It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that 2020 was the worst year for the events industry. We don’t yet have any worldwide research that presents the disastrous impact COVID-19 has had on our industry, but we can certainly say that things went from bad to worse.
Let’s put some things into perspective. According to the Events Industry Council,'The economic impact of the events industry is significant. On a total GDP basis, the global events industry is as large as the 13th largest global economy. Based on business sales, the business events sector is larger than consumer electronics and computers, and office equipment.'
As the 2018 Global Economic Significance of Business Events study, commissioned by the Events Industry Council and conducted by Oxford Economics, reveals, 1.5 billion people worldwide are participating in business events annually. Moreover, 26 million people have direct or indirect jobs in the events industry. Also, it was estimated that $2.5 trillion (USD) are the result of direct or indirect business event spending.
Now, think that at some point, the entire industry of physical events stopped because of the worldwide lockdowns. People weren’t able to meet or travel. And it’s not clear yet if this will happen again with the second wave.
We don’t need extensive economic impact research to understand the catastrophic impact COVID-19 has had on the events industry. However, apart from suffering, we’ve also learned how resilient we are. The crisis and tremendous stress we’ve all experienced (and still experience) have taught us a new way of thinking about events and forced us to explore new options and possibilities. Having this in mind, let’s discuss what we’ve learned what’s possible in 2020 about the events industry:
Moving from physical to online events
One important shift we’ve noticed in 2020 is the move of events from the physical to a digital environment. Since we’re not able to run in-person events, the natural solution is to take them online. The biggest challenge, though, was (and still is) to differentiate events from webinars. That’s why we’ve noticed different online event formats emerging.
From online summits to online festivals, people and companies are experimenting with different options and formats. Moreover, different event management platforms that, up until now, offered planning features for physical events have pivoted to online events, developing solutions for making events digital.
Our prediction is that online events are here to stay. This pandemic has moved the entire industry years ahead. What was exceptional a year ago is the norm today. And although we’ll go back to physical events at some point, we’ll always maintain the digital format for online or hybrid events.
Transforming events into digital marketing strategies
Since we took events online, we’ve opened new possibilities in terms of marketing. Think about it: Usually, to communicate with people online, you need to develop a content marketing strategy, along with a strong social media presence. However, you still can’t directly connect with your audience.
People could consume your content without expressing their interest in your brand. With online events, however, things have changed. You can differentiate yourself by running online events as a form of digital marketing. We’re not saying you shouldn’t invest in SEO or content marketing. But apart from these strategies, think about online events as a way of growing your business and becoming more visible online while engaging directly with your leads.
Creating and nurturing an online community
Continuing the point above, online events are great for building and nurturing online communities. You can have a higher number of Instagram or LinkedIn followers, but this doesn’t mean you have a community. With digital events, however, you can grow your number of fans and nurture them continuously by running recurrent online events.
Before the pandemic, companies and brands could only afford to plan several events per year. After all, the costs of running a physical event are still quite high, and not all businesses can afford it. With online events, however, the only investment you need to make is in finding a good planning platform. You don’t have to pay for the catering, the venue, or the A/V team.
That means is instead of running a few physical events per year, you can run online events every single month or week. And this type of consistency will help you build an online community and nurture it with valuable content and unique online experiences (more about that a bit later).
Developing new event business ideas
Unfortunately, the pandemic has also led to the insolvency of countless event supply companies. From event catering brands to event furniture rental companies, we’ve seen many businesses closing. But on the bright side, we’ve also observed new business ideas sprouting as a result of shifting events from physical to online.
For example, more and more event agencies and A/V companies have decided to rethink their value proposition and offer event production studios. Online events are great because you can connect as an organizer or a speaker from the comfort of your office or home. However, if you want to level up, you’ll need to think about the production aspect, and it’s always better to record and stream your interview with your presenters from a professional studio (with the right equipment, the right light installations, and the right sound isolation) than from your bedroom.
Also, these event production studios are great if you want to communicate something through the decorations. It’s great to see that our fellow industry professionals have been able to reprofile and create new value and lucrative business ideas.
Creating exceptional online experiences
Finally, by moving to online events, we’ve been forced to come up with new creative ways of engaging attendees online. After all, you can keep people interested in online events if you’re giving them webinar-like experiences. More and more online event organizers are experimenting with different formats and online experiences.
For example, online attendees can enjoy a live magic show in between the knowledge sessions or attend a whiskey mixology class after the closing keynote speech. Or they can relax with online meditation or dance classes. And that’s only the beginning. The more online events we plan and the more our planning tech partners will evolve, the more we’ll see new formats and exquisite, one-of-a-kind online event experiences.
Although 2020 was a difficult year for the events industry, and we’re not yet sure how 2021 will unravel, we’ve seen how resilient we can be. The economic impact was almost catastrophic, and we don’t know its full extent yet. But we didn’t waste time, and we tried to get creative and innovative during the crisis.
This year, the unimaginable happened. We’ve pivoted to online events, along with the event tech brands. We’ve transformed online events into a part of our digital marketing strategy, and we’ve focused on our digital communities and reached a worldwide audience. We’ve also seen new business ideas sprouting as a result of the shift to digital events, along with the new unique online experiences event organizers we’re designing. And although it’s hard to be optimistic when the pandemic is still out there, we shouldn’t lose hope and should continue exploring or creating new opportunities for the events industry.