Will COVID-19 Make Digital Event Management the Next Job Of the New Decade?
Going digital isn't as simple as setting up a webcam and video feed; you can't expect to run an online event the exact same way you would an offline one
Where lockdowns and quarantines have led to a global refiguring of how we meet and socialize, the events industry—built to facilitate social interaction—has had to rethink what networking requires. As we look for new ways to stay connected in this unprecedented period of social isolation, we’ve seen a sector-wide shift towards digital solutions: From large-scale annual events like Microsoft Build and Comic-Con@Home 2020 to smaller, intimate events such as virtual marriage solemnisation, event managers and businesses are scrambling en-masse to take their traditionally-offline events online.
But, even for veteran events managers, this is new territory: 90.2 per cent of the attendees at the third episode of our digital event series on how to run digital conferences said they had no experience organizing digital conferences. We believe that this rapid digital transition has created a void in the industry—a gap in knowledge and experience that will be filled by people with a skillset dedicated to navigating the emerging field of digital and hybrid events: The digital event manager.
What is a digital event manager?
Going digital isn’t as simple as setting up a webcam and video feed; you can’t expect to run an online event the exact same way you would an offline one. How do you choose which platform is the best for your event? How do you secure your event? How do you handle technical difficulties, like your speaker’s Internet connection cutting off? What strategies do you have for generating revenue during your online event?
This is where the digital event manager (DEM) comes in: By combining technical expertise with their event management experience, the DEM reinvents the concept of events and creates engaging digital experiences for attendees. The ‘digital’ is a keyword—the DEM must blend their expertise in event management—how to market your event, how to manage speakers, how to evaluate the needs and goals of your event—with a new technological knowhow of hardware and software setup, technical troubleshooting, digital privacy regulations, and much more.
What skills does a digital event manager need?
It’s definitely a tall order—most of us in the industry are starting from level zero, and learning the ropes together. As we move forward and explore what digital events have to offer, here are the skills budding DEMs will need to traverse the road ahead.
Technical literacy: It’s not about knowing how to code, and building an entire platform for your event from scratch—there are already resources available. It is a matter of picking and choosing the right tools to help you achieve your goals for your event. To stay ahead of the game, you need to stay abreast of the latest technologies and solutions. Download new apps, and get familiar with new software; attend webinars and online conferences, and pay attention to what other people are doing.
Content creation: There’s no face-to-face hobnobbing; no cocktail lunches. With online events, content is your event—and strong content will be what keeps people watching your event, and what will attract them to come back. Think about what would keep you engaged, and explore different avenues of content: Mix pre-recorded and live speakers; invite your attendees to submit video testimonials, sharing their thoughts on the topic of discussion; or, show a human touch by giving your attendees a peek behind-the-scenes.
Experience design: Another important aspect to keep in mind is that attendee experience is completely different for online events than it is for offline events. However, you still want to create a smooth, high-quality experience for your attendees. Think about what you would prepare for an offline event: Registration desks, volunteers ready to help, keynote sessions and exhibition booths—and ensure you maintain that same quality of experience in your online event. Keep your event secure by having some form of check-in or registration; have a support representative ready to respond to any queries or issues faced by your attendees; make sure your resources—like digital brochures—are readily available.
Event management: All of these skills sit on top of your bedrock of event management knowledge. How you manage multiple stakeholders, how you handle your event budget, how you market and advertise your event: You’ll need this knowledge, even when expanding your repertoire into digital events.
The next step into a new frontier
Over 40 per cent of respondents in a survey by SACEOS said they would prefer to attend events virtually rather than physically even in October 2020. It seems like digital events won’t be going away for a while. And, even as we trickle our way back into physical events, digital events managers will continue to remain relevant. Around 59 per cent of our respondents believe that, in the future, digital conferences will be a component of physical conferences. This current trial-by-fire of digital events will birth a hybrid ecosystem of events. In a few years, we might see events where physical attendees and digital participants leverage technology to mingle—facilitated, of course, by DEMs.