Almost everything about events has changed since March of 2020. There has never been a more transformational time within our industry, and it’s still evolving. To see what some of the most significant changes have been, we interviewed two of our panelists Bill Callison, President of Big Rock Productions, and Lynn Edwards, Owner of Proper Planning, from our upcoming closing education session, State of The Industry: How our industry has transformed from 2019 to 2022. The session will be available for advanced ticket holders at the Northwest Event Show on March 1st, 2022. If you haven’t got your tickets yet, you can still purchase them at the door!
The dynamic duo allowed us to interview them ahead of the show to share a sneak peek into the current state of our industry. And you don’t want to miss their insightful views! These industry heavyweights share it all from where the industry is now to what the future holds! Read on to learn more.
What is the current state of our industry?
Currently, our industry is still in repair. Bill drills into this question “for almost every person and company in our industry, the pandemic was by far the most damaging thing we’ve experienced. It has been devastating.”
And devastating it was, we’ve had a rough two years. Lynn adds, “we are hurting, we have lost great people to other industries, we are mentally fatigued, and we are cautiously optimistic.”
Though we’ve seen some dark times, there is so much potential as an industry. Lynn describes how the industry is on the cusp of a renaissance next. “Our industry is poised to experience a rebirth like no other. There is pent-up demand to gather (safely), hug, shake hands, smile at each other, do business together, share a meal, have fun, learn, grow and build connections. For those that have reimagined how to gather and every aspect of our events, we will use this imagination to create even more compelling events. Events with super cool virtual elements, events with greater reach using our new technologies, events that have deeper meaning and greater outcomes.” Now, this is a future we’re excited about!
How has the industry transformed since March of 2020, when the pandemic started?
Lynn and Bill answered this question the way most people in the industry would. In short, everything has changed. Events were flipped upside down, and overnight our worlds changed. But in the darkness, we found the light. Through the last two years, we have learned how to create virtual worlds, hybrid events, and so much more. We’re a resilient bunch! Below are a couple of the critical transformations.
Re-Evaluation and Massive Shifts
Lynn explains, “We have been forced to re-evaluate everything…why we are gathering, how we are gathering, when we are gathering, who is gathering and most importantly what we are creating as a gathering experience.”
Bill also found this to be accurate and is still seeing an evolution “Massive shifts in decision making, adoption of new technologies… Budgets have changed and continue to do so. Expectations of audiences have changed. An emphasis on time has risen to the top of conversations. Timelines and planning cycles seem to have changed as well. The industry continues to transform due to all of these factors.”
What’s the biggest challenge the industry faces currently?
It probably comes as no surprise between the global supply chain crisis and great resignation that staffing is one of the biggest challenges the events industry faces. Lynn explains this challenge further “Front line service personnel…we need these valuable people to help us execute our events. We need forklift drivers and front desk clerks, and breakfast servers. Staff that smile and embrace the “hospitality” in the hospitality industry. We need great trainers to get these front-line teams ready to support our event guests.”
Patience can be hard to come by these days. Many event organizers are stretched thin and have been put through the most challenging times in their careers in the last two years. Bill explains the challenge further, “Patience. The start/stop aspects of the pandemic have made it so difficult to plan for events, and patience is running thin because many of these start/stop scenarios are costing a lot of time and money.” Hopefully, as we adjust to the new normal, our patience will be restored!
Finding the Path Forward
While patience is a big challenge, Bill believes the path forward is the most significant obstacle at hand. “The biggest challenge we face as an industry is defining how we move forward. Understanding what our audiences are expecting. Then, taking these expectations and planning for successful events with the right teams and achieving the organizational goals of any meeting or event.” While the path forward is still murky, we know one thing is for certain event professionals will rise to the challenge to find it!
What is the most significant opportunity this industry has moving forward?
Lynn and Bill both agree as an industry, we have an enormous opportunity to learn and grow. Over the last two years, significant technological developments have allowed us to gather in new ways, and many of us found ourselves learning how to execute events all over again.
Bill shares his thoughts “Growth. Personal and professional growth. Organizational growth. Technology adoption growth.”
Lynn focuses on growth in the form of attendance “Growing our event attendance is an incredible opportunity. We have a client that maxed out their General Session for eight years at 2000 people. Last year they had 15,000 attend their virtual event. The increased reach technology allows us is amazing. More people watching, networking, engaging, learning in-person and online will be game-changing.”
What do you think the future of events looks like in our “new normal”?
We received some very thought-provoking answers to this question. Both predictions seem like possibilities that would be worth exploring.
Seasonal Meeting Models
Bill suggests there could be two seasonal meeting models, “A cold weather model where most meetings, events, and conferences are virtual. And a warm-weather model where there is more space for people to gather, it’s easier to distance if needed and gathering is enjoyable and much more functional.” This interesting concept could help to manage events during waves of covid.
Virtual and Hybrid Events Are Here To Stay
Lynn and Bill suggest virtual event components are here to stay. Lynn begins, “Hybrid, just like WFH (Work from Home), will forever change our work environments. Likewise, digital events will forever change our event experiences.”
Bill agrees that there is a new era of and virtual is here to stay, “Given the feedback we hear from our clients, virtual is here to stay. What that means and how that looks are going to be defined event by event, but the new normal will most certainly mean two audiences in mind whenever planning for an event.”
Flexible Design Will Reign
As our audiences change and attend our event from all over the globe, we must become more flexible and accommodating. Lynn explains, “event design must be flexible to accommodate audiences in all locations. Integrating as well as distinguishing the different experiences will be our great challenge and best opportunity.”
More Dynamic Storytelling
As we shifted to virtual, we quickly realized it was much harder to keep the attendee’s attention online. As a result, we became better messengers. Lynn explains, “We have been forced to get even more creative with our message delivery method (aka storytelling), which is helping us improve that element of our events.”
And it’s true, with events now competing with distractions at home like Netflix, it was time to refine our messages. Lynn shared helpful advice on how to accomplish this “embrace new mediums to get better at communicating your key messages. No more death by PowerPoint. Your audiences won’t allow it. Instead, use all the tools in the toolbox to share your message with great videos, music, and gamification.”
Our global audience can tune from anywhere in the world, and content experiences need to diversify in response. Lynn shares an example, “One attendee could be using the event app on the way from the airport, sitting in the opening session the next day, and on the event platform later that afternoon from their hotel room while checking emails. Our guests will move fluidly between spaces, and we must keep their attention.”
Usually, we like to close out blogs with key takeaways; however, Lynn’s message was so impactful that we believe it deserves to serve as the final thoughts. Lynn shared, “I have been in this amazing business now for nearly 30 years and have ridden a lot of crazy impact waves. These last two years have been by far the toughest challenge to date. Change is the only constant. As event professionals, we are built to manage the wave of change, embrace it, and make it work! Although the learning curve has been steep, it has strengthened us all. We have new tools, people ready to gather, and teams that will rise to this challenge to continue to make this the best business to be in!”
Join us on March 1st, 2022, at the Northwest Eventshow, where Bill and Lynn will join Kelli Bielema, Co-Founder of AirScream, and Kate Kurkjian, Senior Manager, Experiential Marketing & Events at Zillow Group, for our closing education session, State of The Industry: How our industry has transformed from 2019 to 2022. You can’t miss this inspiring session.