Ok, I’ve borrowed the sentiment from the accession of Charles VII of France way back in 1422, but that’s the general direction of today’s blog. Are live events really dead, set to be buried under an avalanche of remote Zoom me-toos? Or will that most innate of human characteristics, to socialise and interact with other humans, win out?
History has repeatedly proven that live Events of whatever nature are essential, regardless of economic, technological or social developments. Humans are a sociable breed and simply cannot survive without interaction with others. Events have bounced back many times before and will do so again this time around. Yes, there will be changes – some subtle, some more obvious – but things will be different. The rise of live streaming of events, of webinars and such like, was already well charted before C-19 arrived; we began selective streaming and remote live relay of the events we were delivering for clients quite some time ago. Initially this was to enable a speaker to present live who, for one reason or another, couldn’t practically be at the event. More recently, live streaming of their events has enabled one of our global customers to reach a wider audience and gain exposure to, and knowledge of previously unconnected businesses and individuals. It’s early days and over time, data will tell, but my feeling is that people are unlikely to sit through a full day’s conference at their desk or in their kitchen, but more likely will dip in and out or even abandon the event after a while as ”something more important” crops up. I’m certainly in the latter camp. We need the interest engendered by a great keynote speaker, the interaction within a break out or Q and A session, the expert knowledge garnered from a brief chat during the coffee break; the opportunity to network and meet with peers, meet potential suppliers and especially potential customers; and as individuals, develop, learn something new and have fun. We need the 2-way nature of a live experience, rather than the one-dimensional experience of staring at a small screen for a long period of time. Even smaller meetings will continue to be popular despite the convenience of Zoom et al, as people again prefer to engage face to face, to look them in the eye and (dare I say) shake their hand.
For a time (perhaps a long time) the usual rules will change. Corporations will rightly ban or heavily pull back their employees from air travel to avoid that confined, air-conditioned space. Until such time as they deem it more important that they do fly (to a sales opportunity, to engage with an overseas business or Government, to make an acquisition – the reasons will quickly multiply). [I actually know of a UK based, internationally operating organisation that in late February banned all employees from going to pretty much any other country, including European ones. Except for the USA, where its key customers and projects were. Hindsight may question the wisdom of that call.] The airlines and airports (indeed all modes of public travel) will have a part to play here, with regular deep cleaning and disinfecting of aircraft; limiting numbers below capacity both on and offboard; thorough checking of every passenger wishing to travel, perhaps using recently discussed health apps and more rigorous testing? There will be a financial impact with each of these measures, one which will ultimately be passed on with higher air fares. The UK may become an even more desirable destination for events for UK companies than pre-Coronavirus.
Hotel proprietors will need to follow a similar pattern in order to reassure corporate and leisure guests that their properties are safe, hygienic, and regularly and thoroughly cleaned regardless of their occupancy during the Coronavirus period. The enhanced attraction of staying “local” in the UK combined with a plethora of postponed events moving to Q3 and Q4, will likely result in higher prices and crucially, a squeeze on availability as venues try to fit these in with regular bookings made before the crisis.
External business events such as Trade shows, exhibitions and business conferences, not to mention AGMs, will quickly reappear as marketplaces for commerce and knowledge sharing. Few of those due to be held in Q2 / 3 are likely to be rescheduled for this year, but will be back on the calendar in 2021, in one guise or another. Those businesses leaping out of the starting blocks to invite treasured customers and prospective new clients to exclusive events and high-profile gatherings may be rewarded with an eager and enthusiastic response, a willingness to engage without the reticence of the pre-coronavirus era.
Formal internal events may be a little slower off the mark, but if ever there was a time for an off-site motivating, inspiring, energising senior exec get together, or a full on morning sales conference to refocus the team (followed by a fun afternoon team activity and a bit of “letting the hair down” in the evening to reacquaint everybody), it will be sooner rather than later after the virus has passed. Or perhaps 2020 will be the year of your organisation’s best ever Christmas party? Budgets don’t need to massive. Creativity and energy are key. Remember though, venue availability may be constrained so get some in initial planning and ideas together now.
The Events landscape will be different post Coronavirus lockdowns, but maybe not that different in the end.