How the events industry is adapting in 2020

By redback

In the words of the Business Events Council of Australia, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the $35 billion physical events industry “to its knees” as events are cancelled or postponed.

Globally, the conference and exhibition industry’s CEIR index — a measure of exhibition industry performance — had already recorded a record slump of 15% in Q1 year-on-year. In comparison, since 2011 the Index had never dropped by more than 0.5%.

But that doesn’t mean events won’t continue to be held: the move is underway to switch face-to-face events to virtual formats thanks to COVID-19 — and it’s a story of adaptation, not extinction.


If Jimmy Kimmel can do it, why can’t you?


In July, the organisers of The Emmys (yep, those Emmys) announced this year’s 72nd version of the event to be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel on September 20 will be going virtual – red carpet ceremony and all.

Not only will we get a look inside the homes of some of our favourite TV stars, it sounds as if all the nominees will record an acceptance speech — but only the winners’ speeches will be broadcast. That’s going to make it very hard for anyone’s speech to run overtime, thanks to the wonders of modern editing.


How virtual events are filling the marketing void?


But it’s not only awards organisers that are taking advantage of the opportunities virtual events can offer.

Marketers are also recognising the benefits. A recent survey by LinkedIn found that 40% planned to move events online — slightly more than the one in three (38%) of marketers who said they would postpone or cancel upcoming events. A further 13% said they were still considering virtual formats.

Correspondingly, four out of five marketers (80%) said they had decreased their investment in traditional events, while two-thirds (67%) had increased their spend on webinars, and almost half (44%) had increased their online video budget.


Webinar advertising on the increase


While COVID-19 has had a negative impact on global advertising spend – with some surveys finding 80% of brands are planning to reduce their media budget in 2020, with offline taking a bigger hit than online – the increasing popularity of virtual events is also reflected in the growth of B2B advertising we’re seeing on webinars.

Between January and May this year, the number of B2B brands running webinar ads grew by more than 130%, from 223 to more than 500.


Virtual product launches expected to heat up


Despite the shift away from face-to-face events, only 1 in 10 (11%) new product or service launches have been cancelled for 2020, with the remaining launches either proceeding as planned (41%) or being postponed until the second half of the year (48%).

More marketers are looking to take advantage of virtual events to launch products, build their brand and maintain their presence in an environment of fluid business processes and changing consumer trends.

Take camera giant Canon, for example. In July, the corporation held an online-only live stream of its “biggest ever product launch” with the release of its new R5 and R6 cameras. The event was open to anyone who registered and included a discussion and Q&A.

Expect the trend to continue


Virtual events becoming the norm


With so many of us working remotely and video meetings now the norm, organisations and individuals are becoming more familiar with the technology, comfortable with the environment and more confident when it comes to interactions in the virtual space.

Many have discovered that virtual meetings and events have changed a lot since the last time they took part in a grainy video wall.

Research conducted by Redback has found that almost nine in 10 employees (88%) at organisations with more than 1000 staff, and 63 per cent of those in businesses with up to 15 employees, believe remote meetings will permanently replace their traditional face-to-face counterparts.

Whether it’s a global awards night, a conference, webinar, product launch or town hall meeting, the shift toward managing, attending and utilising digital events for marketing and communications is underway, and it’s only expected to gather pace as organisations gain more insights into the benefits of virtual gatherings.

Find out more about the types of digital events we’re attending in Australia — including how many, and the best day and time to hold them — in our upcoming Redback Report for 2020, to be released later this month.