Written by Toby Heelis, CEO at event venue finding platform, Eventopedia
With the global economy taking a huge hit due to the pandemic, there are few industries that have been more affected than events. With small and large-scale events being cancelled around the world, this has had a chain effect on everyone involved in the sector, from venues, to vendors, event planners etc., as well as on countless other sectors that rely on events for growth.
In the UK, the events sector is an important part of the economy, worth $14 billion, includes 25,000 businesses and supports more than 500,000 employees. The initial government restrictions put a huge strain on the industry, however, since then, the government has released a series of measures to assist freelancers, businesses, and employees, following an online petition that gained over 150,000 signatures.
One of the most significant measures has been the job retention scheme, and since April, around a fifth of the workforce has been put on furlough. While the scheme has been key in preventing a wave on redundancies, the chancellor is currently working on gradually phasing it out as restrictions lift.
However, the government will need to work out ways to offer more support to industries such as events, which are unlikely to start recovering yet.
Despite the current challenges, we need to remember the worth of the events industry, whose role is a crucial supporting one for all other sectors. Events offer great value to the economy and thus will inevitably recover eventually.
However, the rapid success of overcoming the crisis will depend on how the industry will adapt, and the next few months to a year will determine what the future of the sector will look like. One thing is clear – changes will have to be made.
For now, events of all sizes have been cancelled, with the majority of them postponed for Q3-Q4 of this year, or for next year. However, the situation is still very much uncertain.
Firstly, there’s the possibility of a second wave of the virus, which would inevitably wreak havoc on the industry. In that case, government support will continue to be of crucial importance. Secondly, even in the happy case of limited restrictions and the possibility of hosting an event, will people be willing to attend or will they be afraid?
These are just a few challenges that the industry will have to overcome and to do so, it will need to become more flexible and adaptable than ever.
To overcome these and any other such challenges, the industry will have to approach planning differently and set robust policies to reduce the negative impact of potential cancellations, as well as uncertainty and misunderstandings. This will have to be done across the sector, to cover venues, organisers, vendors, as well as participants.
Of course, health and safety measures will become a higher priority than ever before, if we are to reassure the public and plan safe events that people will want to attend.
In the meantime, technology is proving to be an invaluable tool, not only for the economy in general but for the events industry as well.
Virtual events were always going to be a growing trend this year, though nobody expected it to happen this way. With the fast progress of technology, virtual events will become more and more immersive.
During this period, we have already seen countless companies using video calling and conference calling tools for internal as well as external meetings. However, we’ve also seen plenty of use cases for other industries such as music or art performances, proving that virtual events can deliver value in many ways.
And with businesses innovating and upgrading their tech capabilities to keep the events industry going, these virtual events will only get better.
Is it the same as attending an event in person? No. But at the moment, it’s what we can work with to survive these times. Undoubtedly, virtual events won’t become the new norm, as the value of face-to-face interaction can’t be replaced. However, they will become a new norm, an important part of the future of events.
Even after the COVID-19 crisis is over, virtual and hybrid events will still have plenty of advantages. They can contribute to a significant increase in attendance, enabling people to become participants no matter where they’re located on the globe.
Also, once we’ve tackled this current crisis, sustainability will once more become a prominent issue, and the events sector will have to continue evolving in this regard. Virtual and hybrid events will be an important part of lowering the carbon footprint of events, as organisers will require less space and resources, and transportation emissions will also be lower with a smaller in-person attendance.
However, with some key changes centred around flexibility and public health, we’re confident that we will also see the return of regular events of all sorts, as an integral part of the growth of many industries and businesses.