After a whole year of uncertainty and fear, some good news are coming on the pandemic front. Vaccines are entering the last trial phases and already there is talk of distributing them to the population next year. This does not mean, of course, that the emergency can be considered to be over or that we can set an end date to the current restrictions. Despite most regulations being implemented with a built-in expiration day – at least in Italy – we have learned by now that governments enact safety measures depending on the spread of the pandemic and that we can’t make long-term plans in that respect. This puts the whole event industry in a complicated position. While holding events in the traditional sense is currently impossible, we do know that there will come a time for our normal activities to resume. What will our “normal” be by then? What will future events look like? What kind of scenario will we be facing and how do we best equip ourselves in the present to meet the challenges of the future?
We will be more aware of social distancing at future events
People reacted to social distancing in different ways. Some took advantage of the temporary and partial lifting of the restrictions over the summer to overdo it and gather in large crowds with very little thought for personal space. Others have become more aware of the implications of being in close proximity to one another and now feel uncomfortable reducing social distancing, even when it is allowed or safe to do so. It is likely that future events will not fill venues to capacity, regardless of potential attendance, since our perception of what is acceptable in terms of crowd management has shifted considerably.
We will keep using digital systems to manage event attendance
And by that, we don’t mean the basic CMS and excel sheets that every event planner already uses, but the more complex systems that have been developed recently, to simplify contact tracing in case of new outbreaks. Even after the pandemic is over, our industry is not likely to let its guard down too soon. Besides, these systems have proven to be extremely effective management tools and organisers are unlikely to want to abandon them.
Public events will implement stricter hygiene measures
Keeping our hands clean and not touching our faces are sensible and useful rules that we have learned to follow and appreciate. In the future, event attendees might feel safer and more comfortable if hand disinfectant dispensers are available upon entering a venue, regardless of the current state of the pandemic. Being able to disinfect one’s hands after multiple interactions and before consuming a snack, for instance, will be much appreciated. Particularly if it does not involve having to cue for the restrooms.
Future events will be digital hybrids
Another thing event planners and organisers are unlikely to want to give up are vast and international audiences. This is particularly true of events like trade shows and exhibitions, which are aimed at entire industries and generally not meant to cater to a local audience. Thousands of small and medium companies, thanks to digital and virtual events, suddenly discovered the advantages of attending international trade shows, after years of being unable to do so because of the high costs of travelling and accommodation, on top of entry fees. On the other hand, organisers too were delighted to expand their target audience, welcoming attendees that had always been barred from participating in physical events. In order to preserve these undeniable perks of digital events, while fully embracing the return to “normal” ones, many organisers are planning hybrid event models, which will allow IRL attendees to interact naturally with remote ones, through virtual avatars.