Integrated brand experience agency OrangeDoor has identified ten key predictions around the impact of the pandemic on the business events industry, as part of its ‘Events Industry Barometer Report’ 2021. The predictions, which we’re excited to be able to share below, were based on discussions and interviews with business leaders across a diverse range of industries, broader market trends research and OrangeDoor’s own extensive experience over both the last 20 years, and especially the last ten months of delivering events in a world determined by COVID-19.
OrangeDoor will be sharing further insights from the report at the next micebook ‘talks’ to industry voice event on 10 March 2021. You can also download the full report here.
1. HYPER-LOCAL, ULTRA-CONNECTED
With vaccinations commencing in many countries over the first quarter of 2021, we believe we will see a slow, cautious but firm move back towards some face-to-face events in the second half of 2021. For the foreseeable future, we believe these events will bring together the best elements of both the virtual and ‘real’ world; to take advantage of all that has been learned from virtual event delivery over the last 12 months. Brands will engage in ‘hyper-local’ events – small, more intimate, local face-to-face events that will also leverage advances in virtual platform technology to achieve ‘ultra-connectivity’ – extending the participation in, and amplification of, the event internationally. This will enable brands to maximise their budget and their reach, whilst ensuring they still minimise their risk in the early stages of an anticipated slow exit from the lockdown scenarios.
2. KINDNESS, COMMUNITY, AND COLLABORATION
The remote working environment has ironically helped in some instances to build more of a collaborative spirit and community between client and event agency: what used to be business via phone and email, turned into business by Zoom, client and agency working more closely and collaboratively together to find creative solutions to the challenges faced in event delivery. One of the positive benefits of this was a much greater appreciation of the individual challenges we have all faced and, generally speaking, a kinder, more understanding relationship as a result. We expect this spirit to continue in 2021 and believe it will form the basis of better and stronger working relationships moving forward
3. AN AGENCY SQUARED
The traditional skill set within event agencies will continue to dramatically change. The traditional heavy weighting given to event managers – an over reliance on one corner of a ‘Skills Square’, will be more balanced moving forward, with communications experts, digital design and technical expertise given much greater weighting in a more digitally-led events world. This will lead to a much stronger strategic skill set within an agency world that will put them on a more solid foundation for the truly integrated events world of the future.
4. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CONTEXT NOT JUST THE CONTENT
There has been so much written about the importance of content in events – it’s tiresome and a little lazy. Of course it’s about the content, that is the essence of an event! Context, however, has been less discussed, but is just as important as, ultimately, it must inform the content. The challenges of last 10 months have, in many cases, led to brands fundamentally re-evaluating why they hold some of their events; what the reason for them really is; the background to them; the context within which they sit and so on. As a result, they have reshaped the format, the key drivers, KPIs and ambitions for their events, all of which must, and should, benefit the participants. They have become once again focused on what the event participant needs, not just what the event itself delivers.
5. THERE IS NO NORMAL
The ‘new normal’ is an oxymoron. There is no new normal. The pandemic simply sped up (by around five years) the seismic cultural change the industry was already experiencing. There is a taste for it now and this speed of change will not slow. Face-to-face will of course re-emerge at some point, but anyone who expects it to go back to ‘business as normal’ or a ‘new normal’ has failed to grasp the size and scope of the change. There is no normal. Embrace the opportunity and create, don’t look elsewhere for your reference point for normal.
6. ON PURPOSE
‘The Great Pause’ as it has been described, has forced many of us, both in business and in our personal lives to re-evaluate and rethink the foundations upon which we have based our business. We believe this will lead to a more purposeful approach in every area of business moving forward – from the values and principles that define it right through to a more considered and purposeful approach to the way it conducts business, allocates budgets, engages suppliers, engages employees. Brands will weave purpose more thoroughly across the business. The events agency that recognises this and aligns its events recommendations more succinctly with its client’s purpose will also more thoroughly integrate itself into its client’s business over the longer term.
7. A SEAT AT THE STRATEGIC TABLE
Like many other sectors of the broader marketing world, event agencies have long bemoaned their inability to consistently gain or hold a seat at their client’s ‘strategic table’. We believe this fundamentally changed in 2020. An events agency’s reputation has always rested on its ability to deliver the event – the mechanics of it. What many agencies witnessed in the last year was clients not just asking them ‘to do’ – to deliver an event, but also asking ‘what to do’ – how to keep the momentum going with customers, staff etc. in a virtual world. The strategic nature of our work in the eyes of client accelerated at pace. Smart agencies will harness this fundamental shift and build on it.
8. A SUSTAINED COMMITMENT OVER TIME
The move to a more environmentally sustainable version of events was already well on its way prior to the pandemic. However, it rested on perhaps the wrong fundamental premise – finding sustainable ways to trim excess around an event, rather than going to the heart of the event itself and reshaping the event, not just the recycled paper the menus are printed on. Through necessity, the pandemic has forced a new business model upon the industry. The challenge for 2021 is to merge the best of what we had with the best of what we now have, to produce the best, most sustainable event model for the future.
9. CREATIVITY AS CURRENCY
Creativity has long been a cornerstone of the events industry, but traditionally it has been too narrowly defined – focused on the experience of the attendee and the design and conceptual elements around of event itself. 2021 will see a much greater focus on creative thinking around how to deliver the event, what format the event should take, how best to maximise engagement within the limited confines of the current opportunities there are. Creativity in 2021 will be much more focused on strategic creativity not just experiential creativity.
10. EMPLOYEE EMPOWERMENT
The rapid transition to a digital world caught many agency and brand leaders out, exposing a lack of knowledge in this area. The knowledge gap was filled in many businesses by those, often younger digital natives, who found both their voice and their knowledge was sought out and respected, in some cases for the first time. Many employees have experienced a dramatically improved sense of empowerment and control over both their immediate work environment and their prospects, having captured the acknowledgment and appreciation of their managers. The businesses that continue to encourage this empowerment in 2021; building a more formal programme of engagement, contribution, and collaboration around it will be those who will see enhanced employee participation, productivity and quicker recovery.