Business Events – Forthcoming Challenges and Opportunities
It has been a tough year for business events, with all live events cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic, virtual events have taken over. Whilst virtual events have their uses, nothing beats the chance to network and mix with others in the industry. However, with restrictions being lifted, business events are set to return this autumn, which is great news for both exhibitors and visitors. Events bring professionals together and also connect them to associations and sponsors which can generate quantifiable benefits and increased loyalty. So what challenges and opportunities will business events face?
The Challenges Business Events Face
Has the pandemic changed the nature of events going forward? Covid restrictions remain fluid and can change at a moment’s notice. This presents a challenge for event organisers, with the uncertainty of potentially having to cancel or postpone their event at short notice. They also may have to adapt the event to suit current government guidelines, for instance if restrictions on attendees are reintroduced this would present a problem for events with many attendees already registered.
Whilst trade shows and business events will return with a flourish, many are continuing to offer a virtual option. These hybrid events could well be the model of the future. Those nervous of being in a crowded indoor area can attend virtually instead. Restrictions on international travel will put off foreign visitors in the current climate so those shows that attract attendees from overseas may decide to continue to offer a virtual presence.
DSEI, the international arms fair taking place on 14-17 September 2021, is one of those to switch to a hybrid event. DSEI Connect provides all registered participants (whether attending in person or virtually) access to live-streamed and on-demand content as well as the ability to identify and arrange virtual or in person meetings with potential business partners.
The Packing Innovations and Luxury Packaging Show which takes place at Olympia, London, from 1-2 December is another show which is also offering a virtual event for those who cannot attend in person. They also then offer the content on-demand so that viewers can watch it whenever suits them.
This may be a model that many future event organisers adopt. We are all now used to streaming content on-demand from the comfort of the sofa, so event organisers are going to have to adapt to this to keep up. Offering the option of joining the event live virtually and then having the content available on-demand is surely how events of the future will look.
The Benefits of Hybrid Events
Hybrid events allow for a much greater reach. Organisers will be able to attract a global audience which will appeal to many exhibitors. They will be able to do this at a fraction of the cost of the live event. The virtual element may also offer more sponsorship opportunities than the live event which will bring more income to the organisers. Hybrid events allow for greater flexibility, should restrictions abruptly change, there is an alternative means of holding the event. They also provide greater marketing opportunities, feedback and comments can be analysed to assess which content worked well and which didn’t.
“Events were built to succeed hundreds of years ago but they are built to fail in the 21st century. Post-Covid virtual events and webinars will be unrecognisable. It will be like comparing traditional TV with streaming, print magazines with tablets or music CD’s with Spotify. Events will probably start online and move to offline activations to later go back online again. Communities will interact through the combination of virtual and face-to-face experiences in ways that will increase their return on investments and improve efficiencies. This trend will facilitate and accelerate hybrid events and a new generation of face-to-face event experiences.”
The issue with Virtual Events
Humans are social animals who crave in-person contact, the restrictions of the pandemic have only emphasized this. Whilst we have adjusted to communicating online, nothing can ever fully replace the spontaneous experience of bumping into someone and having an ad hoc conversation or building an emotional connection.
Virtual events haven’t proved to be a huge success in selling products or generating leads. Selling has always been much more successful in person than anonymously online. There are also very limited opportunities to network or build relationships at a virtual event which is one of the major benefits of a live event.
Problems faced by event organizers include difficulties engaging their attendees to make a lasting impact. By now, most of us miss the more personal atmosphere of in-person events, not least because many virtual events have failed to adequately translate this into an online environment.
So large scale events will continue to exist and thrive, but they may find they have to adapt their offerings to suit the digital age and give people the opportunity to attend virtually rather than in person. Statistical data collected by Event Manager Blog reveals that more than 70% of event organisers said once they do go back to business the majority of their events will be hybrid, incorporating both in-person and virtual components.