Despite being one of the hardest-hit industries during the COVID-19 pandemic, the events industry demonstrated outstanding resilience, responsiveness, courage and adaptability during the crisis resulting in an unprecedented evolution within events.
Across the board, people in the industry showed their willingness to try new things and experiment with new technologies rather than hunkering down and wait for the storm to pass. As a result, this has been a time of tremendous change and growth in the industry. The pandemic has revolutionized the industry in ways that will dramatically alter the shape of future events.
The future for events will present its own challenges and event organizers will need to use initiative to overcome them. In this article, we take a look at what that future will look like and how you can prepare to ensure the success of your events.
In response to the cancellation of traditional physical events due to COVID-19 restrictions, many organizers turned to innovative virtual and hybrid event solutions, such as OnAIR by EventsAIR to convert their in-person events into virtual events.
It soon became clear that immersive virtual events are not only possible, but also open new opportunities and add new dimensions to the event experience. The clear benefits to attendees include safe and easy access, substantial time and travel savings, and relatively low registration fees; whereas event hosts enjoy dramatically extended reach, greater diversity in their agendas, more reliable attendee engagement data, and better exposure for sponsors and suppliers.
Although the benefits of virtual events cannot be ignored, online interactions simply cannot compete with the lasting impact delivered by in-person events. No doubt once restrictions ease many people will seek out the personal connection of physical events.
By combining physical participation with virtual interaction, hybrid events are able to satisfy the need for personal interaction, while maintaining a safe environment and retaining the benefits of virtual events. As a result, the hybrid event format will be the first step to transitioning back to full in-person events.
Let’s take a look some important considerations to keep in mind when preparing for hybrid events.
One of the greatest challenges event organizers face will be overcoming the fear and reluctance many people harbour about gathering in numbers, particularly with the impact of COVID-19 still fresh in their memories. Offering discounted registration fees is one way to incentivize and attract wary audience members to attend physical events, but these offers should be bolstered by highly visible changes to the physical event offering. Focus on putting people at ease about attending any future events by helping to ensure event attendee safety and mitigating risk.
Alternative registration options such as virtual only, or a mix of virtual and in-person registrations, you’ll be able extend your reach to people who are not quite ready to venture out yet, as well as allowing those affected by travel restrictions and/or budgetary constraints to join in the event in an immersive and interactive way.
Event creators will need to have a series of backup plans and alternative approaches on hand to avert any disruptions. Host country status and travel restrictions will be scrutinized, and specific conditions will need to be met before in-person events can happen and, for headliner events in particular, a backup venue in a different city or different country may need to be in place.
Should the worst happen, and lockdowns come back into effect, you may need to convert your entire event from an in-person or hybrid event into a virtual one. Make sure that the event technology solution and support team you choose are up to the task, so you can quickly and easily switch formats, and your event can go ahead regardless of any unforeseen changes in circumstances.
A comprehensive event management platform, like EventsAIR that includes the OnAIR virtual event solution, lets you seamlessly transform your entire event from an in-person event to a hybrid event with the addition of a virtual component. The system dovetails the in-person and virtual components of your hybrid event so that both physical and virtual audiences share in a highly immersive and interactive experience.
Mobile event apps and high-touch communications offer safe, effective, and convenient ways to keep delegates up to speed on what is happening at the event as well as informing them of safety precautions, backup plans, and event policies and procedures. Making use of these technologies will ensure that you are well-positioned for all eventualities.
Contactless registration and attendee tracking will help to build confidence in attending your event. Use the registration process to stagger attendees throughout your event and follow up with low-touch or touchless interactions such as digital event check-ins and contact-less payments to help protect attendees.
Create different agendas based on what works best in the virtual or in-person space. Set up and manage prescheduled appointments with virtual or in-person buyers to maximize your reach. For example, schedule virtual networking, video chats or group interactions for virtual exhibitors from anywhere in the world to interact with your virtual audience. And create opportunities for exhibitors at your in-person event to hold face-to-face meetings onsite with your physical attendees. You might also run different styles of content during workshops, depending on whether your audience is attending online or in-person. Use interactive sessions, live polling, live Q&A, gamification, one-to-one meetings, and social networking to engage your virtual audience and create a strong sense of connection to the in-person event.
Providing a healthy safe environment has become a vital aspect of all in-person events. This extends beyond merely generating the perception of safety to fulfilling your responsibilities to your attendees.
Choose venues carefully both in terms of size and compliance with regulations. Ensure your planned venue and host country fulfil all government and WHO requirements before booking in-person events.
Limit the number of in-person attendees plan schedules to control access, hire a bigger ballroom to spread out your delegates and have fewer people in bigger spaces. Consider room layouts, seating charts, lines, check-ins and the size of venue you need to ensure social distancing requirements are met.
Exchange printed materials such as programs for mobile apps. They are versatile, customizable, safer, and more environmentally friendly.
Use health screening technologies, health and safety signage, and hand sanitizing stations to help keep your attendees safe.
Ensure that attendees are aware of their obligations to alert event staff if they aren’t feeling well or are experiencing any symptoms characteristic of Covid-19 infection.
Be guided by government and health authority guidelines to ensure compliance and safety.
The events industry survived isolation and lockdown by adapting and advancing, and we will to continue to evolve. New technologies and skill sets will be required to deliver unforgettable world class experiences in the new reality left in COVID’s wake, however the benefits these developments bring to our industry make it worthwhile.
Get ready to create incredible hybrid events by researching the different event technology solutions available. Start by visiting eventsair.com/onair to see how you can customize the platform to suit your needs.
EventsAIR has been at the forefront of Event Technology and Innovation for over 30 years, continually pushing the boundaries of what an event management platform can do. Built by event planners for event planners, EventsAIR is a secure, scalable, cloud-based solution that can manage everything from in-person, virtual to hybrid conferences, meetings and events in a single online platform – anywhere, anytime and on any device. In use in over 50 countries by multi-national corporations, professional conference organizers, government departments and tertiary education institutions, EventsAIR is also used in global congresses such as G20, APEC, CHOGM and ASEAN, as well as sporting events like The Olympic Games, World Rugby, Commonwealth Games and Pan Am Games. EventsAIR is trusted by event professionals around the globe. For further information, visit www.eventsair.com