Trevor Foley on why the events industry and the tech industry have always been a match made in heaven, but might only now be realising it.
A few years back, soon after I set up my business, I was fortunate enough to be invited to travel the world delivering a presentation I’d written called ‘The Future is Live and Digital!’
I’ve always split the digital input for events into two camps: the functional and the fun. My presentation was full of amazing videos of fun digital applications that so many event tech companies are providing to our world – think virtual reality goggles and 3D holograms. It is fair to say that much of the digital talk and activity over the last year has been of the more functional type – the video calls and webinars, data forensics, digital solutions for Covid testing and so on.
Part of the debate has been the financial issues. Are the webinars generating significant revenue and profit, or is it just a community-serving, brand-building, content provision channel? Whichever way, there is a general acceptance that after many years of being the most desirable of media sectors (after digital), and reaping the rewards of that, we must do more for our communities than offer a live event three days a year.
At the other end of the digital/analogue scale, I, like many industry players of my generation, have had a healthy dose of publishing experience throughout my career. Event organisers have spent many years disposing of magazine stables (which most of us thought was the right thing to do) only to find that, for pretty obvious reasons, the content platform provided by stables of magazines has allowed communities to be better served.
All of this spells good news for our industry. With events now dropping back into calendars, many people are asking the same questions: Will we see an immediate swing back to the selling of square metres and the marginalisation of digital activities, or will we be truly hybrid? Will some event businesses actually deliver more digital than live events? The answer to each of these questions is ‘Yes’, however, they will be a different size of ‘Yes’.
The reality is that the events sector was always the perfect bedfellow in an increasingly digital world, and that is never going to change.
Whether it is the human need to meet, the desire for experiences or the pent-up demand to get out, we can expect a roaring return of live events. Of course, there are challenges to overcome along the way… Government imposed restrictions, regulations, travel ‘vaccination passport’ issues, testing requirements (short term) and corporate policies on event attendance.
And, of course, greater digital plays, and a greater return to analogue content sources, is all good news for existing talent in the industry and for our ability to attract new talent. The need to serve our communities in different ways, to build subscription models, to deliver more content and the omnichannel approach will make our sector more attractive. All roles in the industry will be more rewarding. Marketers will have more routes to market and a greater commercial input. Sales professionals will definitely need to develop their skills to sell more than square metres and the event director will have a much wider brief.
Some people, the minority in my view, will continue to be nervous in public spaces but that is up to them if they don’t want live experiences in life. The majority will want to ‘party’, will value human interaction and all forms of events, even more than pre-Covid. Sharpening our act in the provision of live, digital content and omnichannel activities can only be a good thing for making our industry even more fun and rewarding to work in.