sector has been adapting at a rapid pace to create new ways of working and develop solutions that allow events to continue and even thrive in a virtual world.
My personal opinion is there is no replacement for a live event. Witnessing something in real time and in a live environment is exciting and special. Interacting with other people and feeling the energy in a room is something many people will be desperate to return to. Watching live music or a sporting event at home is great, but is it the same as actually being there? I don’t believe it is.
However, until we get further guidance from Government the return of live events is still not an option, so businesses are turning to virtual platforms.
This new world of virtual events opens up opportunities that people may have been nervous about even discussing only a matter of weeks ago – and this is exciting.
Virtual events are not new. People have been live streaming for many years, but it has not been day-to-day common practice for everyone. People have been nervous of the tech and the reliability of the internet. However, on the back of the 2020 enforced digital revolution I believe we will find people are now more open to different ideas and solutions.
Here are 5 thoughts on what I think we will be seeing in the events sector as the rules change and we begin to move forward.
1. Smaller Events
As we proceed with caution, smaller events will lead the way. Social distancing will be easier to manage with less delegates. Organisers will see the benefit of using smaller events to build confidence and trust in agencies, venues, caterers and the new guidelines that will inevitably be in place.
2. Repeatable Events – Think Roadshows!
With smaller events, there will be a need for repeatable events. Same content, potentially the same speakers, held at multiple locations that are more local to employees. This will remove the need to ask people to stay overnight to attend an event or to use public transport to get there. This will make people feel safer and confident their well-being is being fully considered.
3. Multiple Location Events
An extension of this might be holding multiple events at different locations. Held on the same date and time, presentations from each location would be live-streamed so delegates are seeing the same content at the same time, but in smaller groups at various locations.
This style of event is not new, but equally it isn’t traditional. Most businesses appreciate the value of bringing colleagues together in one place, however while this is not possible linked-up events are a safe replacement.
4. Hybrid events
This is a term we will start to hear more and more and is an area I am particularly excited about. Events that are part-live and part-virtual are around to stay. People must embrace that not all content will be live but not fearing this removes many barriers and opens up new possibilities.
Virtual meetings are now a regular part of the day for many people. As we are now used to seeing ourselves on video calls – something many would have hated only a few weeks ago – we are also used to listening and engaging with others in the same way we would if we were face-to-face in a meeting room. This mindset change will be significant.
We are now in a landscape that means we can have speakers from anywhere across the globe contributing to an event without the traditional expectation of having them there in the flesh. That dream speaker from the US who may have been out of reach in terms of budget could now be booked via a live-link and our newly found confidence in tech. A Q&A session with the panel at remote locations will now be a real possibility for many. This is all exciting progress.
Hybrid events mean we can extend event reach to attract newer and bigger audiences. And much like live TV, events will be recorded and available for immediate playback, making them more accessible and allowing people to view content with flexibility and control.
5. Studio Events
This is a major step up from hosting a Zoom call. This style of event is perfect for businesses wanting to communicate and engage with staff, with the comfort of full technical support, reliable streaming and the ability to integrate different content formats.
Much like a TV show, the presenter would be located in a studio and have the ability to switch to video content, presentations, speakers at other locations and audience engagement tools.
With professional live camera, audio and lighting the experience for the user sat at home will be exceptional and a business hosting an event in this way will be perceived as leading the way in communicating.
These are just a few thoughts based on where we are today, but I am sure there are many more we have not event started exploring yet!
Clear are currently working with clients on mapping out new ways of delivering events and I just wanted to share a few extra ideas on how to make virtual event experiences even better…
Bring Together Live and Virtual
Think about posting people event packs. It might have snacks, cans of iced coffee, a pen, notepaper… the kinds of things you would expect at a venue but delivered to your delegates door – helping to bring the event to life at home.
Think about Inclusion
There is no getting away from the fact that some delegates will have commitments in the home. Think about your audience and what requirements they might have.
We have been developing ideas for fun sessions for children which will help anyone home-schooling. Quizzes, colouring-in packs and craft competitions are all things to think about incorporating.
Spread Out the Content
Sitting at a live event with 6 hours content is something we are all used to, digesting that level of content at home is not so easy to do. We have been discussing hosting conferences across multiple days. Kick starting each day with instant feedback on the day before brings it all together and asking people do some prep before the following day helps with engagement and involvement. Ending the conference with virtual drinks and a DJ on the Friday afternoon is a nice way to wrap up.
Spreading the content across a few days will help anyone who may have other commitments at home.
Make it Social
Part of any successful event is networking, interaction and face-to-face contact. Building in interactive tools for audience participation, having options for smaller breakout groups and even incorporating a social lunch break can really make a difference to the overall delegate experience.
Element of Surprise
Throwing in something unexpected like a live musical performance via video link would give the wow factor and create a memorable moment that would capture the spirit of us all embracing new technology and the digital world we find ourselves in.
We, like every other event professional, cannot wait until we are back up and running and holding live events, but we are also very excited about these new opportunities.
My advice to anyone wondering what they can do is don’t be afraid – talk to people in the events sector and see what others are doing and what can be done. There are people to help with the technology so don’t shy away from it – just get the expert help you need.
We are living through something that will shape the future of the world. I say embrace this thought and shape your 2020 event to reflect the digital, virtual world that we are in. One thing is for sure, it will be completely different to your 2019 event and, if done properly, it will stand out and be totally unforgettable.