New changes we might see in event industry post this global pandemic. When the lockdown is lifted, how does the event industry respond to changes?

The global Covid-19 virus pandemic has forever changed the industry of healthcare conferences and exhibitions. Indeed it can be argued that the symptoms of the COVID-19 virus have influenced almost all the industries, the exhibitions and events industry is one of them.

Virtually all conferences, trade shows and exhibits have been cancelled or postponed without any real trust that any potential date will be feasible by 2020.

One of the other upcoming problems is that reorganizing an event is complicated if we don't have a timeline to focus on. Some newspaper reports have indicated that the Coronavirus might re-surface next winter, anxious about committing time and money to re-scheduled events for event organisers.

Will we adjust to a modern way of marketing and communication, because the old ways of operating appearing obsolete or will it simply snap back into business as usual? Are virtual interactions the new normal? The events and exhibitions industry is undeniably remarkably resilient, and our human need to connect and share face-to-face information will lead to a recovery in time. Covid-19's effect would, however, have changed the way we operate forever.

1. Eventuality Planning

While alternative plans are top five lists of must-dos on most promoters, many people have been stunned by the pace and scope of the pandemic consequences, and the financial implications have been devastating in some instances.

By 2021 onwards, all big events should be looked at with a sharp eye on the possibility of a catastrophe. After all, in a year that saw the cancellation of the Olympics, the Edinburgh Festival and almost every football match on the planet the future is harder to foresee than ever before. The impossible will become an agenda item.

Contracts will be modified, and the terms of cancellation will be reworded carefully. Venues and vendors may try to cover themselves from loss of revenue, while companies and event planners may seek to make sure that they can stop charging for an event that might never happen. The emphasis should be just as much on what happens if an event is to be cancelled as on making it a success.

2. Act of Technology

Events and exhibitions have already used growing quantities of technology to improve their activities, plus digital marketing to promote activities, while social media has allowed people to track events directly as they were actually happening.

We see event organizers now, however, opting to stream live to bring their conference material to delegates sitting at home. How will this be translated into future events and exhibitions? Are virtual events the way forward?

Likely not. Although the days of the single-conference flight or round table conference are pretty much over for a handful of geographically scattered individuals, medium to large-scale exhibits and conferences serve a particular need.

Exhibitions are tactile and provide opportunities that, even in the most practical VR environment, literally can not be replicated electronically. Anyone who has ever attended the Edinburgh Festival, Glastonbury or a World Cup match is aware of the overwhelming joy of being part of a live event and a community of like-minded people.

However, what the pandemic has taught us is that there are benefits to streaming, VR and online collaboration and it will accelerate the use of these technologies as enhancements and added value to live event programmes.

3. Longer-term impacts on demand and supply

With so many small businesses and freelancers employed in the industry of events and exhibits, even with funding from the government, many of them will still struggle, and some will not endure, unfortunately.

How the market will respond when the immediate danger is lowered is difficult to predict. There could be a short-term surge as organizers attempt to squeeze cancelled activities into a busy six-month window. This can cause difficulties in the supply chain and even a lack of good freelance workers, as some might have had to take jobs elsewhere to protect their income. Several venues are already fully sold out after the summer.

Overall it is in everyone's interest-venues, cities, promoters, exhibitors, businesses, airlines and delegates to put the industry of exhibitions and events back to the pre-COVID 19 activity levels. There would definitely be an opportunity after a prolonged time of isolation. The companies that are seasoned and strong enough to thrive will still be around to offer a higher business standard when they pick up events from others that could not keep going.

4. Amenities and well-being and safety

Do we ever get to shake hands again? Was someone with a cough going to be a persona non grata at an event? Will all delegates test the temperature of large-scale shows when they reach the arena or exhibition hall?

Sure, some of these will appear in the post-COVID-19 world, but memories are limited and old habits will return soon. Some activities will, therefore, become the rule. Cruise ships have had hand sanitates sited around ships for many years to protect passengers from Norovirus, which is an ever-present danger. So, it's going to be at busy shows and activities as we add coronavirus security to the H&S checklist. Our industry will perhaps lead the way in showing that we can balance the need to collaborate and connect with a strong understanding of the need for those with illness to preserve safe practices and self-isolation.

As the idiom goes, ‘Make the best of a bad situation’, event management organizations should make the best possible use of the online platform to market their product during this lockdown period. Almost majority of the global population is online and looking for stuff that interests them. Make sure to put your event out there in the right platforms so that as and when this pandemic is controlled you have a wide network of people who are interested in your event. Online webinars are a great source for educating the viewers about the topic of interest and it also is a beneficial collaborative opportunity between the speaker and your organization.


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