A New Chapter

Let disruption produce positives in change and innovation, says Andrew White.

Coronavirus cartoon2020 is without doubt a black hole in the business events sector. But with disruption comes change: so, what have we learned, what have we changed and how should we innovate?

For the business meetings market, the meteoric rise of webinars and video conferencing will have a long-lasting effect. We all turned to them to stay in touch with colleagues and this form of communication has had no detrimental effects on productivity. In fact, it’s made savvy organisers question whether their events are in fact better streamed online without the expense of gathering people together, paying for transport etc.

For some age groups it’s a reality that online is a better way to learn. Look at any 20-something and you’ll see them devouring information from their mobile. They grew up on it and if they are conditioned to learn like this surely it makes sense to give them conference and meeting content in the same form?

For us ‘silver set’, face-to-face still wins hands down, however, social distancing currently makes this hard. Add in a heightened sense of corporate duty of care such as not enforcing attendance at a conference and we can see why there’s a huge need for hybrid events. Half online – half real-time. It’s led to a new type of delegate; the digigate. And with this comes the consideration of the online attendee’s user experience at an event.

The huge growth in hybrid has led to (and will continue to do so) many venues investing in technology or partnering with their local AV suppliers to create broadcast quality facilities for events.

Another big learning is ‘less is more’. Pads, pens and stress balls are unnecessary touchpoints and buffets are a no go in this low touch and highly sanitised world. While we once deemed pre-packaged meals cheap, they are now the mark of quality and understanding. The same goes for the food served. Lockdown heightened our appreciation for our local farm shops, suppliers and artisans who stock only seasonal items. Strawberries served in December isn’t sophisticated after all – they’ve clearly been flown in and only compound the mess the world is in. Conference and event organisers will be reflecting on this new audience mentality and it’s the responsibility of venues to help and to showcase the local supply chain. Less isn’t just more on the conference set up, less miles means more flavour on the menu.

Are we genuinely still governed by a 9-5 regime? Presenteeism was one of the biggest blights in corporate cultures in 2019, however, home working and a video conference culture has since put paid to that. With this in mind, isn’t it time we rethought the 9-5 conference day too? After all, if half the attendees are digigates they certainly don’t want to be staring at a screen for eight hours!

The business events market is in the midst of being chewed up – what will be spat back out remains to be seen. But for sure it’s not a desolate black hole. Businesses will always need to meet, interact, teach and celebrate and it’s by mimicking how corporates are addressing their workplaces and corporate cultures that we can help restart business events.

2020 hasn’t just been a year of disruption, it’s been a year to fast forward what would have happened over a couple of years. Ask any organiser if they are looking for more productive events with a greater ROI and a sense of social responsibility and you will see marked interest in your product. Disruption needs to be turned to a positive and a time for innovation, so who is ready for 2021 and a new chapter in how we meet, interact and teach?


Andrew White is MD of Triggerfish Communications, a specialist in helping heritage venues and leisure attractions build awareness and market share in the business of events. www.triggerfish.co.uk

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