I think that I never wrote so many blog posts and participated in so many webinars in such a short period of time like these last four weeks. Time at home with no travel or face to face meetings is giving me a great opportunity for reading and reflection.
This whole Covid 19 situation is clearly a Black Swan situation that I did not expect when I wrote that article last year. Our day to day lives are changing so fast and in so many unexpected ways that many of us think that going back to “normal life” after this experience will affect different human behaviors and, of course, the way that some businesses and industries will be in the future.
I spent most of my professional life around the tech, media and live events industries. As part of my job, I interacted with people’s reactions to marketing experiences in different ways. Initially through publications and content, after that with digital technologies and live events. Each of these interactions and experiences gave me unique learning experiences to understand how people react to different messages and opportunities to connect, meet, discuss and do business establishing a human connection based on trust.
For more than ten years now, since I started Vesuvio Ventures, I was pretty much focused to invest my time and resources trying to partner with great entrepreneurs and corporations building tech startups fixing problems in the media, live events, education, and marketing industries. The pace of change and adoption experienced in many of these ventures was, many times, pretty slow and frustrating. For example, the live events industry was still growing in many segments at double-digit growth and having fantastic profit margins. It’s natural to understand, that under such successful scenarios, the pressure and urgency for change and innovation were probably not too high on the priorities list of any entrepreneur or CEO.
Now, in just a couple of months, it seems that everything changed dramatically. We will be experiencing trillions of dollars of losses in the live events, hospitality and travel industries during 2020. We still don’t know how long and painful this health and economic crisis will be but we are all pretty sure that it will be very long and very painful. As humans, we are learning to live under a different reality that is challenging our health (physical and mental), our relationships and our economy.
Let me share a couple of examples that are related to “my new normal” and affecting my day to day personal and business reality.
1. Video calls and meetings are not weird anymore
I have to say that I always tried to keep my video button off during Zoom or similar technology calls. I don’t know why, but particularly with people that I never met before I felt a bit weird starting with video as our first interaction. Not anymore, almost all calls and meetings lately are video calls and the fact that most of us are doing this from our houses creates a very interesting sort of different connection. Billions of people are experiencing video calls, meetings, and webinars for the first time and understanding how powerful tools this could be as a way to save time in our jobs and have a better experience and connection.
2. The human connection between face to face and digital will accelerate change
Because of point #1, we are moving at a super-fast pace into a new way to share knowledge, meet and network in a digital way. I’m presenting regularly on webinars (instead of traditional conferences). The interest in learning about virtual events and similar topics that we covered in The Face of Digital and different blog posts after that with special emphasis on analyzing potential digital opportunities for the future of the live events industry. The Bizzabo team created this list of virtual events. It’s amazing to see the quantity and quality of many of these events including very big brands investing and innovating in these events. If you see the cancelations and postponement lists from many other events you will understand a clear correlation and trend. From concerts, theaters, sports into trade shows, conferences, festivals, corporate, social events the list is endless. Every event that is canceled is forcing the event owners to immediately start thinking about ways to create a digital platform for their event soon. And that intellectual exercise, curiosity, and attitude is the real reason why, now, finally, more than event the live events industry could change for good in the future.
3. We will (finally) see interesting innovation in the live events and related industries
Change is coming. Faster and deeper than ever. And is not happening because event owners and organizers wanted it. It’s happening based on an urgent need to adapt or die. Unfortunately, many event organizers will not adapt fast enough to save their companies. They were not ready. The digital strategy, tools and management culture and skills for innovation take time and doing this overnight will simply not work.
Other organizers started to experiment and learn about different ways to engage digital technologies with their events and they are certainly in a much better scenario to activate some experiences and keep their customers engage and committed to their events. Finally, a small group of organizers is ready to thrive. They have a real and honest desire to innovate and improve the customer experience in their communities and industries and this is their golden opportunity for accelerating change and be brave to try even bigger experiments. We should be prepared to see some big players going bankrupt in the next 12-18 months and unfortunately hundreds of thousands of people in the industry will be losing their jobs. But we will see many survivors thriving and growing and many new startups creating a new generation of events that will be starting with a “digital-first” mindset generating hundreds of thousands of new jobs as well. Those new jobs will need a new mentality and skillsets. Take advantage and start learning about it if you want to be part of this industry in the future.
When we go back to work on the “new normal” things will change again and we will have “selective memories” but we will quickly forget many other things that affected our life during our quarantines and Covid 19 experience. Those “selective memories” will include new ways to interact with digital technologies that we will extrapolate to many aspects of our life and I think that live events are going to be affected by this, most of the time in a positive way for those who are ready to adapt fast.
4. But, in the end, we will value the human connection opportunities more than ever
If there is something that I keep hearing every day in every webinar, article or debate is the fact that the need for having a “human connection and experience” is not going away. Even in the middle of this crazy time when we watch concerts from celebrities from their living rooms or night tv shows from homes from each host we know and feel that those experiences are way better with real audiences in the room. We will see many more virtual and hybrid events flourishing in the future and that’s great news. But those events could and should be the gateway for more and better face to face events experiences that will be significantly more productive and enjoyable for all participants.
There is a new human behavior in the making and will certainly affect many industries and businesses. But for those who are ready to adapt and change with courage and humility to experiment and learn the future is more exciting than ever.
If you are one of those corporations or entrepreneurs on that list, please reach out! I will be happy to brainstorm and experiment with some ideas.