Future-proofing conferences and events in unpredictable times

Apr 10, 2020

Jake Ward, Business Development Director at Groovy Gecko, has been working closely with over 60 marketeers and event organisers over the past couple of weeks as they hastily save projects that have been months, or even years in the making. Here Jake discusses how businesses are adapting events in order to de-risk marketing and sales strategies.

International events, including large-scale business conferences, have taken a hit from the ongoing global disruption of Coronavirus (COVID-19) with many being cancelled or postponed, causing long-lasting impacts on business trade around the world.

ITB Berlin, one of the world’s largest travel trade shows, announced today (5 March 2020) that it will launch a virtual convention with more than 20 live streams and videos available both live and on demand, following its shock last-minute cancellation last week. The ITB Virtual Convention looks to “harness intelligent strategies to make sure it remains future-proof even in a challenging environment” according to the show organiser.

As well as the 130,000 delegates that had planned to attend the event, those who hadn’t planned to visit this year can also register for the ITB Virtual Convention.

ITB isn’t the first to adapt. The Adobe Summit has also been cancelled in Las Vegas opting to make it an “online experience” this year, while Facebook’s annual Global Developer conference, F8, has been cancelled in place of locally hosted events, videos and live-streamed content. Shanghai fashion week will also go ahead, but as a live-streamed online event.


Long-lasting effect on Business Industry

Whilst disruptions like this are unlikely to happen year on year, it does shine a light on the scale of which business strategies often focus on for one big event.

Business conferences are planned months, even years in advance, with huge investments of money, time and forward-planning from both organisers and delegates. Global annual events often impact several elements of the company, from strategy to business development and product launch timelines.  

The impact of the coronavirus on events has been felt across all industries worldwide from automotive and tech, to sports and travel. The Geneva Motor Show, Mobile World Congress, Google News Initiative Global Summit, Paris and Milan’s fashion weeks, Formula One’s Grand Prix and even the Dalai Lama have cancelled events in the past few weeks. As well as jeopardising product launches and business opportunities that are underpinned by these global events, the financial hit is monumental.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds, often millions, are spent by exhibitors annually on marketing materials, staff attendance, flights, stands, products, fees, hotels, entertainment and hospitality at global corporate events.


Could virtual events ever replace traditional conferences?

Face-to-face interactions in business will always be essential, however advances in live-streaming technology enable marketing and event experts to adapt and re-evaluate strategies that are underpinned by one major global event each year.

Whether it’s streaming several smaller, more localised events regularly throughout the year, or incorporating streaming into major annual events, there is some relief in technology helping to de-risk and future-proof marketing and sales strategies moving forward

The technology has advanced dramatically in recent years, including vast interactive opportunities so that those viewing from home or in the office are also able to engage.

As the fate of further global events this year is still in question, including Cannes Lion Festival and the Tokyo Olympics, it’s a devastating eye-opener to how vulnerable the events industry can be, and could trigger an evolution of digital global events.

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