Guidelines surrounding the way face-to-face events can be conducted are in a state of flux around Australia in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but clear trends are emerging that are likely to impact the way businesses plan and run their live event strategy for some time to come.
Events are a critical part of the way many companies conduct business, and that shouldn’t change. With a dash of creativity, a few mathematical calculations and the right technology, live and even physical events will continue, albeit with a few changes.
1. Fewer people at face-to-face events
Mass gatherings for non-essential business purposes are still restricted, but it seems clear that total indoor event numbers will be capped for some time to come.
Even as caps are lifted, physical distancing will remain in place for the foreseeable future. That means at least 1.5m between people, or one person per 4 square metres.
This means physical venues will only be able to operate at 20%-40% capacity.
On top of that, working from home is still encouraged where possible, and many people are uncomfortable travelling by public transport, so fewer people are likely to be able to attend in person.
2. ‘Face time’ will take on a new significance and value
Face-to-face events will be limited to formats where it truly adds value, such as networking functions or intimate interactions with high-value customers.
They will become more prestigious. But the shape of those events will change. Handshaking and chatting in small groups will be discouraged — at least for the time being.
3. Long-form physical events will remain challenged
Physical distancing may not be sufficient protection from COVID-19 for long-form events. If ventilation is inadequate, the concentration of the virus in the air of a room can build up over time.
That’s likely to mean that full-day physical events, even with fewer attendees, will remain under pressure. Catering will change
Self-serve morning teas and buffet lunches may become a thing of the past. Working against these forms of catering are the queues that develop as people line up to help themselves, and general food hygiene issues.
Food service may end up being restricted to table service, or creative variations, such as where tables may be called up individually to collect individual meals or servings.
5. Lower cost-efficiency
With physical capacity, attendance and catering experiencing the above pressures, it’s clear the cost of face-to-face events will increase. The venue and catering industries will adapt as best they can and look for innovative ways to offset those additional costs.
6. Virtual events will replace events that go ahead in 2020
A significant proportion of business events that go ahead in 2020 will be translated to a virtual format. We may be biased, but it’s simply lower-risk, more efficient and very effective to conduct most events online.
This includes everything from short-form speaker presentations that can be delivered by webinar, to internal Town Hall meetings, industry supplier briefings, continuing professional development, education and training, and more.
To provide a more professional look and the option of a green screen background, a growing number will be filmed from broadcast studios.
7. The rise of hybrid events
This year will see the emergence of hybrid events that are held in a physical venue but also made available online in greater numbers than ever before.
For those organisations that push ahead with physical events in a smaller format — AGMs or short-form conferences, for example — virtual streams will be provided for those that can’t be physically accommodated or don’t wish to attend in person
8. Live streams in multiple venues
Where a venue has space, the capacity of physical events may be increased by live-streaming speakers from one venue into others, or even interstate, delivering the same content to a larger audience.
This already occurs to handle ‘overflow’ attendance for big keynotes at some conferences.
9. Hygiene as routine
Expect increased hygiene checks that may range from temperature checks and hand sanitiser on entry to floor safety markings, masked attendants and venues policing physical distancing rules.
It’s not what we’d choose, in terms of the ultimate in-person event experience, but it’s going to be part of our future in many sectors, not only in live events, but in retail spaces and workplaces as well.
10. Creative solutions
People will develop creative solutions to make their face-to-face or hybrid events more engaging and fun.
For example, Danish musician Mads Langer played an outdoor concert to an audience of 2000 that were socially distancing in their cars, while interacting with him in person via online video conferencing.
Closer to home, one of our own customers commissioned a virtual comedy program to raise the spirits of their dispersed workforce, and live-streamed the event as a live Q&A, with each comedian presenting remotely and responding to pre-submitted questions.
Many of these changes will be temporary, and some will spark great, creative outcomes for organisations, but there’s no doubt physical events have to change. Draw your own conclusions and adapt your event program accordingly.
Redback Connect runs managed virtual events for a variety of companies, professional associations and not-for-profit organisations every month. Contact one of our sales representatives if we can help with your next digital or hybrid event.