“Only within half a year, thousands of film premieres, theatre performances, conferences, and sports competitions have been postponed or cancelled all over the world. At the same time, people’s desire to get more inspiration or more information never stopped. In this confrontation, online technologies build a powerful bridge between people and businesses to stay connected and united during these uncertain times. In this context, events are something that has always been a glue for inspiration, knowledge, and getting new connections, and it should transform into a virtual format now”, – writes Endrik Randoja.
This year’s Eurovision cancellation is a good example of how leaders of many institutions have acted over the last century, despite having the well-structured IT capabilities. At a time when Europe needed something in common and there even was a kind of application solution for this, the opportunity was missed.
Technically, artists from different countries could have performed even from their kitchens, providing a high-quality resolution, and interesting show overall. It could have created an extremely different experience for all sides – organizers, performers, and viewers, and become perhaps the most significant Eurovision in its history.
Let’s do it in 2021
Almost since the beginning of the year, a lot of European venues have been full of orders to postpone events that had to take place in spring to be held in autumn, and now for the next year. I’d say there are at least three “buts” in this matter. Firstly, it’s a mistake to think that later on, there will be more time or money to keep the audience together than it is now. Secondly, due to the “hot” events season this fall and even the next spring, it will be rather difficult to switch yourself between all the events happening – it relates to both organizers and attendees. And lastly, we need to consider that the virus is already living in our reality since the beginning of 2020. And while at a lot of European countries we can already anticipate the second wave coming, on the other hand, there are countries, like the US – where the whole mess has just begun not long ago. Therefore, no one takes responsibility to state for how long the emergency will last and how quickly people will return the courage to establish new professional connections with other people during the physical events again.
Now or never
For example, recently we decided the fate of one conference that was planned to be held in the early fall. Firstly we made a decision to postpone it to the next year, though, after some critical thinking, it was finally decided that the conference will be organized during the nearest time in a virtual format. Discussing with colleagues and analyzing all pros and cons, we concluded that this sector needs ideas and information right now, and we didn’t want to be the ones who stop this headway.
Currently, despite most European countries are starting to ease the lockdown and some companies allow working from offices, a lot of employees are still struggling with doing so, and prefer to continue working from home. The same situation is happening with events – for example, in Central and Eastern Europe where traditional event format has been allowed with following some restrictions – keeping distance, regular hand washing, and participants number limitation. Nevertheless, despite the long-awaited possibility to finally meet offline, the reality is that even following all the rules and taking measures, organizers still struggle with gathering attendees together. The reason is that people know: the restrictions have been eased but the virus – has not. And such “defensive” behaviour could stay with us for a long time even after the vaccine will be found.
When events become virtual, there’s a special approach towards them too. Now, service providers have got the opportunity to “prove themselves in new circumstances”, and provide their best whenever it’s possible. Getting professional partners who will support under the new set of conditions, will enable you to provide the same good customer experience during virtual events.
Taking into account the opportunities that we currently have, event organizers are perhaps the fastest and easiest ones to adapt to the new reality and provide the same quality services. At the same time, it made the organizers also be more careful. There are fears that there is not as much funding for virtual events as in the regular events offline. But it’s important to understand that some costs such as the venue and catering are significantly lower too.
Another beneficial advantage is that in a virtual event the number of participants can be unlimited. It is much easier to involve famous performers from all over the world without any logistics obstacles. Participants also can get much brighter experience in a virtual environment making interactions with speakers and other “attendees” online.
A hybrid future
There are many opinions that a lot of industries won’t be the same after the crisis. For example, now a lot of organizers don’t see any reasons why conferences should always be offline when virtual participation can provide the same experience: getting relevant information, having meetings with other participants, listening to inspiring speeches, or listing some sponsorship offers.
Perhaps, it’ll be useful to make a thinking exercise, imagine how events would look like if the crisis lasts for a long time? We need to consider this scenario as well. The Olympics were postponed, but if there were a virtual 100-meter run with the world champions, that would be interesting to watch. For e-games, the virtual world is commonplace and it already attracts millions of people globally. How to adopt this experience in other fields is a challenging question now.
Of course, most of us live with the belief that everything will recover quickly and that conferences and festivals will take place in the usual way in the nearest times. It’s important to stay positive, and at the same time to take action and adapt to the reality and opportunities that we currently have when we can organize even larger and better virtual versions of events.