Who’s up for the challenge?
~Katie Tallon, Hear Me Roar Media
My first introduction to business was hearing about founders who had launched their startups during the recession, they wore their adversity as a badge of honour. I admired it. But it sounded difficult…
As a young professional just starting out in the events industry, I have a unique perspective in that I don’t have any experience of what the industry was like in past decades and I only know of the transformative impacts of technology from hearing events veterans talk about it.
I am choosing now to see my inexperience as an advantage in the post-pandemic events space. I am in a position to take in the updated information and apply it to optimal effect, without having to re-adjust my way of thinking. At times like this, I am glad that I am not trying to keep a business afloat and staff employed. Sometimes having nothing to lose is actually a good thing.
Covid-19 and this lockdown has permanently changed the way we work. Even if we think everything will go back to normal, it probably won’t. From now on, long after we have moved beyond Covid-19, pandemic planning and social distancing will always be something that we will need to consider when creating work, event and entertainment spaces. It is inevitable that more people will be working from home and more meetings will be conducted over Zoom or similar technologies. More and more universities will be conducting classes online.
However, it is clear that not all industries were capable of making the instant transition to online or virtual activities. The events industry found itself unable to operate overnight and everything had to be postponed, many to be cancelled indefinitely. It may sound like I am simply complaining, and hell, maybe I am, but I will be the first to put my hands up and say the cancellation of all of these events was completely understandable and in everyone’s best interests. Public health and the safety of our nation is of utmost importance and fighting Covid-19 should be the top thing on everyone’s mind right now.
One thing we seem to forget is the resilience of event managers. Even as a newcomer to the industry I know that we cannot crumble when things don’t go our way. Sure, we can wallow for a minute or two but a fundamental part of our training is to always have an option B and C and even Chiara Adin Moore, cofounder of N/A Collective, an event and experiential marketing agency based in the US has recently spoken out, saying:
“Anyone who works in events has to have grace under pressure… When something goes wrong or a client makes a last minute request, the best event producers don’t say, ‘no,’ they say, ‘hold on, let me make a call”
According to Chiara, event industry professionals are “uniquely skilled” when it comes to dealing with impossible situations.
Earlier this month, Sarah Murphy, Managing Director of IQuest & Business Post Live, organised an industry webinar and brought together nine directors and managers of some of Ireland’s leading event companies, including Mark Dorman, Head of Stadium Events at Croke Park, Sean Lemass, Managing Director of SDL Exhibitions and Susan Kirby, CEO of St. Patrick’s Festival Ireland. All of these professionals have been under pressure over the past few months with the cancellation of many events and trying to replan everything for Q4 or 2021. Susan Kirby explained how she had to cancel the St Patrick’s Day Parade with less than one weeks notice. With a festival this big, especially in Ireland, this can put any company under extreme pressure. In this webinar, they explored the option of online events, limited numbers attending physical events and how technology would help achieve this.
There is an ongoing discussion taking place amongst the event industry right now that considers hybrid events to be the next big thing. These are live events, but there is an option for people to attend virtually. It is believed that many events in the future will give this option to their attendees. To my mind, this is a great idea. It will put fewer people under pressure, for example, with an early morning event in the city, people can watch from their offices or homes instead of battling with traffic and parking, often in the rain (this is Ireland). This could transform your events and ensure that you have many more attendees, virtual and otherwise. With Ireland being an island, it can be difficult to attract attendees from outside of Ireland to events and it can be expensive for Ireland-based people to travel to international-hosted events on a regular basis. And who knows when international travel will return to ‘normal’?
For so many reasons, I believe hybrid events will be the saviour of the events industry and help go get it back on its feet. There will likely be a sense of fear in people for a long time to come and having an option to attend an event virtually will help to create a new normal.
Getting back into full the swing of things will take time and events will definitely look different in the future. This may be an unprecedented time for the industry, but it will undoubtedly recover. The events industry as it was is forever changed by this pandemic, maybe this is not a bad thing. It gives the industry an opportunity to shape future events to our contemporary lifestyles and it gives new voices an opportunity to help shape change and drive innovation in a way that might not have been possible before. Now, who’s up for the challenge?