This article is aimed at Ops and Event Directors, providing guidance in regards to the future of live events. With the end of the pandemic in sight, everyone is preparing to go back to normal. But the industry has changed drastically in the past year which raises a question: what IS normal?
The events sector took a big hit and the businesses that survived have learned to adapt. Re-evaluating content and trying out different approaches has delivered valuable insights such as effectiveness of virtual event platforms. Those insights, alongside new practices, will shape the future of post-covid live events.
Live Events After Covid. What Will the New Normal Look Like?
Let’s be realistic: post-pandemic in-person events will be nothing like what we are used to. In other words, we don’t have a normal to return to. But this is not an entirely bad thing as it offers us a chance to build the new normal and create a brand new perception of the event industry.
The priorities and practices of the sector underwent massive change, some of which have introduced opportunities that otherwise would have gone unnoticed for a few more years. Physical events from now on will be more advanced, more engaging and more audience-oriented.
Safety as a Top Priority
Even after the virus is eradicated, the fear is likely to remain prevalent in people’s minds. Therefore it will be up to the Ops Directors to carry on holding safety measures such as social distancing, sanitation stations and venue capacity rules to the highest regard.
Live events after the pandemic will look a lot like current hybrid events in terms of following safety guidelines. Although several practices applied to stop the spread will serve past their original purpose. For example, registration online and contactless payments both proved to deliver convenience and time efficiency to both attendees and event organisers.
Remember What You’ve Learned
In a struggle to adapt, we had to change many things around how we went about events. When everything moved to the virtual space, for example, we had to cut down on content length. Meaning we needed to reevaluate the event strategy and importance of each component to deliver the message without extra fluff.
This in turn led us to delivering constant streams of punchy and highly relevant information to the virtual audience with a shorter attention span. The priority of attracting virtual attendees and generating revenue has changed to keeping the audience engaged by providing content of the highest value in both real time and on demand.
To deliver the said content and reach the online audience in an efficient manner, triggering engagement, we have mastered virtual event platforms. And as the hybrid event format emerged, we have learned how to cater to two audiences simultaneously, juggling real life experiences and virtual components. These are important lessons that will become invaluable as live events slowly make their way back into our lives.
Hybrid is the Way Forward
Hybrid events were created to keep the industry afloat during the pandemic, but we can now see clearly they are not going away. This event format won’t be forgotten post-covid: it will be boosting face-to-face events.
Despite hybrid events being primarily seen as a temporary solution seeking to preserve the industry, their effectiveness exceeded expectations. Virtual events could never compete in regards to impact with in-person events, but the hybrid format combined the best of both worlds. And that became the stepping stone of further industry development.
Expanding Your Horizons
Applying hybrid practices to post-covid live events means that you can expect a much bigger reach. Your audience will no longer be capped by the location or even a timezone as they can be attended virtually as well.
Essentially, hybrid events started catering to two audiences because of venue capacity restrictions. But the restrictions being lifted doesn’t mean you should abandon use of virtual event platforms. Instead, use it to broaden your horizons and enable conversations with your audience before, during and post events.
Rise of Events-as-a-Service
As we have seen, the importance of virtual platforms won’t be waning as the incorporation of successful hybrid event practices to post-covid live events is part of the new normal. The industry is now more focused on the audience and having a two-way communication with it, so virtual event platforms will be used for more than just streaming.
Primarily developed as an alternative to live attendance, the platforms will now gain more of a community hub functionality. With a community-first approach that focuses on delivery of the best content, virtual event platforms will be the place of on-going conversations. Conversations that are not limited by time nor location of the attendees.
That is the core of Events-as-a-Service (EAAS) concept: providing consistent omnichannel event experience and establishing meaningful relationships with your audience.
Future of Live Events
The knowledge and experience acquired during the pandemic will be applied to in-person events, taking them to a new level. From increasing reach, to creating new attendee experiences, live events will be continually evolving.
One thing is certain: the future of live events lies within tailoring attendee experiences with an audience-first approach.
Pushing Live Event Boundaries
In-person events have always brought limitations to attendees. For example, clashing panel times would mean guests having to miss out on content – or sudden changes in transport might prevent them from coming altogether.
Most of those boundaries will be removed as live events come back after the pandemic. Simply put, many issues the industry tried to solve throughout the years were resolved in a course of adapting to the world’s climate. Thanks to advances in virtual events platforms and live streaming, time and location will no longer put strain on event attendees’ experience.
The norm of the event industry won’t be the same. The pandemic and the isolation it enforced taught us the true value of human interactions. Instead of focusing on numbers and revenue, our normal is now shaped by building strong and meaningful relationships with the audience. And those relationships generated will repay you two or threefold.
Let’s work towards the new normal. Together.