We are halfway through 2021, and the event professional’s rollercoaster has yet to pull into the station. While I don’t have statistical evidence, I can share a growing number of events (even large tradeshows) have started to stage successfully in more significant numbers. At the same time, many organizations have remained entirely virtual due to timing, COVID, or other reasons. With the future still unclear, organizations must continue to plan and strategize for the future of their virtual or hybrid events.
What this strategic planning doesn’t account for is the lasting impacts on event professionals from the pandemic. It can easily be seen as you peruse through LinkedIn. The entire events ecosystem, including countless event management teams, have shrunk through natural attrition and furloughs during COVID. Frequently these professionals have moved on to other jobs or new industries completely.
Organizations big and small continue to work with smaller staff. Unfortunately, this reduced staffing also exists with key constituents such as contacts at exhibitors and sponsors. So, I hear from clients often, “how can I do more with less?”
I am sure it seems easier said from a guy who works for an event technology company but hear me out.
Retail During COVID
Look at the retail industry, for example. Retailers who pivoted to new technology and leveraged existing solutions faired the best. From apps, scan-and-go, online check-in/order pick-up, etc. Even the expansion of services such as DocuSign signaled those businesses could easily transact without paper. They met their customer where they needed them. They were agile and adapted to maximize both the in-person and online experience (much like event organizers will need to do moving forward).
If you want a glimpse of how the National Retail Federation managed events and trade shows during COVID to meet their industries’ needs, watch the on-demand interview with Susan Newman, Senior Vice President of Conference at the Events Revenue Summit.
Meanwhile, the events industry attempted to use technology to recreate the same experience of an in-person event virtually (the plop and drop method). We all know how the early days of virtual events went. While the technology improved and event organizers began to design better experiences, there was no one-to-one equivalent. The most successful were conference- heavy events. Why? The technology has long been available and utilized for online learning, learners were still eager, and many were required for certification. The least successful was capturing the serendipity of networking and the benefits of a trade show floor connecting buyers and suppliers.
I shared in my Event Communities Blog Post, the reason the industry has been slow to adopt new(er) technology and services has been its success. The pandemic forced organizers to do things differently – for now.
The New Events Normal
What concerns me the most is how easily we can slip into old habits as we start this next phase of virtual or hybrid events. The problem this time, compared to previous event downturns, is we are coming back to new expectations of all our constituents. As expectations change, so do processes that need to change.
Even before all this impending change, it is not uncommon to see events still using a printed floor plan, updating it with sticky notes or white-out (who knew that still even existed). Some are printing and faxing paper contracts, emailing credit card numbers, and sharing personally identifiable information in blatant disregard to credit card security and compliance. Others are endlessly copying and pasting data, relying on a locked excel document to calculate years’ worth of priority points, or running daily reports manually and keeping printouts in folders and binders in an office. The list goes on.
Events Industry Brain Drain
This brain drain creates both challenges and opportunities for rebuilding. Many organizations relied on people to manage and maintain historical processes, data, and much more with a seasoned staff. Some of it happened on paper in folders, random files amassed on their hard drive, and others simply stored it way in their brain. Events often just happened, without question, year after year with the staff knowing the details. I often refer to these situations as it’s not an issue until it is an issue. COVID made it an issue.
Without access to these files during the lockdown or team members who were suddenly gone, so was the information they held. Sure, some of it was recoverable from a hard drive, but sometimes it was not. And many of those files weren’t designed to be used other than the creator. So once again, the answer points back to – technology.
Online Event Management Tools and Platforms
Utilizing cloud-based platforms and solutions cannot prevent such a loss of information; they are designed to capture your event’s data so it can persist long after team members retire or leave the organization.
Event management solutions and other platforms are designed to warehouse historical data, electronic contracts, historical purchases by companies, contacts, and much more. They have your end goal in mind.
Even if you utilize some platforms, COVID has created the perfect opportunity to review your solutions and better build processes to streamline your efforts moving forward.
Let the Tech-Tech
As you explore options or even better maximize what you currently use, it is important to see how technology can help secure your data, speed cash flow, avoid costly mistakes, streamline your workflows, integrate systems, automate your reporting, all while doing it with less staff. Working with your partners to architect the best solution is critical.
But what’s the most significant advantage of leveraging technology?
You can focus on relationships.
Now more than ever, it is essential to spend time talking and listening to all your constituents, especially your exhibitors and sponsors. Even companies who have long exhibited or sponsored at your show often face similar challenges trying to learn the new events normal. They may have smaller budgets, reduced staff, and changes in marketing spend that will require more time with them. The last thing you will want to do is slow the sale up by needing to fax a contract you had to write up or wait until a sponsorship prospectus is updated. They will expect to conduct business much like the retail world has adapted this past year.
Ready to find out how technology can help your organization? Join Rich Vallaster, Director of Marketing and the Tradeshow Wonk at Personify, as he shares how #eventtech can help solve the new events normal.
In this session, you’ll learn:
- How to leverage new and existing solutions to improve efficiency and streamline operations
- Best practices to increase exhibitor and sponsor satisfaction
- Key areas of consideration for building an affordable event tech stack
- Cost saving and revenue-generating ideas to cover your software costs
- And much, much more
This webinar is certified for 1 CAE credit.
Participants are also encouraged to submit questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org.