What is the New Normal for the Event Industry?
5 Things You Need To Start Doing Now
Health security, virtual and hybrid events, catering, event design and event budgets are 5 topics for #eventprofs to pay attention to as we transition to the new normal. The pandemic has smashed the jigsaw that took us decades to piece together, scattering the pieces far and wide. Now we have to find all the pieces again and figure out how they fit together in the new normal for the event industry. Here are 5 things you need to start doing now to be ready for recovery.
1. Health Security
Health security, according to the World Health Organisation concerns “the activities required, both proactive and reactive, to minimize the danger and impact of acute public health events that endanger people’s health across geographical regions and international boundaries”.
“Every meeting and event must have a health security plan”, according to Dr Jonathan Spero, CEO of InHouse Physicians, a provider of on-site medical care resources and expert advice to planners and venues. “The pandemic has brought the need for health security into sharp focus. It is vital to every organisations basic duty of care to attendees but it goes beyond that by also fostering business continuity, driving performance and engagement and promoting wellness”
2. Virtual & Hybrid
Virtual and hybrid meetings and events predate the pandemic by a decade or more. What’s new, however, is our attitude to them, our understanding of them and our realisation that, one way or the other, they’re here to stay, alongside in-person meetings and events.
The toolbox of #eventprofs in the new normal will have to include expertise around all three event types, distinct and different as each is. Gone forever is the notion that live streaming your event on, say, Facebook, constitutes a virtual or hybrid event.
We now know, categorically, that virtual events require their own unique approach, planning and design. Attendees’ attention spans on-line are short so content needs to be sliced and diced accordingly.
And hybrid events involve simultaneously addressing two distinct audiences with different expectations, different ways of consuming content – it’s not a simple matter of replicating content across the two platforms!
3. Rethink your meeting and event design
A consequence of this, of course, is the need to re-think your meeting and event design. This is what the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE)’s Head of Events, Tahira Endean, had to say:
“SITE’s annual conference is usually all about in-person connections, learning opportunities and destination discovery. This year we had to figure out how to deliver networking, education and destination discovery via a virtual platform, bearing in mind that virtual interactions are simply not the same as in-person connections. We had to re-think and re-design our global conference accepting that what works in-person doesn’t necessarily work virtually. Figuring out how your customary in-person audience reacts to virtual content is trial and error. It involves lots of iteration and re-iteration. Don’t expect to get it right first time”.
4. Rethink your food offering
One of the most impressive “pivots” (ouch!) of the pandemic has surely been how many restaurants have responded by developing at home click and collect dinner kits that then show up as triumphant feasts on Instagram on Friday and Saturday nights.
Event planners have worked with venues to provide similar offerings, delivering catering kits to event attendees so that work colleagues can enjoy “happy hour” together on the corporate Zoom call. This is one way of rethinking your food offering.
When face to face events resume, buffet stations, will be off the menu for a while and likely replaced with compartmentalised bento boxes or single serve options. Reimagining these with delectable delights will be part of turning limitation into opportunity! When we take our first tentative steps back to in-person meetings and events, there’ll be even more rethinking required around our food offering.
5. Rethink your event budgets
With a year of virtual meetings and events under our belt, here’s what we know:
- Standard, off the shelf, virtual platforms are perfectly suitable for “informative” meetings that require only basic resources and expertise
- Standard, off the shelf, virtual platforms are NOT suitable for “formative” or “transformative” meetings that require creativity, extensive resources and advanced expertise.
- Hybrid meetings & events are not about simply live streaming your in-person event. They are complex productions, involving 2 distinct audiences and significant investment of expertise, time and money.
Event budgets in the new normal will need to expand, not contract. Virtual events, when done properly, share attributes and characteristics with TV and film production, and these, as we know, don’t come cheap.
Hybrid meetings are also expensive as they combine the costs of in-person AND virtual formats. When preparing your meeting and event budget for the next 12 months, you’ll need to keep all that in mind.
Talk to our team if you are planning your new normal event and let us help you navigate through.