One of Atlanta’s premier event promoters, Ismail Sirdah of Duluth, Georgia, has learned how to oversee virtual and hybrid events over the course of 2020. Now that two approved COVID vaccines are being distributed across the United States, event promotion is about to turn a corner and approach a new normal.
The global pandemic has been hard on the hospitality industry and event promoters. But organizers have been creative and new digital tools allow events to continue in a modified form. And because of the cost benefits of virtual events, many promoters (Mr. Sirdah included) plan to retain some of their “go-to” digital tools that came in handy during 2020.
As a result of lockdowns and social distancing, consumers and professionals have found new ways to meaningfully engage online. Several social media platforms launched and/or improved new features to assist event planners, says Ismail Sirdah.
While Facebook unveiled little to no changes for event promoters, Facebook Groups grew to prominence among promoters wanting to nurture online communities before, during, and after an event. In these groups, administrators could introduce discussion topics, promote solutions/events, and offer exclusive discounts to members.
Facebook Live offers event organizers the chance to publicize their event for free online. Virtual attendees can engage events and posts with questions and comments. It’s likely that event promoters will continue recommending that clients employ Facebook Live and station moderators to answer questions and comments on Facebook during the event.
Instagram has its own Live feature and it integrates seamlessly with Facebook. But Instagram also has a few more video tools to enhance the event for virtual attendees.
For example, Instagram allows users to save their Live event as an IGTV post. Those that were unable to attend can access the event later on the company page. Promoters can pull event highlights into Instagram Reels to promote next year’s event.
Downloaded video coverage of an event can generate additional views on YouTube. This platform is one of the leading social channels for long-form video and educational content. Brands that feature special speakers or highlights from their latest event can generate more awareness for next year’s event.
Slack is the leading instant messaging social platform for professionals. Users can integrate many different productivity apps, check in to events, and manage communications with other attendees for post-session follow-ups.
Full-service in-person events are returning as the population receives the new vaccine and the COVID-19 threat subsides. But there remains uncertainty about the hospitality industry’s ability to bounce back, notes Ismail Sirdah. Promoting events in 2021 could look very different than they did in 2019.
Economists disagree over whether a post-COVID world will demonstrate “pent up demand” or lingering caution. Should there be “pent up demand,” it may be difficult for promoters to land their ideal venue.
If attendees and event sponsors remain tentative about launching full-service events, venues may decrease their availability to reduce costs and maintain operations. In addition, hotels and event spaces might drop their rates considerably to incentivize business.
Event venue supply and demand will become more clear as the country eases out of danger status. Event promoters must remain flexible until the hospitality industry returns to normal. That said, many venues and hospitality businesses closed due to COVID-19. There will be new entrants to take their place and it is not yet clear how those new enterprises will operate, says Ismail Sirdah.
Many organizations in the hospitality industry remain on edge. They are working with razor-thin margins and heightened precautionary measures. It’s likely that venues will significantly alter their event contracts in an effort to protect themselves financially against last-minute cancellations, liabilities, and client disputes.
Event promoters should seek assistance from attorneys to help them understand new contractual verbiage. Any miscommunication or misunderstanding around venue contracts could permanently sour relationships with attendees, sponsors, and affiliates.
Despite COVID-19 dangers and restrictions, many in-person events still took place in 2020, though they embraced safety precautions to prevent infections, says Ismail Sirdah. As the hospitality and event marketing industries emerge from the current pandemic, corporate events are bound to look much different.
Event promoters took advantage of hybrid events in 2020 more so than had ever been done before. In a hybrid event, there is a venue with in-person participants. But the event is also available online through a platform that admits virtual attendees.
Hubb is an example of an event hybrid platform. The software can manage in-person events with online capability, including digital booths and contact information management.
Hybrid capabilities can increase participation beyond attendance seen in 2019, says Ismail Sirdah. Furthermore, virtual event integration lowers costs and inconvenience for those who may be wishing to participate but are hesitant to travel to the event in-person.
Event promoters should anticipate the need for online moderators that can engage virtual participants. Otherwise, virtual attendees will have a less desirable experience. These hybrid event tools should empower event planners to accomplish far more with less.
Experts recommend that organizations see COVID-19 as a wake-up call to make their operations pandemic-proof. The reasoning behind this approach is that more mutations and diseases are likely to come due to changes in the environment. Once experts discover a new virus or strain, it has likely traveled to many places.
Pandemic-proofing events might mean more space between chairs and tables. Attendees are likely to wash their hands more often or decline to shake hands.
While a portion of the population remains unvaccinated, doctors still recommend that people wear masks indoors. Many participants may opt to wear a mask long after the COVID-19 threat subsides.
“Radical” measures, such as taking temperatures of participants or maintaining social distancing may be preferable for some venues and participants. With these considerations in mind, pandemic-proofing an event means making accommodations for those wanting to participate but greatly concerned about the risks.
But pandemic-proofing also has an economic impact. Event planners will need to consider more carefully the possibility of canceled events due to a future pandemic scare or significantly-reduced attendance. Promoters may need to keep events local to reduce travel. These considerations and more may still be critical in a post-COVID world, says Ismail Sirdah.