2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for the events industry, with COVID-19 having prevented any form of exhibition, conference or corporate event from taking place since mid-March.
In mid-July, the Association of Event Organisers [AEO] revealed that at least 20% of the exhibition workforce had already been made redundant, with the Hotel Booking Agents Association [HBAA] advising at least 30% of those working in conferences and meetings lost their jobs by August.
Fast forward another quarter and the UK is now battling a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting second national lockdown. Despite campaigns such as #WeMakeEvents calling on the Government to provide additional support for the events industry, the question remains as to how the sector will survive the next 3, 6 or even 12 months.
The ‘New Normal’
For millions of businesses, long commutes, extended travel between meetings and the office culture are distant memories, with workers now operating remotely with the support of video conferencing tools, like Zoom. This virtual workspace has become the ‘new normal’ for many and spills over into both personal and professional life as people become increasingly used to meeting and engaging with others online.
For many corporates, such as Facebook, Twitter and Barclays, permanent remote working policies have already been rolled out, with millions of organisations following suit by downsizing office space, reducing overheads and investing in scalable infrastructure that allows staff to work from where and when they want.
This ‘New Normal’ has extended into the corporate events space and where organisers have utilised and maximised the technology available, a viable and cost-effective alternative to face-to-face events has been found.
For many, the concept of a virtual corporate event or conference is logging into a video conferencing tool like Zoom and moving between meeting rooms to listen to speakers. However, with very little method of interaction and no real difference between that and day to day conferencing calls, virtual events via Zoom have quickly got a bad rep, forcing many professionals to shy away from the concept and wait for venue doors to open once again.
However, with no definitive end in sight for the current pandemic and, therefore, no ballpark date for when events can take place, it is time for businesses, corporates and events professionals to move beyond the realms of Zoom and emulate the real event experience online.
Virtual event management systems that enable you to create sophisticated web portals for events, not only provide the opportunity to create a true virtual event experience but provide a viable alternative for hosting exhibitions and corporate events until we can meet on mass, in person, once again.
Unlike video conferencing tools, event management systems enable organisers to customise the digital environment with branding, programmes and interaction points, enhanced by polls, Q&As and social engagement. The result is not only a positive experience for delegates but also the realisation that the industry can survive, as long as new and innovative ways of working are found.
Ultimately, there will be a time when exhibitions, conferences and events can take place again. In the meantime, technology continues to advance at an exponential rate and both event organisers and delegates have a viable solution to ensure the industry doesn’t fade.
In addition, the foundations of a new and exciting hybrid model have been established, which will not only advance the accessibility of events by combining both a physical and virtual experience but will also aid faster financial recovery post COVID-19 by providing the opportunity for increased reach, footfall and revenue.