As the Queen said in her rare appearance this April, “We Will Meet Again.” I have no doubts that the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) industry will come back. Some initial surveys are saying that this could happen as early as September 2020 and I sincerely hope that they are right.
Now, the critical questions for business leaders and all of us as humans are “what do we do until we meet again?” and “how meetings are going to be after Covid-19?”
We need to take advantage of these quarantine days, as well as our unusual agenda with no business trips, face to face meetings, social interactions, and many other “normal” day to day things that take a massive percentage of our time, to rethink the way that corporate and business meetings will take place in the future. And, if your business is organizing events or building event technology tools, we urgently need to adjust our products for the post-Covid-19 live events world.
Almost every day, I’m having amazing conversations with investors, media, event organizers, and entrepreneurs about different ideas, experiments, and opportunities that could be capitalized during these “shelter in place” times.
I shared my own opinions about some potential post Covid scenarios previously and how this unique experience could change human behaviors, but, now, we are starting to understand some initial signals of potential opportunities during this crisis that should be accelerated and capitalized in the future. And, smart investors, entrepreneurs, and corporations are paying attention and starting to build these new products and opportunities.
Live events are going to be different after this experience. From live music to sports, as well as conferences and trade shows, change is accelerating based on the unprecedented damage that Covid-19 generated to the live events industry as a whole.
Initial signs are suggesting that live events are probably going to be smaller for those organizers that will be able to activate their brands after postponements, and, many events will simply not survive this crisis, run out of cash, and shut down or merge with other players as part of a survival strategy. But, and this is a big BUT, we are also going to see new events being created during the following nine to twelve months with a very interesting and different mindset. These new events will be real innovators.
The live events technology category is a bit of a different scenario. For those companies that are offering virtual events related solutions, business is smooth sailing during these days. Nevertheless, we also hear about companies like Zoom or Netflix advising their shareholders about the fact that this atypical growth rate scenario is not sustainable in the long term, especially when we go back to the new ‘normal.’ I see a similar scenario with virtual events solutions having different growth rates and priorities when face to face live events are back. But, learnings and opportunities from virtual and hybrid events will stay and be part of the future live events value proposition.
Covid-19 is the Black Swan for the live events industry that nobody expected. Now is the time to be creative and brave, reinventing our industry in a way that will continue to serve and add value to all stakeholders. It is possible and feasible. And, it’s actually needed for a couple of decades at least.
If I would bet today about future business models and opportunities, I would probably think about ways to start digital communities, and, after that, at the appropriate time and scale, activate live events with hybrid/blended experiences for those that are not able to attend face to face, as well as keeping the event digitally active afterward in some capacity. Of course, B2B and B2C events will be different, and, each B2B vertical industry will have unique customization needs and adjustments.
We are valuing content (again) as a critical part of the engagement experience, despite whether or not our learning opportunity, networking, or meeting is virtual or face to face. We are also understanding the power of video engagement (one to one, one to many, or many to many) as a unique way to augment and leverage our marketing efforts. We now have begun to understand that B2B platforms could and should be part of the trade show experience, helping buyers and sellers to stay connected all year long. We are quickly learning that we can easily activate technologies that are available for many years, are scalable, affordable, and trustable, and will create fantastic opportunities for live events owners. And, more importantly, we are learning that our customers in all parts of the live events ecosystem are ready to embrace technology.
The next couple of years are going to be challenging in any industry but particularly for the live events, hospitality, business travel, and related businesses. But, hugely successful new companies and products are going to be created during the next couple of years in these industries from innovative people.
Just last week, I bet a close friend that event technology/digital revenues will be 10x bigger in five years. After that, when I mentioned this bet to another friend, he told me that growth will be way bigger than 10x, while another friend told me that I was crazy and we will never see that type of tech growth in such an old school or slow adoption industry like live events. I’m curious to understand whether or not event professionals finally think that digital revenues and engagement will be a critical part of their business.
As the Queen said, we will meet again. While I do believe that she is right, in the MICE industry it will be in a different and hopefully way better manner.