Navigating the New Normal: Insights on Post-Covid Events

October 19 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the way we live, work, and interact with one another. One of the most profoundly affected areas has been events. From large-scale international conferences to intimate business meetings, the events industry faced unprecedented challenges and changes during the pandemic. In this week’s episode of PRGN Presents, I had the opportunity to discuss how the event landscape is evolving and what these changes mean for both organizers and attendees in the post-Covid era.

The Resurgence of Large-Scale Events

Good news first: the grand spectacles that define our pre-pandemic lives are making a comeback. Conventions, exhibitions, trade fairs, corporate gatherings, and festivals are on the rise once more. While international events may still encounter some bumps in the road, they are gradually regaining their footing.

Yet, it’s a different story for smaller-scale events. Those quick flights for one-hour internal meetings or the two-hour drives for client meetups? Many of these have found a permanent home in the digital realm, with platforms like Teams and Zoom offering convenience and efficiency. There’s no denying the advantages of reduced travel time and increased productivity. However, the loss of in-person interactions leaves a void that virtual meetings can’t fully fill.

The impact of this shift extends to cities like Brussels, which thrive on international internal meetings. Fewer flights, fewer taxi rides, and a decreased demand for hotels and restaurants have all led to considerable adjustments.

B2B vs. B2C: a Clear Divide 

In the world of events, the divide between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) events has become even more pronounced post-Covid.

B2B trade fairs are experiencing a resurgence, primarily because networking remains a vital aspect of these events. Professionals yearn to reconnect and share experiences, making in-person B2B events a critical part of their strategy.

Conversely, B2C events have witnessed a significant transformation. Many large brands have shifted their focus to digital communication, social media, search engine advertising (SEA), and search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns. The success of these strategies during the pandemic has led them to abandon B2C trade fairs, opting instead for digital channels to engage with end consumers.

Digital Events vs. Digital Communication

Let’s clarify the distinction between digital events and digital communication. While digital events attempted to replace physical gatherings during the pandemic, they have largely faded away with the crisis. On the other hand, digital communication, including campaigns and social media, has thrived, and evolved as a powerful tool for engagement and outreach.

Hybrid events, combining physical and virtual elements, have emerged as a promising format for certain occasions, such as seminars and congresses. This approach retains the focus on the physical event while offering online sessions to reach broader audiences and enhance the event’s program.

Evolution in Event Organization

Post-Covid event organization comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. Here are the key takeaways:

  1. Human capital challenge: Finding skilled event professionals has become more challenging. Many individuals in the industry explored alternative careers during the pandemic, leading to a shortage of technical event talent. This calls for earlier planning and higher budgets.
  2. Technical skills for hybrid formats: The demand for technical skills in hybrid event organization has surged. Event organizers must adapt and acquire expertise in the digital realm to cater to both in-person and online attendees.
  3. Insurance and contracts: The industry has had to revise insurance policies and contracts in response to unforeseen events like terror attacks and pandemics. Clauses pertaining to cancellation policies have become more critical than ever.
  4. Flexibility and sustainability: Event planners have embraced flexibility in adapting to unforeseen circumstances. Sustainability has also gained prominence, with a focus on eco-friendly practices and reducing the environmental footprint of events.
  5. AI as an ally: Artificial intelligence is viewed as an ally rather than a threat to events. AI can enhance communication with attendees, streamline processes, and improve engagement. It complements the human touch in event planning and management.

The Future of Live Events

In a digital age, there’s still no substitute for the sensory-rich experience of live events. These gatherings stimulate all five senses, providing a unique engagement that other forms of communication cannot replicate. Whether it’s the excitement of a product launch or the immersive experience of a live concert, live events create lasting memories and connections that endure.

As we navigate the post-Covid world, it’s clear that the events industry has transformed significantly. The pandemic accelerated changes that were already underway, forcing event organizers and professionals to adapt swiftly. While digital tools and platforms have become integral to event planning and communication, the essence of live events remains unparalleled in its ability to captivate, inspire, and connect people.

The future of events may be different, but it is far from bleak. The industry’s resilience and ability to evolve in response to changing circumstances will continue to shape the way we gather, communicate, and experience the world around us.

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Frédéric Francois
General Manager, Two cents
20 years in business and still enjoying it. Especially my team and our customers!

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