The coronavirus understandably caught the events industry flat-footed last spring. Who can predict a once-in-a-century disease? But nearly a year into the pandemic, there’s been time to experiment, learn, adapt and develop better strategies going into 2021.
Live events are going on, and will only pick up toward the second half of the year. That doesn’t mean COVID-19’s effects will disappear anytime soon. Almost all considerations that event planners, trade show organizers, exhibitors and attendees face are related to health and safety measures or economic challenges related to the pandemic.
There is proof that trade shows, corporate events and more can occur safely with in-person attendees. What lessons can the whole industry learn from shows like Surf Expo, Connect and PCMA’s hybrid experience?
The virtual component is out of the bag, though. And there will no doubt be many attendees, presenters and other participants who feel more comfortable in front of a computer screen, while others won’t have the time or resources to devout to getting on a plane and being away from the daily grind for multiple days. All this adds to the challenges that event planners and organizers face in positions that are difficult even under ideal circumstances.
“The ability to react quickly to changing and refined needs while remaining flexible to pivot again is mandatory,” said Scott Graf, global president of BCD Meetings & Events.
For better or worse, this is going to be the year of hybrid. It will serve, many in the industry hope, as a bridge toward a return to what is considered normal in 2022 and the year after. Here, we look at what’s ahead on that path as the industry takes a page from Elsa and goes into the unknown.