What do Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Spotify, and Airbnb have in common these days?
Well, in some way or the other, all of them are experimenting with Virtual Events Experiences.
After decades of almost ignoring virtual events, it seems that now many of the big tech guys have begun paying attention.
Airbnb launched Experiences in April 2020, and, since then, they are growing this concept and helping many creators connect with customers. Google Area 120 in house incubator presented Fundo, and Amazon announced Explore in September. I already wrote about exciting event-related initiatives from Linkedin, Alibaba, Tencent, and Spotify this year. And, the list continues, including some B2B and B2C concepts.
I was talking with a pretty big event organizer CEO this week about some of these big tech companies’ investments and launches, and his immediate reaction was, “Tech companies do not understand live events. They simply don’t get it, and, we’ve seen similar experiences in the past, failing miserably.” And I think that he is not the only one thinking that way.
I have a pretty different point of view. I believe that, at some point, probably sooner than later, some of these big tech companies will “get it,” and things will begin to change. Or, some smart entrepreneurs will take advantage of being small and fast, and they will figure it out and be acquired by any of these big companies for massive acceleration or raise enough capital to scale into one of the next unicorns in the tech world.
We are experiencing dramatic changes in the live events industry, and, we are rethinking which specific experiences should be done face to face or only online. This is the time to innovate or die. Innovation and tech are no longer a luxury for the live events world, regardless of whether your events are just online, offline, or hybrid.
I’m convinced of the unique connection that live events generate on their audiences and have written many times about this in the past. Let me repeat this concept (again). Tech will not replace live events. But, I’m also convinced of the potential disruption and transformation that technology could and should bring to our industry. If you are part of the live events industry, you should benefit from these big tech players’ entrance into the category. You will see a fresh perspective and different value propositions for creators, organizers, sponsors, and attendees. It’s not going to be perfect in the short term. It took decades for some of these big tech companies to validate their initial products, and it’s probably going to take many years in this case as well. For smart event organizers, all these tech tools and platforms should be great news instead of challenges or threats. For industry dinosaurs, it’s probably another nail in their coffin. For innovative entrepreneurs building startups in this sector, it will certainly help to have the venture capital world’s attention now that all the big guys are paying attention and acquiring successful startups in the future. But more importantly, this is great news for everyone that participates, enjoys, and benefits from events. Because of great tech, events will be better, more productive, and more fun to participate in. Events will probably start online and move to offline activations to later go back online again. Communities will interact through the combination of virtual and face to face experiences in ways that will increase their return on investments and improve efficiencies. If you work (or want to work) in the live events industry, you should pay attention to big and small tech players innovating in the space. You should learn digital and tech skills as soon as possible to be relevant to your company. And you should not be afraid. You must be proactive instead of reactive and start engaging with tech generating change now. Actually, let’s be honest, you should have started years ago, but it is better to start now rather than never :). It’s not too late if you are ready to unlearn and learn again, and, there is a massive opportunity ahead of us. For those of you that want to invest (Angel investors, VC’s, Corporate Venture, or Private Equity) in the event tech space, timing is in your favor. And for those of you who are brave enough to launch startups in the event tech space, there are still many problems waiting to be fixed and technology will be a critical part of the solution. I hope that we can all learn some valuable lessons from big tech experimenting in our industry. We will remember 2020 as the year where many great event tech products and startups were created. As Winston Churchill was working to form the United Nations after WWII, he famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Well, this is a pretty good crisis for the live events industry, and, some people are ready to take advantage.