Once the dust settles, all signals point toward an event industry that is poised to be one of the great assets of the post-COVID world. Smart organizers who are innovators and collaborators will win. With the acceleration of virtual events serving to keep the industry alive since the early days of the pandemic, even the definition of an event has expanded.
Generally, my working definition of an event is: "a gathering of humans who come together for teaching, learning, commerce, community, communication, interaction, entertainment and collaboration." This includes festivals and concerts, celebrations, religious events, spectacles, marketing events, trade and consumer shows, conventions and conferences, and even simple meetings of any type.
The speed of innovation and the need to gather have been more important than ever. Imagine what the world would have been like if the once-in-a-century pandemic struck in 1980 rather than in 2020. As the founder of BizBash, I have been in a catbird seat watching all the dynamic changes that have been made, and I have had the luxury of talking to experts both in and out of the event industry.
From my observations, here are eight major trends on the horizon:
1. EVENT-THINKING AS A METHODOLOGY: Facilitating effective temporary moments will permeate many more facets of life, from managing the act of employees just going to the office to programming activities in a senior center.
Event-thinking is meant to be a methodology for designing temporary situations. It is the difference between human-centered design for a permanent house and human-centered design for short moments. Remote work is changing everything, and it will span an entirely new category of internal events to get people to want to come to the office on a regular basis. Many corporate planners are working on “reentry” plans to welcome people back. These events will help the event decor and planning business, as well as catering, gifting and experiential agencies.
2. THE GREAT NICHE GRAB: Between the competition for quality and low startup capital needs, the event industry will always be one of the last bastions of the entrepreneur. Due to the disruption of the pandemic, we are seeing a new gold rush to serve abandoned and new niches.
One really important dynamic is that event organizing is one of the last great entrepreneurial businesses that is not comparably capital-intensive; instead, event organizers leverage venues, caterers, hotels, transportation and entertainment that are already in existence. More people who have left big companies and understand the power of events know that if they start a successful trade or consumer show, there is a built-in exit strategy for the major trade show companies. Look for a niche rush of new organizers scooping up shows and audiences, and creating new ones to serve with events communities of all types.
Technology is making it more efficient to produce events due to more platforms and processes. Organizers may be going out of business, but the niches they serve are not going anywhere. The competition is going to be for higher quality content and a better event experience. Those who don’t deliver will be toppled by innovative entrepreneurs who have more passion for their audiences.
3. OFFICE-BUILDING FLOORS AS PERMANENT EXHIBITION SPACE: Offices will be mini urban hubs and permanent exhibition halls that require programming unused office spaces and will spawn permanent exhibition hall dynamics for entire industries by building and floors.
4. THE EVENT AS A PLATFORM: The deconstruction and reconstruction of large events will create more intimate ones under larger umbrellas.
As the purpose of all events is to scale intimacy, so people know each other, we are seeing big organizations dividing and deconstructing events into smaller events in every aspect, from the job title to work function to industry niche and other ways to maximize an event's effectiveness. This turns events into more of a platform for multiple events. It will mean that we need more organizers to handle all the events inside of major events and using technology to expand using more of a hub-and-spoke approach that will enable global conferences that feel like attending one location.
5. THE RISE OF THE COLLABORATION ARTIST: In the new age, we will appreciate the facilitator role in its broadest definition and will turn them into superstars of the event industry.
The missing piece in unsuccessful events is the human connection. It’s the human connector that makes the biggest difference. People still want to gather; they want to make the moment valuable. The art and science of effective outcomes is a huge growth area in everything from training to the social physics of even how a room is set up to engage properly. Think of the organizer as the mayor of your niche.
6. GLOBAL BRAINSTORMING: Virtual event platforms are poised to become even more powerful as a way to solve problems by capturing the wisdom of the crowd at scale.
New virtual platforms and techniques will supplement the live face-to-face event. It will be an entirely new canvas with unique use cases. Look for entirely new ways to do everything, from teaching, selling and ideating. In fact, look for real-time creation on a scale never seen before that will get the “wisdom of the crowd” or “collective intelligence” when combined with great facilitation and collaboration arts.
7. THE "EXPERIENCE ECONOMY" HEIGHTENED: The age of experiences rather than possessions will incentivize more consumer events on a global basis.
Each experience is an event that needs to be thought about more carefully than ever and executed as if it’s the first time it’s happening—making it a transformative experience. Events are more destinations than ever, impacting what humans do on a daily basis around the world. Experiential learning like Outward Bound is becoming more sophisticated. The largest events in the world or user groups that are going to be creating more hub-and-spoke methods to scale for the world.
8. THE ENTIRE ROOM AS THE STAGE: Spatial computing will turn entire rooms into a stage, transforming the event industry.
Look for more “metaverses” that will transport niches into completely new worlds. Young people today, who spend hours on gaming platforms, look at our technology and are asking why it’s so bad. The event industry is moving toward the gaming world, which will be another opportunity for the event industry to see even more explosive growth.
The introduction of spatial computing, turning a whole room into the stage, will allow us to scale the trade show so that a person in Europe can walk into an exhibition that is happening in Las Vegas through the metaverse. Even a hallway of a hotel can be converted into a trade show experience. These hubs will enable socializing, learning and entertainment that will benefit the learning and development, social planning and festival side of the event industry.
Unused real estate could evolve into permanent mega marketplaces, trade show exhibition halls and merchandise marts servicing the design, fashion and gift businesses. These facilities will benefit from using the dynamics of the event industry to keep things fresh and appealing to new people who will be using these temporary spaces for everything from HR purposes to sales and marketing channels. They will enhance services providers in multiple areas of the event ecosystem.