My Lithuanian colleague Indrė Blauzdžiūnaitė, asked this question. I’ve been thinking of an answer to this question for six months. And I keep going back to the lunacy of the “that’s the way we always do it” approach that we’ve had for events in the past. I’m wondering why we didn’t adopt some of these practices we’re seeing now, before. (Which would in essence work me out of a job, which is not good for my “P” profit and prosperity). The old way of thinking is not sustainable to our industry.
Echoing what Founder and Former CEO of Social Tables Dan Berger has stated, many small meetings will be replaced permanently by virtual events because they are easier to organize and require less moving physical parts. To clarify, recorded webinars are not events. Events bring people together and allow for interaction. So, a digital “event” must allow for interaction. We must use our creative minds to sync the purpose and goal of the event and find a way to create that true sense of connection. That takes thought. The only way to keep our industry “P” profitable is to move forward. And when we do, digital events are indeed an opportunity for sustainability. With digital, we can build an event anywhere, in any place-even when we can’t be together in person. A sustainable event that did not happen is not sustainable, by the definition of an event.
As we move forward, we will see the distribution shift of the “P” from the hands-on front-of-house interactive staff and vendors to balance with the more technical production experts. Adding, I have seen a dramatic opportunity to invest in professional development and staff training. We are all adjusting to new technologies and embracing them. In order to remain sustainable, we have to keep planning, adjusting, and moving forward. We cannot keep working from the same checklist and playbooks. Plan for Plan B and ask what will it take to weather the next disruption and thrive.
To get to that “P” we can also use this opportunity to expand our partnerships, get to really know our suppliers. Working behind the scenes requires like-minded clients and partners who agree that their event can change everything and leave a positive impact-for the people and planet. The ripple effect lasts long after the event, connections last a lifetime and the space will be eternally better having had a nurturing team make a community thrive. The sense of place, and all the people in that place, help make even a digital event sustainable.
No other industry brings people together to celebrate, learn, debate, encourage, spark, exchange ideas, inspire and innovate. We create temporary experiences. Our events raise awareness through those experiences and inspire the next generation (and remind the rest of us) to be the change. Our events promote positive change and build communities. Even though in many parts of the world we’re not doing that right now, the virtual experience and exchange only goes so far, but it also adds so much. The door has been opened to wider audience access and expands the community. I’ve met some of my most engaging colleagues over the past six months, virtually! Without digital events, that would not have happened.
In the short term, yes the industry will struggle, but I just can’t wait to see how much better and efficient it will be. The innovative minds who produce events are working hard behind the scenes so when it’s time, these face-to-face meetings, events, and gatherings will be safer, more efficient, and more sustainable….and NOT like the way it was before. I hope we will do things differently, because on the other side of the pandemic, these experiences will be even more meaningful.