The events industry has been one of the toughest hit through Covid-19. Events are about being together, networking, learning and socialising, but in a world where social distancing and staying at home is the new normal, how and when will we see recovery start to happen?
Through this time, we cannot ignore the fact that the likes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams have taken off, with many people now asking if we can continue like this? In my opinion, Zoom has been an amazing piece of technology which has allowed us to keep up communications and to see our colleagues’ faces, but it is not sustainable. Wifi goes down, batteries die, and our eyes feel the strain of the continual looking at a screen. We feel a sense of tiredness like nothing before – apparently, it’s called Zoom Fatigue and it is real! You cannot see people’s body language, so your brain has to work twice as hard to focus on the audio and words. Those who normally feel slightly uncomfortable to speak are suffering even more so, because only one person can talk at a time, and you simply cannot network or ‘work the room’ over Zoom. Via a Zoom event, you cannot have those 1-2-1 business conversations which often spark up a partnership.
Half and Half
A new way forward might be a half and half approach. So, whilst there will be people wanting to travel, some might not and therefore this option gives delegates the choice of their mode of attendance – either in person or online to view sessions.
Speaking with our AV company (PSP), hybrid events need to be conducted by using high level technology to ensure that remote delegates are as engaged as those at the event. However it will never replace face to face interaction including the sense of being in the same room as hundreds of other people as well as being able to experience the atmosphere and excitement of listening to the guest speaker on stage in front of you. This is something that just cannot be felt through a screen!
The annual IMEX conference which takes place in Frankfurt, had to cancelled the event this year, however the organisers have launched PlanetIMEX, an interactive tool where you ‘island hop’ to each session. This is a prime example of how the industry is quickly adapting with the current restrictions.
Freelancers are a huge part of the events industry. Some will have set up their own businesses to support AV productions or catering services, whilst others haven’t, and the latter will be the ones suffering right now as they cannot access the furlough scheme. With this in mind, they may decide that the events industry is now just too risky and may never come back, possibly leaving a shortage of staff once the industry recovers.
Currently there is not a clear timeline for the return of events, however smaller meetings are likely to recover earlier with safety precautions in place. This might be, for example, using a bigger space to allow for social distancing, having hand gel and possibly masks available, keeping the flow of delegates staggered to ensure venues aren’t crowded, using items which are disposable so as not risk any cross contamination or having separate entry and exit points. These, plus so many other factors, will become more and more apparent as we start to plan meetings and events once again. Larger events may only see a return once a vaccine is in place or there is proof of immunity, much like air travel in the future.
I believe that as humans (especially those in the events and travel industry), we crave interaction, networking, the sense of being together and we are not built to sit behind a screen all day everyday. We are all missing our industry friends, but we are still creating new ideas and partnerships through this unusual time.
And for me, whilst I understand the importance of keeping our distance, I simply cannot wait to greet you at our Focus events, hopefully very soon, with a cold gin and tonic in hand to celebrate all our wellbeing.
Keep well and stay safe.
Events Manager, Focus Travel