The events industry, like many others, has suffered hugely as a consequence of the pandemic. Yet we haven’t made the mainstream headlines in the way that other industries have. This is surprising, as the global events industry was valued at an estimated $1.1 trillion in 2018, and is expected to grow to $2.33 trillion by 2026.
The UK events industry alone is worth £42.3bn to the UK economy, and supports over half a million jobs with the UK being the number one event destination within EMEA[i].
As live events slowed down due to in person restrictions, there was exponential growth in online events. 2020 saw the rise of technology platforms intended to keep us connected, with Forbes reporting that virtual events had grown by 1000% in May 2020 on one event discovery platform alone[ii]. This brought a new challenge to event professionals everywhere – how do you engage an online audience? And not only that, but how do you engage an audience that has ‘zoom fatigue’?
From building an engaging programme that attendees still see as offering value and worth the investment, to driving an inclusive environment that encourages valuable Q+A or discussion, the live event playbook wasn’t going to cut it. Whilst there were some industry leaders that already had experience and had virtual event teams in house, the majority of the industry had to lean in and learn fast.
But will these new virtual ways of working go beyond pandemic induced lockdown?
Of course, human beings are social creatures by nature, and having spent such a large period of time in isolation, there are predictions of a ‘roaring 20’s’ style comeback. When live events are able to come back, this industry is going to flourish and grow back just as big and just as quickly.
However, with many large organisations making moves to offer employees flexible/remote working, I think virtual engagement is here to stay … in a hybrid fashion. Hybrid events offer the benefit of inviting in a broader audience to your event, with both in person and virtual attendees. Historically, if you couldn’t travel due to either the time investment or clashing commitments, you missed out – this doesn’t have to be the case anymore. We have the tools to bring everybody together.