90 days from now it will be mid-August. Which means it’s time to start thinking about fall events. While spring and summer are quickly turning up virtual and it looks like the nation will not be meeting in large groups through at least July. So, what does that mean for Fall events?
Let’s take a look into the future...
Although I’m not a quantitative futurist, I have done plenty of research on what the rest of 2020 and into 2021 looks like for events, traditional, virtual, or hybrid. We need to start approaching events like a futurist would and look at the potential sources of disruption we are encountering as well as the impacts of this pandemic. You can start by looking for creative event organizers in your community and doing your best to support them and their events.
Typically, the fall is a busy time for most people. Schools are starting, sporting events are happening, and life is recovering from the chaos of summer. Most people don’t have the time to add other things to their agenda. I expect this fall will be different. Schools haven’t decided if they will be having in-person classes, sports are still tentatively canceled, and this summer is going to be slower and less chaotic than usual.
Come the fall, there will be a lot of questions that event creators will need to consider. If large gatherings are allowed, will people be wary of gathering in large groups or will they be excited to get together again? Will they want to try something new like a hybrid or virtual event or are they going to reach for something familiar like an event that they’ve done year after year, or are they going to be so ready to do everything they will be interested in both?
Of course, we don’t know the answer to these questions yet but we need to keep our ears to the ground as much as possible to be able to help guide event creators in the right direction and know which events to target ourselves.
Event creators will also need to be thinking about are their vendors. Which vendors will be available? Did anyone go out of business? Can they operate their annual events without specific vendors? This is where a lot of hybrid events will be born. By hybrid event I mean, something that is similar to what we think of as a traditional event mixed in with other elements like technology, partnerships, or physical merchandise. These are events that are done together as a community but with appropriate social distancing in effect. Check out this great example of a hybrid event on MyAlaskaTix. (add link)
An assessment of what the fall holds for events wouldn’t be complete without looking at the economic impacts of this pandemic and how that will affect ticket prices. What we have seen over the last decade is that experiences are taking over for material things. People value experiences as they impact our emotional wellbeing more than materials items do. For this reason, I think that people will still be willing to participate in events and purchase tickets for events but we may need to look at exactly how much they will be able to spend and how much they will be more selective on which events they attend.
None of these considerations mean that events should or will be canceled. Events and experiences are a very important part of local economics and your community. Events are not going anywhere. We could do a deep dive into why events are so important to local economics but I think we all know the benefits, the dollars being spent within the community, the fellowship of neighbors, and of course the overall community spirit and engagement that events provide.
We are starting to see large event companies across the country make a pivot to virtual and hybrid events. Once traditional in-person events are back, I expect to see a continuation of the virtual and hybrid event world. Large scale events like South by Southwest and E3 (a large video game conference) have canceled their 2020 events but are already advertising for their 2021 events and including that they will be the same event reimagined.
Companies like Amazon are also stepping in to create a virtual 10-day film festival to help the films typically showcased at SXSW. The downfall, of course, this large scale virtual event is that the city of Austin will not be boosted economically the same way it would have if the 2020 festival had been in-person vs virtual. This economic piece is why in-person events will be back, the economic boost of large events is too great to just let go of. These large scale events might just look a little different in the future.
As the events world is dealing with a HUGE amount of uncertainty, it might feel uncomfortable to create radical new ideas but in fact, this time of disruption is the best time to try out new and innovative events and ideas.
We should be on the lookout for ways we can support this innovation through digital advertising promotions or added marketing support. Event creators are going to look to you as someone who is in the event creator world through ticketing and your community involvement for ideas, support, and overall direction. I want to provide you with as many tools as possible to help guide these conversations during your sales meetings.
The events industry and local media industry is built on community. As a member of those communities, you don’t just give up, you innovate.