By Josh Paterson, Account Director at Grammatik Agency
Looking at the world in 2021, it really is a rather unusual state of affairs. Who would have thought that our lives would be turned completely upside down, spending over a year working from home and sitting on video conferences day in and day out, with live events being postponed and cancelled. The even tougher pill to swallow is that many shows are now on the second cycle of reorganisation for a date even further into the future.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Thanks to worldwide vaccination programmes becoming more prevalent, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There will be a triumphant return to trade shows and industry events, and I believe it will be a strong one at that – just all in good time. With a lot of questions around events, and the current state of affairs with new variants of the virus popping up across the globe, the imminent return to the show floor is, unfortunately, looking less likely for 2021.
The marketing formula cooked up in days gone by has been respun forever because of the pandemic. Event organisers are aware that the once generous marketing budgets for large booths and press conferences have tightened in a post-COVID economy, and this will be reflected in the way that we all attend and take part in events moving forward. There’s also no doubt that business travel and meetings will look very different post-pandemic following the huge shift to virtual conferencing and the popularity of digital tools.
These offerings will remain a permanent fixture of our daily lives, and this will be reflected in the return to in-person events. The adoption of digital will only continue to be reflected in the more positive attitudes toward the masses virtually connecting and the solution will be a true hybrid offering in many cases. Organisers will need to make considerations for more compelling virtual offerings with a substantial majority of attendees probably preferring to attend events in this format until they are offered a vaccination or are fully protected against the virus.
One further positive that has come out of the shift to virtual is the demonstration of the value of digital marketing. Having experience of working with many companies who ran an annual cycle of attending trade shows and making big announcements at guaranteed moments, the pandemic has provided everyone a moment of clarity to step back from this campaign framework and see what other tactics can be beneficial if deployed.
Like you, I have attended a huge number of online events, and even ran some of my own, over the last 18 months, and have seen the continued development of platforms and tools that are improving efficiencies and overall enjoyment of these events. Freedom for people to interact is a huge draw, as is the ‘on-demand’ element that allows people to catch up at a time that suits them – something that a traditional show or conference may not have done so before to keep events exclusive. Additionally, because of their global reach, virtual events are certainly here to stay as part of a hybrid offering – for now.
Through no other choice, people are now more open to the idea of engaging with digital alongside in-person events as they return, and there are huge benefits in attending conferences, of both kinds. I for one enjoy working with online sessions running in the background and having the option to engage in an ‘always on’ community of information sharing which can spark ideas for my daily tasks here at Grammatik Agency.
Although, as we continue to sign into another online event at our convenience from our home office, we should also not forget that the pandemic has certainly not dampened the desires and spirits of those who wish to see the whites of industry colleagues’ eyes and return to in-person events once further restrictions have been dropped. There will always be a need for human interaction, and this will return with the comeback of our beloved trade shows and industry events – even if masks are a requirement.
With so much uncertainty, the media industry and event organisers will certainly need to club together to continue steering our way through the still somewhat stormy waters in the wake of the pandemic. The return to physical face-to-face events will happen when the time is right, and particularly at a time when companies are certain they’ll see some form of a return on their investment too.
At present, companies in most sectors are still trying to navigate their way cautiously through the remainder of this year that promised us so much and into 2022; a year that still holds many unknowns and uncertainty. But throughout all of this, what we must remember is that the real benefits of attending conferences have never really changed – just the format in which we are consuming the information from them. We’ll continue to tune in from our home office rather than standing on a booth in a conference centre for now – but trust me when I say this will return in time to come.
I for one cannot wait to walk the trade show floors again, but for now, whilst we remain patient for further global rollout of vaccines, our industries remain strong, staying put behind the screen to tune in and engage with our colleagues and friends at events, in more smart and savvy ways than ever before.