Beyond 2021: The Future of Events
The events industry was badly hit during the height of the pandemic, with many companies having to suspend activities and a significant proportion having to cease trading altogether. While the events industry experienced many challenges, it also forced many businesses to adapt, and we saw new examples of innovation within the sector as a result.
In this blog, we're taking a closer look at the events industry, the impact the pandemic has had upon events businesses, how the industry adapted, and the future of events as we begin to emerge from strict restrictions.
Events Industry Impact
The global events industry enjoyed a prosperous year in 2019 and was worth approximately $1.1 trillion dollars. At that time, the industry was projected to grow to $1.6 trillion by 2028. The reality was much bleaker, with 11% of event professionals furloughed and 10% made redundant in 2020. A further 52% reported a loss in income as a result of the pandemic. (Investment Monitor).
In January 2021, a report from the UK Events Survey made for unpleasant reading. It projected that most business meeting and event companies could only remain viable for a further 7.5 months, while 90% of venue and hotel owners felt they would need to cease trading within 2 years without financial support. (MIA)
A survey by the Welsh Government echoed this sentiment, finding that: “only 13% of businesses can say with any certainty that they expect to survive for longer than six months.” This was typical of business sentiment across the UK. (Welsh Gov)
As of January 2021 event businesses had experienced ‘an average revenue loss of over £2.65M’. (MIA)
Given mandatory closures, reduced spending and public anxiety surrounding events, it’s no wonder that the events industry was so hard hit by the pandemic. There have been many calls for more financial support for the industry and the workers impacted by such significant losses.
How the Events Industry Adapted
The pandemic forced several businesses to pivot their operations and to adapt to the heavy restrictions they faced. While there were unprecedented difficulties for workers in the sector, we saw examples of innovation and creativity, which helped some organisations to stay afloat.
There was a sharp transition towards virtual events, with some virtual event platforms experiencing a more than 100% increase in users in 2020. (Exploding Topics).
We saw many examples of live streamed concerts, sports, plays and other entertainment events in 2020 and 2021. Many business events also pivoted towards virtual award ceremonies, conferences and meetings.
We also saw the emerging trend of online-only virtual event startups, who, having never been reliant on physical venues, were able to flourish during this time. (EU Business School)
Government restrictions saw a rise in outdoor events, which have now become commonplace. Businesses have had to quickly respond to changing guidance, ensuring that they are compliant with social distancing and hygiene requirements.
The pandemic also saw a rise in creative solutions within the events industry, with the aim of bridging the gap between virtual and in-person events.
Event kits and goodie bags have become popular, with event organisers seeking to create a feeling of commonality without being together in person. The Moment team recently attended the virtual Star Awards, hosted by the Marketing Society Scotland and organised by Lux Events.
We were sent a food and drinks package the day before to help build the excitement. Knowing that our colleagues were having a similar experience contributed to the feeling of ‘togetherness’.
The Future of Events
Right now, we’re uncertain what the future holds for events. In England, we’ve seen heavy restrictions lifted, with major sporting events like Euro 2020 and Wimbledon allowed to go ahead at near maximum capacity. Scotland is expected to follow suit in August 2021.
The UK government has announced that restrictions will be lifted on July 19th, with the expectation - but not the legal requirement - that events follow guidance such as social distancing measures, mask wearing and crucially, proof of a negative covid test.
However, some within the industry have already indicated that they will not comply with the most demanding expectations. A chief executive of several prominent nightclub chains recently asserted that his venues would operate: “at full capacity and without any requirement for a negative COVID test, something we believe would create a barrier to both customer enjoyment and getting the industry back on its feet”. (Sky News)
Given the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, many have voiced scepticism about the viability of ending restrictions at this stage. Should restrictions return, it is unclear how this would impact the events industry.
Some events industry leaders believe that we’ll continue to see a blend of digital and in-person events for a long time to come. The Reed Exhibitions COVID-19 Barometer showed that ‘customers are increasingly open to the idea of engaging with digital alongside in-person events as they return. 65% of visitors and 57% of exhibitors believe digital will continue to work for events after COVID-19’ (Hospitality Net).
Further, research from EventMB revealed that ’71% of event planners said they would continue to employ a digital strategy even after live events return’ (Exploding Topics).
More Frequent Events
Large scale annual conferences used to be the norm for large organisations, but it is anticipated that businesses could start to employ a ‘little and often’ approach to corporate events as a way to consistently interact with audiences and employees.
Continue Personalised Experiences
Cindy Lo, CEO of global events company Red Velvet, recommends that companies continue with creative and purposeful goodie bags to enhance attendee experience: “Event kits work incredibly well, you’ll just need to get more creative because everyone is starting to do it. Most attendees already have everything they want and need — if you want their undivided attention for an hour or so, you’ll have to come up with something really creative" (Forbes).
While, by now, we’re used to a more personal approach to virtual events, businesses can apply this philosophy to in-person events too. Soon, in-person events will once again compete with virtual ones, so personalised experienced can help to bridge the gap.
Events with Purpose
Having been apart for many months, a lot of us are questioning the value of attending time-stealing events and meetings. It may become harder to persuade guests to attend events in future, so it will be more important than ever to be as clear as possible when communicating.
The event industry has experienced many trials over the past year and a half. While there is certainly room for optimism, businesses must not let their guard down. Monitoring trends, remaining aware of government advice and continually adapting will be important in the months ahead.
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