The pandemic has changed our world in unforeseen ways. It's not a stretch to say that in-person events met their black swan in covid-19. But today, as the world is recovering from the pandemic, one thing is clear, the post-pandemic world will never be the same as before.
IN-PERSON EVENTS TAKE THE HIT
At the beginning of 2020, TPM, the world’s largest container shipping conference that was to take place in Long Beach, had to cancel its physical event due to growing concerns with the rapidly advancing COVID-19 pandemic. However, just in time, they gracefully pivoted to an online model. The event, albeit a few tech hiccups, was a success, and many organizers would soon follow suit to keep the momentum going and their markets engaged. Thus, there was a clear domino effect, each event organizer chose a technology partner with whom they could deliver the most profound virtual experience to their customers. And consequently, what we became used to were virtual booths, exhibition areas, meetings, engagement zones, lists ( that we loved!), and the occasional zoom bomb. Most physical industry events were either canceled, postponed, or pivoted to an online offering - leaving us spoilt for choice when it came to tech platforms to conduct virtual events.
Fast forward to present times, as the world has started opening up, in-person events are back, but due to COVID regulations and venues running at half the capacity, they have become extremely exclusive and defined by strict health and safety protocols.
Although places with a high concentration of vaccinated populations like New York and California have started allowing in-person concerts and events, each event seems to follow a cluster of breakthrough cases. This begs the question, are we ready to make the jump from fully virtual to physical or must we consider a hybrid model?
Verknipt outdoor festival, which took place in early July was attended by 20,000 people over two days. Everyone who attended had to demonstrate that they were vaccinated, or had a negative Covid test, but this event directly led to over 1200 cases.
Clearly, despite all the mask mandates and hand sanitizers, making sure "industry events" don't turn into "super-spreader events" is still one of the top challenges that event organizers are facing.
THE INCOMPLETE FUTURE OF VIRTUAL EVENTS
From concerts in "Fortnite" to comedy shows on zoom, it's crystal clear that humans are truly social animals and will go to any lengths to have shared communal experiences. But there still seems to be a whole host of hurdles virtual events need to overcome.
According to a recent report by AnyRoad, virtual event fatigue has started to set in. As virtual events seem to lack the gravitas of in-person events, one can infer that the lack of personal involvement and participation has created a perception of 'lacking importance' and 'skippable' around the events.
The other challenge virtual events face is that of "Internet Trolls". From people signing up using vulgar names during Zoom events, to those dancing in front of Martin Luther King’s memorial in Fortnite, the world is full of trolls.
But the world has come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic. Experienced moderators and enhanced security features by video conferencing platforms have improved the overall function and facilitation of virtual events. FreightWaves seems to have come up with a winning formula through innovative themes, carefully crafted content, and engaging the audience with new ways to network, interact with solution providers, vote for their winners, etc.
THE HOPE OF HYBRID
'Hybrid Events' refer to events that happen in-person and online at the same time. It may seem like a perfect solution from a distance, a perfect middle ground. But if you step a little closer, you will realize actually executing such an event could very well turn into a logistical nightmare.
In theory, it's a simple two-step process. Step-1, have the event in-person for Key-Speakers, staff, and a select few who wish to attend in-person. Step-2, have a live stream, commentary, and a virtual event space for the rest.
Although we have a few solid examples from recent times, London International Shipping Week being one of them, it’s still far too labor-intensive and time-consuming for most event organizers to pull off.
As various parts of the world still remain restricted by the pandemic, it’s unclear what the true ramifications of COVID will be for the events industry.
If you’d like to learn more about the topic, feel free to checkout ‘The New York Supply Chain Meetup’ organized by ‘The World Supply Chain Federation’ and ‘Charlie Pesti’ where expert panelists from all fields of media dissected the anatomy of industry events, and offered insights into how one can maximize industry events in the post-pandemic world.