What the Future of Events Look Like in 2020 and Beyond
June 12, 2020
We’re reaching the mid-year mark of 2020 and it's clear there’s going to be a long wait before the global pandemic is resolved. On the bright side, things are looking a bit more hopeful for the economy as some governments have given the green light for business to reopen. This however, doesn’t come without the social distancing practices of our “new norm”.
For that reason, the landscape of the events industry will inevitably go through significant changes. We’re already starting to see events go virtual as brands find creative ways to leverage on audiences’ increased online presence these days. Here are some other things we can probably expect to see in the event space moving forward.
New experiences are here to stay
(Theatrical experience at C2 Montreal. Image credit: Cramer.com)
No matter what changes, we can count on this to remain - that people are always looking for the next new experience. This means that as event organisers, we will always have the opportunity to push the envelope and reimagine what we know.
Whether it is running a business event with interactive film, injecting customization and the element of surprise throughout the day, or creating multisensory experiences, these big and small touches can make an event memorable and keep your brand at the top of mind. C2 Montreal is a good example of what a customised event might look like. It is designed in such a way that participants can “pick and choose” elements that would make up their own conference experience each day.
The question that event industry organizers can now ask is, what would these elements look like with social distancing in place? Or how can we incorporate these elements into a virtual event experience?
A merge of online and offline
(Goosechase app. Image Credit: Goosechase)
We’ve seen how exciting tech-enhanced events can be, especially with online elements like hashtag lucky draw competitions or virtual event goodie bags. It’s become a necessity for event organisers to think of how online elements can support an offline event just to give people a better experience by using a mix of these platforms.
But for an industry that will now be more online than offline, we may see physical elements incorporated into virtual events to keep the tactile connection going. For example when taking social distancing into consideration, events like Goosechase’s digital scavenger hunts will enable individual users to carry out the hunt in the physical world, while being part of a real-time event that’s managed online.
This concept of balancing the physical world with the virtual online world, can also be applied for events that require people to attend from the confines of their home. Event organisers can start to ask, how can we enable a virtual event to be more than just something on a flat screen. If you’re already mailing speaker kits to your keynote speakers (consisting of a headset, guidelines, etc), what can you do for your participants? Send an event starter kit that has a snack pack, neck rest, and other thoughtful touches? These are the little details that can make your virtual event stand out from the rest.
The one thing to note about all these events is that VR is being used to enhance the engagement of the virtual attendee by making people feel like they are truly present in the moment. The VR Fireside Chat featuring Philip Rosedale, CEO of High Fidelity and creator of Second Life, and Peter H. Diamandis, Executive Founder of Singularity University, is a great example of how it feels like to be very present from afar.
This is something that will be exceptionally powerful in a world where social distancing requirements limit in-person, tangible experiences. In addition to that, there are a growing number of no-code VR and AR software platforms in the market, making the creation of these experiences more accessible to non-developers.
As companies realise this, we will see more emphasis on VR and AR being incorporated into events as a necessity instead of just a nice-to-have.
The presence of cutting edge technology also introduces a new element to the event experience - enhanced personalisation.
While digital advertising tools track user data mainly for sales conversions, how can event organisers use data in such a way that puts the user first, delivering delightful experiences that are tailored to their individual preferences? It could be experiencing an event through a self-built avatar like on AltSpaceVR - a free-to-use virtual event platform, or gaining chat access with your virtual conference speaker right after a session, and getting additional perks at virtual booths of your interest.
Personalised event experiences build greater engagement and contributes to brand-loyalty for the long run. As more brands realise and implement this, the expectation for personalisation will increase among audiences.
Space to address mental health and wellness
It’s not just Gen Z who faces feelings of loneliness and isolation anymore. The need for a sense of togetherness and to be heard and seen has never been greater for people than it is today.
Brands that keep the real needs of their audiences in mind will want to find ways of addressing this through their events - whether subtle or not. If wellness amenities were included to enhance the holistic experience of physical conferences, what would the alternative look like for a virtual one?
For a not-so-subtle example, take virtual companions like Saya or Replika. Both are able to replicate what it's like to speak to a real person and increase feelings of human connectedness. While astounding and very controversial, one can start to imagine how technology like this could be integrated to enhance a virtual conference experience for thousands of individuals.
In conclusion, the effects of Covid-19 have fast-tracked an inevitable future, giving virtual events a stage to show its benefits. We understand that being in a position to organise a virtual event that caters to changing audiences’ needs and demands can be both daunting and exciting. The good news is, there are already plenty of resources to make such events happen even if you are running it for the first time. All it takes is research, the right tools, and the courage to step out and try something new.