The Future of Digital: Is It Over?
The brightly colored boxes, popping stage lights and giant arena were instantly recognizable. It didn’t take long when scrolling through my social media feed over the past days to come across posts from attendees showcasing their experience at the world’s biggest tech event.
Web Summit has just welcomed 42,751 in person visitors to Lisbon this week, in a sold-out capacity event. The numbers are down from pre-pandemic times (to accommodate for social distancing) but the atmosphere appears to be buzzing. The Altice Arena? Packed to capacity. Also in full force? The Global Exhibitions Industry, meeting together in Rotterdam at the UFI Congress.
So the question about the future of digital was posed to me this week in a conversation with Deutsche Messe’s Daniela Stack and BizzTech’s Dirk Schmidt for their show Bizztalk [catch the conversation here if you missed it!].
My response? Digital isn’t done for. It’s only really at the beginning. I’m not alone in my enthusiasm.
There’s an incredible amount of excitement to get back to physical. But the pandemic has fundamentally changed how business is being done, and how events are used to connect and provide value to their audiences. Business had to go on during the pandemic, and it found ways to move forward despite the lack of meeting in-person.
The events industry cannot be blind to those changes. Instead, there are many incredible opportunities for digital to be incorporated in events moving forward that are still underutilized. An effective marketplace solution, for example? In-event purchases? Painless navigation? “Smart” matchmaking that is actually smart? They’re not here yet. But coming.
Organizers cannot lose momentum– or attendee’s trust with poor virtual event production. There continues to be friction around completely online, and now increasingly, hybrid events to incorporate digital elements. Especially with hybrid, there’s still a bit of learning to do. But in this unfinished space, there’s so much more that can be done. Event professionals must continue to push their creative boundaries when it comes to maximizing the extent of digital rather than hedging that things will entirely go back to how they were. It’s an entirely different world.
In addition, we cannot ignore how digital elements can shield events from some risks and uncertainty. In several calls I’ve been having lately, there’s caution in the air when it comes to rising COVID case numbers. You might think, “this is not happening again”. But they are valid concerns if you look beyond Europe. China, who was successfully hosting in-person exhibitions and fairs for much of 2021, is now starting to cancel large shows amid rising case numbers in many cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Given what we’ve been through since March 2020– we never can be too sure about what’s coming next. But we can plan on an effective and creative digital event strategy that has innovation at its heart. We’re just getting started!
Here’s the latest event industry news and updates:
The Events Industry:
- Germany Offers Corona Insurance for Reopening Trade Fairs [PR News Wire] In an effort to support upcoming live trade fairs, Germany’s National and Regional governments have stepped in to support the industry with an extensive insurance program. Trade fairs can apply for up to EUR 600 million in coverage, as well as EUR 20 million to subsidize attendance of small and medium enterprises at upcoming fairs.
- Web Summit returns with masks, vaccine passports and Covid testing tents [Evening Standard] Web Summit manages to bring tens of thousands of attendees together with tight security, vaccination passports, and one way systems around their venues. Mask wearing is mandatory and testing is available before entering.
- ISM And ProSweets To Offer 360-Degree Trade Fair Experience [ESM] The future of hybrid events might taste a little bit like the upcoming ISM and ProSweets show– which will offer a 360 degree experience. The hybrid trade show will include an interactive exhibitor profile that can facilitate spontaneous exchange between visitors and exhibitors with the click of a button.
- Vimeo Launches Vimeo Events, a New Platform Designed to Turn Every Marketer into a Virtual Events Pro [PR Newswire] Vimeo has long been a staple for many digital event professionals using their livestream video embeds on many platforms. But now they’re angling for their own piece of the event platform space, with their very own platform for producing and promoting any live experience. The all-in-one solution enters a crowded field, but comes with it’s own DIY production studio, backstage management, engagement functions and a full suite of analytics tools.
- vFairs Launches All-in-one Mobile App [Martech] vFairs, a popular all-in-one event platform has now launched a mobile app to help organizers deliver their experiences more effectively across all types of events, virtual, in-person and hybrid. The vFairs app joins a number of other offerings by all-in-one platforms to broaden their client offerings.
- Cisco launches new AI-powered and hybrid event features for Webex [VentureBeat] Cisco’s WebEx has been getting a ton of new updates lately worth following up on. Users can look forward to asynchronous communication services, collaboration and whiteboard tools, and an AI assisted “people focus” that will help optimize visuals and audio of participants in meetings. They’ve also launched their expanded events product range which includes over 60 partner integrations of popular apps, including Miro and Mural.
How to do it:
- Video Content: a Trade Show Marketing Must-Have [Tradeshow News] Developing an effective marketing strategy for trade shows today (in-person or online!) will require some video elements. Video communicates the story and the value of your production, as well as capturing your attendee’s attention and encouraging booth visitors. Here are some great suggestions. For more on effective selling and presenting at a virtual tradeshow, see Exhibiting with Excellence.
- Five Smart Ways To Promote Your Virtual Job Fair [Forbes] Marketing for virtual and online events has undergone a series of changes over the past 18 months. Especially for recruiting events, the move to an online space, and the world of remote work has made promotion an entirely new ballgame. What should be in your toolkit? Press Releases, and a teaser video production of your upcoming event to be shared on social media. A great idea for all types of online events– job fairs or otherwise.
- Meetings Pro Tip: Adapt Your Hiring Strategy to a New Era [Associations Now] Just as business has changed over the past 18+ months, your hiring strategy should adapt. This is just as relevant for event professionals as corporates– who may be looking for the right personnel to bring their event strategy forward in an increasingly digital space.
Don’t Miss it:
- Salesforce Understood the Assignment With Its Dreamforce 2021 Hybrid Experience [BizBash] I loved reading this case study about Salesforce’s 2021 consumer event where 1,000 onsite attendees joined remote participants from 177 different countries. The company tapped into their international locations to deliver a truly 24/7 event, spanning all time zones to accommodate attendees from everywhere. A great example to learn from as more move to hybrid.
- COP 26: ‘One of the whitest’ climate conferences in years, say environmentalists [DW] Despite calls for inclusivity, many restrictions and hurdles have appeared to prevent COP 26 from reaching that goal (not to mention the difficulty with wheelchair accessibility). This piece by DW goes into detail about some of the challenges delegates on site are having when it comes to actually attending sessions, with some valuable learnings for event professionals when it comes to event design.
- All-virtual, in-person or hybrid: Where are industry events headed? [Business of Home] Here’s a look at events from a sector that many thought was dependent on physical– but embracing digital. The homewares and furnishing industry is moving forward in 2022 with a mix of digital and hybrid events– including brand events– that are bringing them closer to their consumers than ever before.
That’s all for this week’s edition of The Lookout!
In the meantime, let’s stay connected if we’re not already on Linkedin or follow the PIRATEx team on Twitter. If there’s anything you would like to read about when it comes to online, or digital events, let me know! I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions.
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Until next Friday!
The Lookout Newsletter #48
PIRATEx Managing Director