A once thriving industry was brought to its knees, as events, both small and great, were canceled due to the pandemic. Things are opening back up again, but previously planned events are still in a state of limbo, waiting to see if they, too, will be canceled or severely modified. How do we recover?
Some events were able to be converted to virtual ones, but others were just a casualty of Corona. We have to get creative as we consider how we can salvage the future of live events.
What is it about live events that make them so enjoyable? The list of reasons is long, but here are just a few:
We are social beings, and we crave to be together. Even with the threat of a potentially deadly virus, people found ways to see one another.
According to one theorist, human beings share mirror neurons, which causes us to share our emotions. This happens quickly and unconsciously. When we agree, we mirror body language and gestures. And when we're engaged in storytelling (and listening), we can match brain activity. We are connected on a deep and cellular level. We need each other, and what's more, we want to be together.
Virtual experiences aren't new to the business world. Before the crisis created by Covid-19, there were remote workers, and we had online meetings and conferences, and we used streaming alongside live events to reach more attendees.
Over the last few years, virtual events have been growing in importance but has never been a threat to live events. Then the pandemic hit, and virtual was the only game in town. To their credit, many companies moved swiftly to embrace the more significant role of virtual meetings, but some were sluggish and suffered the consequences.
We have become creative and innovative in our efforts to maintain and even grow our businesses.
So what now? Some have said that even when we can come together again, they still won't feel comfortable doing so for large events. We will have to consider this and know that it will take some time before people trust they're safe in large groups — regardless of what governments allow.
Though many sectors are opening up and enjoying some normalcy, event planning will take a little longer. So we have time to re-imagine what a live event can be, and be ready when restrictions are lifted.
Even if we give ourselves conservative estimates of when we may plan live events again, there is still so much uncertainty. September had been a safe date to begin planning around, but now we face the virus's possible resurgence. Although some factors behave as though the virus doesn't exist, we who deal with the knowing public can't afford to be so blase.
A vaccine may be the answer to our prayers, but we don't yet know when we'll have one. And will the public trust it when it does come? Our clients will want to invest in big live events, but there is sure to be hesitance.
As we hope to draw audiences from far and near, it isn't just about what is happening in our backyard — but what is happening in backyards around the world. Travel restrictions will undoubtedly complicate matters. But of course, that's the role of live streaming.
Currently, the British Prime Minister has announced the re-opening of conferences and exhibitions at the beginning of October 2020 (subject to local authorities) in England. The PM said that while we've learned a lot about technology's potential, there was a limit, and nothing could replace face-to-face encounters.
Germany is waiting until the end of October — maybe. Dubai is celebrating opening this month (July), and many other countries are allowing gatherings of up to 300 or 500 people, as long as social distancing is observed.
It will take bucket loads of creativity to plan events for 500 people who are social distancing — but creativity is what this industry is all about. Not a country, but Microsoft announced no live events until July 2021. Though they will host virtual events, it is worrisome when companies as large as this have such a conservative outlook. Those of us who survive this will be the ones thinking outside the box.
Assuming we need 3-4 months for planning (optimistically), events planned for the end of the year are a safer bet. But again, people need to feel safe to come back out. There are trends in other industries, to check the health of visitors/customers upon entrance to their establishments. These checks, though helpful, border on rights infringements. So we'll have to tread lightly.
Eventbrite, a global, self-service ticketing platform for live events, has produced an Event Safety Playbook for Covid-19. They advise that we recognize that everyone — the attendees and staff of an event are potential health risks. In addition to abiding by local Health & Safety regulations, we can go the extra mile to help attendees feel safe.
Some of the recommendations were:
Without the aid of a crystal ball, none of us know the future. But we can use our time wisely to prepare for when we can get back to what we love. We have to re-imagine how we'll go about things in a changing world, and do all we can to make our clients feel safe to 'go big' again.