The Future Of Events Is Bright And Big

Hybrid and omnichannel events will become the industry norm

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A typical business talk on COVID says much about the impact on the schools and universities, hospitality, travel, retail and restaurants, and wellness. Not much is said about the impact on the $1,100-billion industry which facilitates business and networking and gives platforms for people to learn and network.

Web Summit/ Flickr

In a conversation with the founder of Web Summit, Paddy Cosgrave shared about the future of events. He believes, "These events will not just be back to the pre-pandemic routine but generating an even higher excitement and enthusiasm among the people who are showing signs of fatigue with video calls."

How physical events will make a comeback

It is dependent on how countries will be opening up domestically and internationally. For Instance, Israel has been declared coronavirus-free and the US is also ramping up the vaccination to be free of the deadly COVID-19. These countries have surprised the virus and successfully managed to bend the curve. Paddy shared that his own country Ireland is vaccinating the population who are in their 20s since the majority of them are working not only in major industries but also as frontline workers. This is happening while in other countries vaccinating senior citizens and people above the age of 40 have been made a priority.

Also, various nations have taken full control over this pandemic like New Zealand, Australia and China. Europe is also planning to reopen the travel industry by the fall of 2021. While highly populated countries like India people are still in a state of confusion as to whether it’s going to be normal again anytime soon or not? However, nations that have already started to organize large numbers of events without vaccinating the entire population could see a backward curve.

No one is safe until everyone is safe.

Shifting gears 

The events industry was perhaps the fastest to switch gears to the digital mode with webinars and virtual event platforms and to an extent, it worked well. While it has opened a whole new world of digital events which is here to stay, cracking the code for good networking and personal experience still remains a challenge. Paddy takes a view on the future of events.

The interpersonal connection: It's really difficult to get to know someone on a video call. There's less value exchange between colleagues at work. No emotional connections are being made, no motivation to get through the day. This results in a lack of productivity and ultimately leads to poor work practices. The absence of personal experience has been seen in events too. People don't want to attend the events only to speak or to hear. They want a full-time experience at events, seminars. Somewhere in the world where they can be their own self and be a part of something instead of just sitting in front of a laptop. Especially, the event industry which works only because of the meetings and gathering of a large number of people physically. People are finding events low-key which are being hosted virtually since the main purpose of these events to bring people close to each other and enjoy the vibe that is totally absent.

Building connections vs. building relationships: Due to the lack of relationships being built among the people virtually, the networking strategy would need to be altered. This new normal can be worse hitting for people whose enterprises are based upon making quality relationships. So how can we tackle this?

Firstly we need to understand that relationships and connections built over a video call will not be as same as the ones which were made over a cup of coffee. The total takeaway here is to focus on quantity over quality. Virtual events allow one to reach a higher number of people cutting across global boundaries, however, physical events bring you face to face and build trust, and make business happen.

Events will become hybrid and omnichannel: The new normal for the event-based industry will be omnichannel events. Physically or virtually or together must be the approach. People who aren't entirely sure about travel can be a part of a virtual environment whereas people who prefer otherwise would love to come for a physical platform. 

This hybrid form of events can change the narrative and also create a better space in the post-pandemic world for the industry. Paddy has already built a custom event platform and plans on creating an online-only environment that will be something totally different and will dramatically change the narrative.

 

Virtual revenues: One more interesting thing to look at here from the business point of view is that fiscal-wise online events are quite different from physical events. Doing a virtual event, the cost is relatively low but then so is the revenue. However, the sponsors or partners are seen to find better returns through the virtual means and managed rightly, it gives them higher visibility and better lead generation for the businesses.

What's the light at the end of the tunnel?

Paddy shared that Web Summit will be held physically in 2021. He is also contemplating holding tech community events in other countries which are headed towards the vaccinated COVID-free world such as New Zealand, Israel, or even China.

Seemingly, this hybrid form of events can change the narrative and also create a better space in the post-pandemic world for the industry. Paddy shares they have created an online-only events platform that is still a work in progress to build something totally different that will dramatically change the narrative.

They are also licensing this platform to outside events and concerts. But more is yet to come!

Paddy believes there's a lot happening in the industry and things are changing at a faster pace. A lot of things are yet to unfold to understand and analyze the post-pandemic psyche of the world.