The Future of Events: New Emerging Roles

30 November 2021
By Zhafir Al-Wafi, Strategic Communications
Nothing beats the powerful encounter of physical events. People are used to the buzz and excitement of attending conferences, exhibitions, tournaments and concerts (or even happy hour!). Experiencing a live event was a larger-than-life social interaction in comparison to remotely streaming from devices at the comfort of one’s home.
For some, physical events may be a distant memory for now with rigours of the current pandemic. But COVID-19 also presents unexpected possibilities that will transcend future business event roles, requiring event organisers and attendees to adjust to the agile normal.

Here are highlights of three new roles business events will play. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention.
1. Event Participation to Upskill
The scene of business events largely attracts conversation from knowledge seekers, and it can be staged by having a conference, or exhibition, or both. The crisis has caused an urgent need for knowledge exchange with an upside that there are many companies conducting online business events such as seminars and conferences on a complimentary basis. These may serve as opportunities for individuals to keep abreast with the latest information or to reskill or upskill as part of a progressive learning journey.

Encouragingly, there are also learning programmes which are incentivised by governments where some essential skills trainings can be tax-claimable. Companies should take advantage of such events as organisational growth and capability development for its employees to find meaningful solutions and innovative ideas to counter challenges faced by the respective business industries.
(Images sourced from LinkedIn)
In a McKinsey’s article titled “To emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, companies should start reskilling their workforces now”, it mentioned “COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of fully digitised approaches to re-create the best of in-person learning through live video and social sharing.” As an event organiser, this strategy can be used to market and steer participation to the event in the rethinking of employee training during the pandemic.

Key takeaway: Demand for certification courses or skill-building business events is expected to rise in the time of COVID-19 and may matter more than ever.
2. Reopening Economy
The events industry faced an unprecedented hit with many physical engagements put on hold, giving little room to host events in the conventional sense. Though the solution is to opt for a virtual event format, the sentiment on unrealistic return of investments still lingers because going virtual may not yield as much revenue as compared to physical events.

According to an article published in The Malaysian Reserve on 27 May 2021, “2020 survey by the Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS), business events industry players had experienced revenue losses of RM2.25 billion, a drop of 90%, since the Movement Control Order (MCO) first started.” From this statement, it is evident that there are huge revenue losses throughout the entire events business chain impacting organisers as well as suppliers from the restrictions in place to combat the pandemic.

While the world is progressing towards herd-immunity through vaccination programmes, each country should start plans to revitalise their economy by promoting their unique location as a must-visit destination. According to an interview article (June 2021) by Conference & Meetings World with Nigel Huddleston (UK’s Minister for Sports and Tourism), he said “The new Tourism Recovery Plan is a good indication of the kind of things we want to do. We are effectively subsidising attendees, physically, to the tune of £30 per person, up to £15,000 for an individual event. So those are the kind of things that we are doing, and we’ll be monitoring the progress with how it works. We want to be able to try and encourage domestic events. So, let’s get the bookings, let’s get people going to these events.”

Focusing on domestic events can be the first step in bringing business back into operations and primed for recovery. For short to medium term solutions, domestic events could play the important role to open up job creations and encourage businesses to start operating again. Activating venues such as auditoriums and conference halls can bring back purpose for the hospitality industry to attract organisers to secure dates with a COVID-19 safety plan and practical restrictions tailored to the event and its attendees.

Key takeaway: Business events will play a key supportive role in reopening the closed economy.

3. Data is the new business

The events sector is considered a dynamic platform that has the ability to process quality data captured from event attendees. How is data leveraged? Event data analytics reveal insights, trends and patterns of the attendees’ behaviour that could potentially be utilised for future event improvement and customisation to enhance attendee experience and engagement at events. While business events such as conference or exhibition is typically held once a year, smaller virtual events are becoming increasingly common.

Any event organiser will agree that promoting events takes up a significant financial resource. With event data analytics that an event captures, it can generate strategic decisions to help with cost optimisation of outreach in a cost-effective manner. Using data, event organisers can potentially access quality attendees locally and internationally to improve relationship with the participants, create more business leads and maximise the event’s return of investment.

Today there are many established and recognised associations – for instance, Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) and the aforementioned MACEOS in the convention and meetings sector that can act as reference points to obtain statistic resources on specific data sets to attract quality attendees. One could use data as part of the marketing strategy to fully optimise company resources.

Key takeaway: Data mining and using the information properly will highly likely net quality attendees and the right target audiences for the event.
Rather than halting altogether, the resilient events industry is adapting. As business events find its footing again – whether physical, virtual or hybrid – flexible business events can be organised more often contributing not just for self-development but, to many sectors in the entire business ecosystem – which serves as a catalyst for building communities.
© 2024 International Conference and Exhibition Professionals (iCEP)
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