The impact of COVID-19 is leaving some industries grappling with considerable difficulties as new ways of working begin to emerge. And that is especially true of the events industry where face-to-face physical interaction is a built-in part of the business model.
For the events industry, which generates £42.3 billion to the UK economy alone, the damage has been severe. However, all is not lost as there are signs that although progress towards normality remains slow, there are ways that events can be adapted in the post-COVID-19 era.
And while a full return to normality seems some way off, there are a few basic changes that those planning to hold or attend live events will need to grapple with:
Rising insurance costs
There’s little doubt that the huge disruption to the events industry caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to linger long in the memory of events organisers and those that insure the industry. For that reason, it’s likely that hosts will need to cover all kinds of contingencies and that means higher premiums that may have to be passed on to attendees and sponsors.
A greater role for tech
The rash of hastily-convened virtual events has been a testament to the ingenuity of organisers as well as the commitment of attendees (not to mention what it’s done for Zoom’s share price). But clearly the limits of virtual events were visible: face-to-face is a unique experience and no amount of funky backgrounds will change that.
However the predominance of streaming video calls will offer organizers the chance to develop more pre- and post-event material to drum up attendance and give the event a longer shelf life. We may also see more hybrid events where tech takes up the slack, with larger meetings conducted virtually.
A new way of interacting
Social etiquette will change post-COVID-19. For the events industry that shouldn’t be too worrying: investing in hand sanitizer stations, thermal testing, better delegate tracking, and encouraging less handshaking and more virtual communications should be straightforward. It will also require more thought on the issue of capacity, and how guests should navigate through venues to minimize contact and allow for effective social distancing. And in areas like this, humour helps; so acknowledging the strangeness of a no-handshake rule and encouraging social distancing can be done in a lighthearted way.
More focus on contingency planning
Given the greater likelihood of disruption, if the virus flares up again, we can expect contracts to be tightened with cancellation terms carefully re-worded to protect from disaster. Venues and suppliers will be concerned with losing revenue, while agencies and event managers will have to make sure they can avoid paying for an event that may never happen. So it’s fair to say that future planning will have just as much focus on what happens if an event has to be canceled as on making it a success.
There’s no doubt that physical events as we knew them will inevitably evolve to accommodate new ways of working. But clever organisers know that there remains a strong human need to gather with others and exchange ideas.