How COVID Reshaped the Event Industry and How It Affects Your Business
The COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected the event industry and forced organizers to get creative so they could continue operations during a public health crisis. Ongoing vaccine rollouts help increase the chances of a widespread return to in-person live events. However, it could be a while before we get back to that point. Here are some things to keep in mind about how the event industry’s current and evolving state might affect your business.
You May Have Fewer International Guests in the Event Lineup
The airline and hospitality industries were among the earliest affected and hardest-hit sectors due to COVID-19. As government leaders enforced bans on nonessential travel, trips associated with pleasure and business quickly came to a halt.
Travel restrictions may persist, especially with new virus variants appearing around the world. Early research suggests some of them make it easier to spread COVID-19 and may negatively impact vaccine effectiveness.
Many nations currently require people traveling from at-risk countries to produce negative COVID-19 tests upon arrival and quarantine for a specific number of days before traveling freely. It’s easy to see why those rules hinder people who frequently go abroad for things like speaking engagements and musical performances.
A May 2020 survey examined the effects of COVID-19 on the mobility of people who organize or participate in performing arts events. More than 46% of respondents expect international travel disruptions to persist through the 2021-2022 season. If that’s the case, you may need to explore workarounds so your events still have people who offer an international perspective.
However, livestreams let people participate from wherever they are. In Ireland, such events for music industry professionals regularly feature experts participating in panel discussions from various countries. Your business could even sponsor a series of speakers or artists originating from a particular region or nation to draw attention to the cultural opportunities there.
You Can Appeal to a Broader Pool of Attendees
People understandably assert that COVID-19 has few positives. However, one of them is that the rise of virtual events removed the location and time-based boundaries that may otherwise keep people away from in-person events.
Even before the pandemic disrupted most aspects of everyday life, individuals made tough choices about event attendance. Perhaps they decided a conference was too far away, and therefore, out of their budget. Similarly, they might conclude that going required taking too much time off work or away from family obligations.
Those circumstances are why many people appreciate the convenience of live events. One study found that 52% of organizers saw as many or more folks attend their virtual events as in-person ones. Another advantage is that you can record the content and then let attendees watch it whenever they want, within a certain period. That benefit appeals to people in different time zones or who may want to stream a talk more than once to take down extensive notes.
Some organizers found that virtual events worked so well they’ll keep offering some content for remote attendees even once in-person gatherings return. Using phrases such as “attend on your schedule” or “join us from anywhere” helps promote inclusivity for your virtual events, too.
You may even choose an ultra-accessible platform for your event content. New York Comic-Con organizers decided to stream all its large panels on YouTube. That decision led to a sixfold increase in the average number of people watching the events online.
You May Create New, Mutually Beneficial Partnerships
The event industry shakeup caused by COVID-19 had a domino effect on numerous other sectors. For example, when people attend conferences, concerts and festivals, they often stay in hotels, eat at restaurants near the venue and check out local shops during their visits.
Organizing a physical event also means relying on local service providers. You may need to hire staff to help with security or check people’s tickets. Caterers ensure no one goes hungry, while companies specializing in audiovisual services provide cameras, microphones and other equipment to make the event go smoothly. Businesses that sell cleaning products, office supplies and other essentials may receive numerous bulk orders before a physical event.
Look for ways you can continue supporting businesses while running a virtual event. For example, the Philadelphia Folk Festival normally occurs on farmland and includes an area where craftspeople sell their wares. In 2020, the organizers compensated during its online event by creating a virtual vendor area. While there, people could browse sellers’ items and take advantage of festival attendee discounts.
If most or all of your virtual event attendees originate from a relatively small area, consider partnering with local businesses to make their experiences more enjoyable. Perhaps a restaurant could deliver meals to attendees and give them a discount for mentioning your event. Alternatively, if you host keynote speakers who have books or other items to sell, see how they could market the merchandise to online attendees.
The DoorDash for Work service lets you give event attendees a meal budget and automatically expense their food when placing an order with a business that uses the delivery service. Alternatively, if some companies in your vicinity have a national or international presence, consider letting them run advertisements during event breaks.
You Might Need to Adopt a Flexible Mindset
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic going on for approximately a year now, some people still wonder when they can return to the way things were. However, the unpredictability of a pandemic means it’s best to make the best of things as they are.
Not returning to the old ways isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For example, health officials in many parts of the world reported a tremendous decrease in cold and flu-season activity. Many believe that measures meant to curb COVID-19 — such as social distancing and mask-wearing — caused that improvement.
In areas that managed the pandemic exceptionally well, live events happen, but differently than they once did. For example, an upcoming tour in Australia will occur from the end of April through mid-May this year, featuring bands playing to tens of thousands of guests during that time. However, promoters involved in the tour describe a “military-like environment” for artists.
There is no backstage area, and everyone stays on a dedicated floor of a hotel. Performers play their sets, then immediately board buses to leave the venue. Three groups from the United States will quarantine in California before leaving for Australia, then do so again after arriving at Sydney Airport.
It’s tempting to wish things could go back to how they were in pre-pandemic times. However, the more appropriate mindset is to make the best of how things are now. Consider what options still exist for your business and how you can capitalize on them while running an event.
You Could Introduce More Venue Entry Rules
Most venues around the world have rules for people to follow. For example, a person usually can’t stroll into a sporting event or conference with a weapon. Many facilities also forbid attendees from bringing food or drinks inside. Staff members at concert arenas usually disallow signs, laser pointers, or anything else that could disrupt others’ viewing experience.
Similarly, people who go to events typically cannot go in with large bags. If a venue allows them, it’s usually only after an employee searches them for prohibited items. Ticketmaster is among the companies investigating the best ways to return to in-person events. Some possibilities include using a smartphone app that confirms a person is either vaccinated or had a recent negative COVID-19 test result.
Now is an excellent time to think about whether you might do something similar for future events. Bear in mind, though, that such systems could become complicated to manage. You’d have to figure out the most effective ways to keep personal information and health data safe. Relatedly, some people may try to forge details.
The most straightforward approach is likely to work with a company that has the foundational technology to offer such checks before people enter venues. You could emphasize that an in-person event will have some virtual elements for people to enjoy from anywhere.
Some individuals may decide it’s too expensive to get a COVID-19 test before an event. Similarly, people may have long waits to endure before getting vaccinated. Others may hear from their physicians that their health situations make it unsafe to receive a vaccine. Take the time to consider all such variables before implementing new entry requirements.
Focus on What’s Possible
The COVID-19 pandemic has had such an immense impact on life that it’s easy to think of all the things people cannot safely do right now. However, when you’re planning or considering an event, try to shift your viewpoint to recognize opportunities instead of restrictions. By taking that approach, you’ll likely find numerous worthwhile strategies to pursue when holding events in these strange times.