By Marco Giberti, Founder and CEO at Vesuvio Ventures
During the last couple of months, I’ve had daily conversations about how Coronavirus is affecting live events all over the world. It’s a sort of deja vu feeling of similar conversations related to many different risks that the live events industry faces. From situations like Coronavirus, or similar epidemic problems, to natural disasters (I remember my own challenges organizing one of my events during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina), or specific situations (I’m originally from Latin America and we saw many event cancellations because of social and political revolts), the list could go on and on. At the moment, we are experiencing hundreds of cancellations based on the Coronavirus epidemic. Just open up Google and you will find a massive amount of trade shows, concerts, and sports events canceling daily.
There are many different opinions about pushing ahead or canceling events under these circumstances, and, in all cases, these are delicate and difficult decisions affecting people’s lives and safety. Organizers could lose millions of dollars and affect different investments from cities, venues, exhibitors, visitors, vendors, and the whole events Ecosystem representing 2.5 trillions of dollars around the world. These situations – unfortunately – will continue to happen. Today it’s the coronavirus crisis – but we will continue to face many other challenges that are entirely out of our control that will affect live events in the future.
Like many other challenges that our generation is facing (climate change, sustainability, pollution, etc.), one of the critical questions is how technology could help to resolve or at least minimize these problems. And what about live events? Is technology part of the solution or not? Is it a marginal potential help or a core component that all parties involved in the live events industry should finally embrace seriously and invest in the long term solution? I guess so, and it seems that this crisis could be a strong wake-up call for many organizers.
After 25+ years of organizing and investing in events and event technologies, despite being biased, trust me when I say that I honestly believe in the following topics that reinforce my “tech will save events thesis.”
In summary, the short and definitive answer to the question on this blog post from my perspective is: Yes, technology will save the trade show and live events business. Let me elaborate a bit.
We could go into every single factor that could trigger an event cancellation or seriously affect event performance. Still, I will focus on the short term concerns around the coronavirus and also touch on other critical situations that generated live event cancellations during the last couple of years.
I’m a firm believer that live event experiences are almost impossible to replace by technology. Let’s remember that trade is based on trust, and trust is based on relationships, and all these things together gravitate around live events.
If we are talking about B2C events like Festivals, Music, Sports, etc. you would probably agree that nothing can replace a live event fan experience – when you can be part of that tribe in person and experience, touch, feel, listen, and liberate your emotions at that particular venue during that specific moment.
If you agree with this first part of the thesis, please keep reading, and if not, you are probably wasting the next 5 minutes on this article.
Now, the next question is: can technology avoid event cancellations? The short and straightforward answer is, maybe, but each specific situation will be different. Still, in every single case, technology can minimize the impact of any of these dramatic situations for all parties involved.
Let’s talk about ways to minimize the coronavirus situation. There are many great articles and blogs created by the events industry-leading associations like UFI and SISO centralizing the best practices, vital information, and shared knowledge between event organizers and general media, and their new effort with This Show is Open campaign.
There are many event tech tools facilitating instant communication between venues, organizers, exhibitors, and visitors in order to keep them updated on an events latest news, specific actions to minimize costs and investments in case of cancellation and to be sure that customers avoid unnecessary risks if the event chooses to move ahead.
There are also event digital platforms helping exhibitors who were not able to attend the show to participate virtually, showcase products, and coordinate meetings over video calls that will be immediately followed up by face to face meetings as soon as the next event is rescheduled. Technology can facilitate alternative product demos and matchmaking opportunities between buyers and sellers digitally to complement the event cancellation or postponement. The main problem is that most organizers are still not leveraging many of these existing technologies since they are not investing the right amount of time, resources, and money into embracing these existing solutions. Nevertheless, in the middle of a crisis events usually help to restore commerce or bring happiness and entertainment opportunities to all participants, assisting in the economic development of every single city where these events take place.
It’s imperative that the live events industry embrace tech as a savior and not as a challenge. This goes from extreme situations like event cancellations up to improving return of investment to all parties involved and bringing more and better transparency as well as an added value to all industries.
According to the latest research from the Events industry council and Oxford economics, live events are a $2.5 Trillion industry. Billions of people around the world benefit directly from live events in different capacities. From job generation to trade and commerce opportunities to entertainment, events are helping and supporting millions of business owners annually.
Event technology is also growing fast and is currently represented by more than 4000 tech startups and companies. With “only $6 billion+ dollars invested in this category,” this can be considered peanuts if we compare it with other smaller industries tech investments like Fintech, Mobile, health tech, etc.
Among the current tragedy represented by the Coronavirus situation, technology should and could help to minimize the impact of the problem and reactivate the events industry faster and stronger than ever.
Many smart key players in the industry are finally paying attention to technology as part of the solution and not of the problem. Some of the event tech companies where I’m involved are having more inbound calls from event organizers than even before, curious to learn how they can start using these tools to support their customers. They say that in every crisis there is an opportunity. I see this crisis as a huge opportunity for the live events industry to finally embrace technology and improve the overall customer journey, experience, and ROI for all parties involved.
There is light at the end of the tunnel for the live events industry, and yes, technology will be a critical tool to save the live events industry in regard to long term growth and relevance.
Originally published at www.marcogiberti.com
Marco is a successful serial entrepreneur and investor with more than 25 years of intensive experience in media, technology, and the events industry. He is Founder and CEO of Vesuvio Ventures, providing early stage entrepreneurs access to coaching, partnerships, advisory, and capital.
After several years in a successful career as a corporate executive at Apple, Marco pursued his entrepreneurial ambitions and became:
• Co-founder and Board Member of Mind Opener, a leading publishing group in Latin America that was later sold to British Pearson Media Group, and
• Co-founder and Board Member of e-mind, an internet and media communications company that was sold to Liberty Media.
• President, CEO and co-founder of Mind Trainer (later Reed Exhibitions), a firm specializing in the organization of major regional trade-shows and events that was sold to Reed Elsevier after a successful long-term joint venture.
Marco is a Harvard Business School OPM Graduate, and member of YPO, the Young Presidents Organization and a frequent speaker at industry conferences. He is also a co-author of the best-selling book The Face of Digital focused on how digital technologies are changing the live events business industry.