This week our Marketing Manager, Lucy Mackins shares her thoughts on the impact the pandemic has had on events and the way in which the industry has adapted.
This time last year, we were putting together the final pieces of our 2020 events calendar, with preparations well underway for some of the industry’s key events, such as the BIBA conference amongst others. 12 months later we're reflecting on how different the year has turned out and how the pandemic has forced us to rethink & adapt our approach. In the initial months, events were cancelled, with some organisers rescheduling in the hope that they could take place later in the year, but as the months progressed it became evident that the situation was not changing anytime soon.
Under normal circumstances we would not consider a virtual platform an option for such events, but with more and more events now taking place online and physical conferences being replaced by virtual this now seems to be the way forward.
But do they work? We are learning as we go. Physical booths replaced with virtual, printed documents & brochures replaced by digital, and face-to-face meetings replaced by chat rooms & video calls. But do not be fooled into thinking that a virtual event is any easier to organise, in fact it is the opposite. With much more time spent behind the scenes getting everything set-up, it requires more work to enable engagement and most importantly a reliance on a good internet connection – this can make or break an event!
On the plus side, there are big cost savings for both organisers & attendees, and less impact on the environment, no travel required, no accommodation needed, no need for physical premises, stands, equipment or collateral – everything is digital!
Overall a virtual event can deliver pretty much everything a physical one can, apart from one key element. Real, physical, face-to-face interactions, which I think we all underestimate the importance of, until it is taken away from us. The ability to mingle, those impromptu meetings, catching up with an old colleague, having real conversations. Yes, you have the chat room, and you can have video calls on a 1-2-1 basis or in groups, but as we all know from using it in our day-to-day lives now, it lacks some of the vital elements that a physical group setting can provide.
The future of events is very much virtual (for now). Virtual events have their place and in this current pandemic, are the most viable option but will never fully replace the essence of a physical event. Traditionally events have always been face-to-face, occasions to celebrate, build relationships, network and socialise with colleagues, business partners and prospects. The calendar would be filled with conferences, award ceremonies, sporting events, dinners & drinks. One of the toughest challenges of a virtual event is networking. It is not until you can no longer have those face-to-face interactions do you realise how much you pick up on all the little nuances which you just don’t get when talking to someone online, even when they have their video on.
Virtual events are here to stay and will play an important role in future event plans, but they won’t ever fully replace physical events, but rather compliment.