My last two blog posts could and should be related. I wrote about the black swan scenario for live events in October last year without even thinking that I would be writing about how tech could help during the Coronavirus times (a real black swan situation) a couple of months later.
Anyone who is related to profoundly affected industries by the Coronavirus pandemic like live events, travel, and hospitality, among others, I was reading (maybe a lot) and thinking (maybe too much) on alternative scenarios for the post Coronavirus world and how each of these scenarios could affect these industries.
First and foremost, all these scenarios and ideas are changing daily. Secondly, I’m no futurologist and these scenarios are based off personal analysis and catharsis in order to discuss and brainstorm with smart and passionate people on the subject and gain some perspective.
The situation will continue to be adjusted once we learn and understand more about the health, social, and economic impact that this crisis is generating, and how governments, business, and society react.
Today (Monday, March 23rd, 2020) I can think of three potential scenarios for how live events will be affected as part of this Coronavirus crisis. I will start with the most difficult situation leading to the “best-case scenario.”
Scenario One. Social distancing becomes the “new normal” and additional pandemic situations create a modern reality where live events as we know them are no longer valid. If this MIT article is right and we are not going back to ‘normal,’ it will be really difficult to think of ways that allow us to return to sports, concerts, or trade show events as we know them. I honestly think, hope, and want to believe that this is not going to be the case (call it denial); if this scenario happens the macroeconomic, social, and political problems that the world would face are way more dramatic than ever imagined. I want to think that, at least, for the moment, the live events industry can survive under the following two scenarios.
Scenario Two. The coronavirus second wave is significant and the problem persists in a similar capacity during the rest of 2020 and 2021.
Under this scenario, the vaccine would take 18 months or more to develop and we would experience second wave effects in different regions, affecting the way that events are organized. Governments and cities would continue to restrict large gatherings and the risk of organizing big events would be higher than ever based on the potential need for cancellations or postponements. Unfortunately, I think that this is a potential scenario and we should be prepared to work hard and fast on different ways to create “future bulletproof” events that could switch from live to digital/virtual solutions on a necessary basis. I will elaborate a bit more on this topic, since I think that in any future scenario the live events industry will have a unique opportunity to modernize the way that buyers and sellers interact (B2B trade shows), educate and network (conferences or corporate events), or experience their sports or music events (fan engagement).
Scenario Three. The world goes “back to normal” in the second half of 2020.
A vaccine is found. Lockdown in many cities and countries works well, the summer weather helps, and slowly but surely life goes back to normal. I sincerely hope that this scenario will happen. But, this scenario could generate a situation where events also go back to normal without learning from this crisis.
Under this scenario, event organizers could lose a tremendous learning experience that would help our industry improve the way we help our customers in the future. That would be a real tragedy. There is no doubt in my mind that we will continue to face, as an industry, different challenges (natural disasters, political and social crises, and future health crises like the one that we are currently experiencing) that will force organizers to change or cancel events as planned.
Let’s take the time to think, learn, and invest in future events with a different mindset as part of this crisis.
In any scenario, the live events industry will need to change and adapt to new customer needs and reality. Engaging our communities in digital ways is imperative and will add value and relevance to the future of live events. Going from digital to face-to-face events back to digital needs to become the new norm and event organizers should understand that face to face is no longer enough for their customers.
Despite all current challenges, I continue to be bullish about the live events industry. We will adapt. We will (finally) change and modernize live events in a way that allows technology to embrace the overall customer journey and fan experience, permitting organizers to activate (and postpone) events with less friction and losses for all parties involved.
Some events, particularly those that are not providing strong added value to customers, will probably be smaller in the future while some events will disappear and few people will notice since they were not serving well in their respective communities.
But, and this is a BIG but, a new generation of live events will thrive. We will see innovative corporations and entrepreneurs creating a new way for people to connect online (digital engagement) and offline (live events) all year long based on niche segments and specific needs that will be identified thanks to better use of data and analytics on customer’s needs. Face to face will continue to provide the best marketing tool for networking, meetings, and will keep creating opportunities for generating trust between humans that will continue to meet during the millions of events held annually around the globe.
Black swans are real. Nothing is stable, change is the only constant. Things will get better, but we should not waste the pain that we are experiencing right now as it provides a learning opportunity to improve our industry and the way that we help our customers in the future.