Who Will Have the Last Laugh?

The unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic has left everyone scratching their heads for answers, for a sustainable out from this extraordinary crisis. It’s not surprising that business leaders and industry execs are gradually moving towards the only solution to a problem unique to our times – re-imagining the industry altogether. For events in particular, this poses tough questions: What are the changes to be expected in attendee behaviour? With the advent of hybrid events, what can be done to make the new formats better?

Physical human interactions are the heart of events. The closer companies come to achieving it in virtual, the better their chances of success.

It is quite clear that though the coronavirus outbreak might be scaled down from a pandemic, the virus is here to stay for a while. And this in turn means a dramatic change in attendee behaviour. Attendees need to be made aware that large scale events with strict social distancing and hygiene standards are now technically possible.

Take for instance the Gisburne Park Pop-Up Festival in the UK. Touted the UK’s First Socially Distanced Music Festival, the eight-week entertainment event introduced tens of socially-distanced hexagonal pods containing chairs, tables and umbrellas facing the stage. Barcodes left on the tables enabled guests to order food and beverages from digital menus. Staff wearing visors and masks gently slid plates of food onto the tables. Areas were colour-coded to minimise contact by staff. Security was on hand to guarantee cooperation from patrons.

It didn’t take long for others to follow this novel model. Now, all that stands between organisers and audiences is a nod from their respective governments.

Granted, festivals with small crowds have nothing on massive conferences with attendees numbering in the thousands, but the takeaway here is that such events are now possible, and perhaps the only way events can be organised right now. ‘Covid-secure’ venues as they’re called, include precautions such as temperature checks at entry points and enforced distances in queue lines.

This radical change in events calls for commitment and hard work in levels greater than before. Attention to detail is crucial. The prize for our labour would be the excitement and honour associated with successfully executing a socially-distanced event in the middle of a raging pandemic.

The Next Big Trend
If socially-distanced physical events continue to remain unachievable owing to government restrictions or organisational limitations, hybrid events – the next big trend that has revolutionised the events industry, are the answer. Virtual events are clearly on the rise and when executed properly, can be outstanding success stories on their own.

With associations actively favouring hybrid, focus is now slowly but surely shifting to the improvement of services in the format. Companies are in hot pursuit of the elusive something more that will ensure maximum attendance while offering inspiring new experiences.

Physical human interaction forms the heart of every event. The closer companies are to creating virtual options that allow for productive networking and interaction, the better their chances of succeeding. The aim here is to automate and simplify the planning process while maximising the impact.

However, even as companies scramble to invent the next best thing in digital events, real success can only be determined in terms of profits made through one event for both clients and organisers.

Constant monitoring and identification of benchmarks that aid in the assessment of the growth of new trends in events, and regular communication with associations on changes in the industry remain the focal points that drive sustainability.

In this race to keep events relevant against the backdrop of a global health crisis, it remains to be seen who will have the last laugh. But for now, may the best association win!

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