Physical events are back (baby)…or are they??!

June 12, 2020By Michael BartleyInsights

You have to feel for people in the events business. COVID-19 has had a catastrophic impact on a number of different vertical industries, from retail to travel and tourism, but few had the rug pulled out from under them like our partners in events.

With Boris’ recent speech seeming to usher in an easing of lockdown, with non-essential shops reopening, couples living apart once again able to meet up and even talk of zoos, safari parks and drive-through outdoor cinemas (I didn’t even know they still existed) reopening, it seems a prudent time to do some crystal ball-gazing and dare to think about a return to ‘normal’, whatever that is!

What’s the general consensus?

I’ve had numerous conversations with people in the events industry over the past couple of weeks. I say conversations, in reality they have been calling non-stop to tell me in very bullish terms that “physical events are back baby”. Honestly, those were the exact words one commercial director at a B2B events company propelled down the line at me. After my ears stopped ringing, it did get me thinking, though. Lately, all anybody has really been speaking about is the virtual event, its benefits and its potential to oust the physical event once and for all. But, could the physical event really come back…baby?

Sticking with the virtual format for a second, most of us have probably been a part of some sort of virtual event  in one way or another, especially in the current COVID-19 world. Perhaps we’ve watched an interactive webinar or panel discussion, or maybe we’ve been online for a happy hour over Zoom with co-workers or friends. Even Infosecurity Europe, the self-proclaimed leading Infosec event in Europe, ran a virtual conference earlier this month in place of its usually packed-to-the-rafters, Olympia-hosted extravaganza. From what I’ve heard the event was very professionally put together and equally well received. Although I did see a tweet from one attendee which said “Did you watch @Infosecurity Europe 2020 Virtual Event? How are you feeling about these virtual conferences? We sure miss the in-person chats, but maybe the future is made of both. So, what’s next?”

In the long term, what are events going to look like?

Well, unnamed attendee at Infosecurity Europe 2020 Virtual Event, I’ll tell you what’s next. Long term I’m inclined to agree with David Meerman Scott, best-selling author and regular public speaker, who studies how neuroscience affects behaviour. He said “I am very strongly convinced that the physical event business will bounce back. Humans crave physical interaction with other humans. We want to be part of a tribe of other humans. That’s baked into our neuroscience. Our brains thrive around being around people who are just like us.” However, in the immediate future whilst there remains a nightmare of logistical issues, physical distancing challenges, travel difficulties, the uncertainty surrounding the real health risk involved and the remaining ban on mass gatherings, virtual events will remain king.

So, after coronavirus, be that July, October this year, or summer 2021, when the decisions of people and companies are no longer driven by infection fears, this oracle predicts that most events will transition from virtual, to a blend of virtual and face to face, and ultimately back to predominantly face to face physical events. And I for one cannot wait. There’s only so much video conferencing one can take, whilst balancing an 18 month-old on your knee and listening to “Waffle the Wonder Dog” on CBeebies in the background.

All of that aside, what’s probably more of value to you than my prediction is the fact that, whatever event you are planning to host or participate in, the C8 Consulting team would be more than happy, willing and able to help you magnify your attendance, so please contact us for more information.