Few sectors have been as hard hit by the pandemic as live events – a trillion-dollar industry. We take a look at how the industry is adapting, and what the future of events might look like.
- There have been efforts in recent years to expand revenue sources to encompass events. For many B2B businesses, conferences have been a key revenue stream. With the pandemic still well underway, companies have been battling to adapt their event formats to suit audiences and sponsors alike.
- In the US, Protocol announced a series of events called Protocol Virtual Meetups, where it will host video conferences on Zoom. These feature interviews with Protocol journalists as well as tech industry executives.
- UK media company Tortoise have shifted their daily events online using Zoom, and it appears to be working so far. Hundreds of people log in to listen and interact with the speakers.
Adapting to the challenges
Companies are finding ways around the various obstacles faced by trying to run a successful online event.
- Networking online: Amy Thompson is Vice President of the Fitness Group, Pocket Outdoor Media, USA. She said “I participated in an event last week where everyone had their LinkedIn and social handles, so you could easily connect with someone and people were requesting invites.
- Pricing and value: Orson Francescone, managing director of FT Live, told The Drum: “I don’t see the same level of pricing power we are able to charge for physical events… but we now have unlimited inventory and seats in our virtual conference rooms. We can sell infinite tickets to a global audience. That is pretty powerful. Revolutionary, even.”
- Human interaction: “Doing business face to face is hard to replicate but rapid advances in technology are giving physical handshakes a run for their money.” Many may prefer a virtual high five to a close-contact Covid-19-responsible elbow bump now.
- The online GameBeat Summit 2020 generated more revenue than its in-person version in 2019. This was not only due to a higher profit margin due to lower overhead costs. Sponsorships prices remained consistent with the summit’s original in-person format.
Hybrid events: A new business model
Publishers are turning towards creative means to substitute a revenue stream like a live event, into a digital opportunity.
- Simone Broadhurst, MD of sustainable events company Incisive Media said that Incisive Media, said that “the real growth area is hybrid events.” She added, “We’re looking at building studios and having events broadcast from studios. The next development from that is having a live audience.”
Testing remains key to figuring out what future, successful iterations of events will look like. “Event businesses that can’t experiment with new models will be left behind. Copying and pasting what worked in person doesn’t work online,” said Sterling Woods CEO Rob Ristagno.