As the impact of COVID-19 swept across the world, colleagues in the speaking and events industry suffered the same devastating experience, the complete cancellation of all live events. We were faced with empty calendars and the sudden realisation that we had to find new ways of offering value.
For some people in the business events sector, that has been impossible. No one in lock down wants exhibition stands or AV and computer equipment when they have no live events to use them.
Any significant challenge however, often brings out creativity and innovation and very soon people were working out how to do at least some of the business online. Speaking and training has gone virtual. Conference Organisers are preparing virtual conferences and events. Presenters are learning new skills with online engagement, facilitation, workshopping and networking. Everyone has learned new skills and experienced new online platforms.
But we all still want to see live events re-open. The energy created in a room with people coming together to learn, explore and co-create, is something that cannot be achieved at quite the same level online. However having experienced the benefit of being online, there are some windfalls that we don’t want to lose. Online we can explore wider markets, have delegates and speakers from other parts of the world and make connections that we could not hope to have done a year or so back.
Going forward then, we see the hybrid model of meetings as being the meeting standard. That means that all players in the sector need to develop new skill sets. During an event we will be catering for people in the room, as well as audiences in other parts of the country and the world. We need to develop the skills to market to, connect with, network with, engage, hear and share from the delegates not in the room as much as we can with those in the room.
Various groups are looking at how to do this and while there may be a longing for the simpler days of events, the new hybrid meetings will be richer with a broader range of delegates and presenters and a clearer definition of the value being offered by a meeting.
Members of the SA Events Council are exploring how to make these hybrid meetings safe for physical attendees as well as meaningful and engaging for virtual attendees.
Charlotte Kemp is the PSASA Deputy President and SA Events Council Member.