Published May 4, 2021
B2B Events: What have we learned from this pandemic?
The past year has been a year of challenges but, equally, growth for the B2B Events industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost overnight social contact was banned, events were cancelled and we were confined to our homes in a Nationwide lockdown. Undoubtedly there were many worries and concerns; ‘will virtual events have the same impact as face-to-face events?’, ‘when will we be able to host face-to-face events again?’, ‘can our business not only survive this but thrive?’, to list a few.
Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the one obstacle that has affected everyone in the events industry, for example The Olympics, due to take place in Tokyo, were postponed for the first time since their modern inception and closer to home B2B trade shows such as Cosmoprof Worldwide, LuxePack, In-Cosmetics Global and PCHi, and TFWA all closed their doors for the year, or, optimistically, postponed to a later date. However, as a result COVID- 19 may have also created a growing feel of togetherness and strength in communities which has been seen throughout the B2B Events Industry.
Firstly, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught the events industry that situations can change very quickly, and that you need to be able to adapt. An example of adapting in the events industry is the move online to virtual events almost overnight, so it’s no surprise that the majority of event organisers (88%) arranged a virtual event, webinar or online talk last year. Many companies have faced unknowns during the pandemic so having employees and managers who are able to adapt and make decisions quickly to benefit the business has been key.
As an industry we’ve also learnt there are many positives to virtual events, including the great environmental impact working from home and not travelling has created, the reduction in carbon emissions since lockdown is around 7-8%! As well as being more environmentally friendly, another positive to virtual events is that they allow you to meet and connect people that you may not have before from the comfort of your own home whenever you want. Not only does this mean more freedom and choices for both us in the industry but also our customers, it also makes online events cost effective for everyone, for example there’s no need to hire venues, and may be part of the reason why they are most likely here to stay.
Another thing the events industry has learnt is that opportunities for peer-to-peer engagement should also be embraced and create significant points of difference. This reinforces how desperate customers are to not only make valuable connections with other peers but also socialise and network and so as an industry we’ve learnt to make this a part of our events and as a result many companies have learnt in these months that cooperation goes a long way as people increasingly search for the community and ‘togetherness’ feel through their online events.
Technology has been the greatest asset throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for the event industry, this may explain the biggest ever surge in technology investment with companies investing around $15 billion extra a week on technology during the pandemic’s first wave. Financial Times have stated that the event industry has developed from digital being a bit of a lifesaver to digital being a big opportunity and learning to harness the opportunities that online events can create has been essential. This reinforces the positives of online events and the potential they can create when embraced fully.
So, what’s next? Although virtual events have been a great way to stay connected and continue business as usual during the pandemic, people will have undoubtedly missed the human element of face-to-face events and so coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic expect people to be on the search for that human interaction at events. Watch out for a boom in smaller events such as Luxury Networking Dinners and smaller conference events as people ease back into the swing of networking and events. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has opened up a virtual world for events which is definitely here to stay! LinkedIn forecasts that 45% of future B2B events will be completely virtual with a majority of businesses maintaining virtual events in the long-term. There is also a potential for the events industry to host a lot of hybrid events in the future which compromise a live event but virtual audience, this is beneficial to businesses as it means your audience can participate and engage with your event, no matter where they are. Overall, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic we are left with more options when it comes to events as life starts to get back to normal and ultimately the events industry has gained a valuable tool in virtual events.