The Event industry and the COVID-19 nightmare
In less than 6 months, since the case of COVID-19 infection outside the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic was detected, until now, there have been more than 11 million confirmed cases and over 520 thousand people died. With its ability to spread rapidly from person to person, this novel coronavirus pneumonia is very likely to break out in crowded places. Therefore, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended people to strictly practice social distancing, refrain from gathering and restrict travel. These are among the major factors that have paralysed multiple enterprises in the ‘no-smoke’ industry, including event management companies.
With regards to the level of turnover, the global events industry attracts a return on par with a 13th largest economy in the world. Indeed, annually, the industry contributes USD 1.5 million billion to global GDP, including up to 27% for the GDP of Asian countries. These figures clearly show how significant the influence of this primary industry is on the global economy.
Figure 1. The power of the global events industry.
Savior of the event industry: Virtual Events
In the early stages of the pandemic, a series of important events in the world had to be postponed to next year or completely canceled. However, event specialists have recently managed to make use of the technological advancements and found an effective alternative to maintain their services: virtual events.
The 'virtual' event does not mean that the event is not real. Apart from not being held in a particular location, all other elements of the event remain the same, such as audiences, the presenter/facilitator, guest speakers/performers, performances or presentations, etc. A virtual event is not an unfamiliar concept in the field that has just been established during the pandemic. Because of its convenience and cost savings, many small and medium-sized businesses have been using this method to connect with their partners and customers even before the outbreak. However, only in the moment of this crisis, large loop and global-scale enterprises and organizations have also resorted to this method to avoid direct contact in public. Moreover, the virtual event is also capable of hosting an extremely large number of viewers with online interactions in such a short period of time, which is tough for physical events to achieve. This can explain why the demand for virtual events spiked over the past months. According to a Forbes article published on May 27, in a few months since the outbreak of Covid-19, the number of virtual events has skyrocketed to 1000%, which is about 52.000 events in total. "We had to work overtime and constantly recruit more staff to keep up with current needs" said Ruben Castano, founder of 6connex, a virtual event management company.
In fact, on June 13, Seed Planter, a training center focusing on promoting social entrepreneurship in Vietnam, successfully organised its annual event Impact Enterprise Summit 2020 on a virtual platform. Despite being organised in an unfamiliar environment, the event still managed to fulfill its multiple objectives, including providing information, creating a collaborative and learning space, facilitating networking among interested participants and finally promoting a training course on impact entrepreneurship. Last year, the event was presented as a fair with different booths representing various social enterprises in Vietnam, where attendees could make a tour and visit any of them to directly exchange information with the people in charge of each company. Meanwhile, this year, such interactive booths remained but operated on the Zoom platform with different color codes, which means that attendees could choose the color code corresponding to the topic of their preference and directly go to a specific Zoom room. If they would like to move to a different room, a direct link was already available to be clicked in the guidebook sent to them prior to the event.
Figure 2. One section of the Impact Enterprise Summit 2020 Agenda.
Source: Guidebook for attending the virtual Impact Enterprise Summit 2020 from Seed Planter.
Similar to the previous example, also presenting the event as an exhibition, EduCanada, the official Education Virtual fair of the Government of Canada, has gone online and was live-streamed on June 3, 2020. Towards the success of the virtual fair, both Seed Planter and the event organisers had attentively invested in presenting their websites with useful information and guidance prior to the events.
Figure 3. EduCanada front page.
Besides, there are more and more organisations and enterprises that are keeping up with the trend and applying digital technology in organising their events. For example, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Vietnam and other UN agencies also decided to livestream a launching event on their Facebook fanpage, which was on a new joint project to address violence against women and children in Viet Nam - a priority response to Covid-19.
In Vietnam, acknowledging the current situation, many businesses are applying another alternative that is half 'real' and half ‘virtual', termed as the hybrid event. As its name suggests, this method is a combination of direct and online factors. It can be an in-person meeting between the host and the guests while audiences virtually attend the event via live streaming. Alternatively, audiences can gather in groups in different locations to watch the live-streamed event together, hence, stimulating more natural interaction among the audiences.
This mixed kind of event is a perfect choice in the 'new normal' era. It outweighs a regular virtual event because it allows having a normal 'stage' area with organised activities as usual, which means that there are still hosts and guest speakers/performers exchanging in-person conversations at a studio. In this way, the discussion will take place in a smoother and more interactive way, uninterrupted by the personal internet connection of each speaker if the event is 100% online. Furthermore, having a part of the event remain physical also helps enterprises to enhance their brand image as well as spread the main message more efficiently by making the most of the decoration and layout of the 'stage'. Thereby, the audience will feel like they are watching an online TV program but instead, they can directly comment, send questions or even express their emotions to any moment of the event. For example, Vinhomes, in response to the social distancing guidance from the authorities, has quickly launched its online real estate trading floor, connecting investors with customers through computer screens or smartphones. The opening event of a real estate project, which seemed impossible to digitize, has been cleverly handled by Vinhomes by an online transaction floor, on a multimedia integration platform where customers can perform the entire process. The process of buying houses remotely with the "three biggest" benefits: the most convenient, the fastest, and the lowest cost while still receiving all the advice, support and care from the professional sales team of Vinhomes.
It can be said that virtual and hybrid events are dominating the market of the event industry and becoming a new 'normal'. Therefore, always keeping abreast of new information and necessary skills to effectively apply these tools should be among the top priorities of event specialists.
With a team of many years of experience in the event industry and flexible adaptation in all situations, CREATIO is preparing a series of tips on online event organizing, promising many interesting moves for businesses to apply instantly without any charge.
Established in 2011, CREATIO has proven its position and expertise in the industry of creative communications solutions consultancy. With a broad range of services from event management, branding design and production, to content marketing and PR distribution, CREATIO has the privilege to serve more than 120 clients worldwide, from a singular design concept to year-long integrated communications campaigns. Notably, during the ‘new normal’ era, CREATIO organised a hybrid event titled “Online launching of “Young Voices in Vietnam” Report”, via multiple platforms (Facebook, YouTube, TikTok). The event is a part of project “Strengthening Capacity of Civil Society Organizations on Child Rights Governance” implemented by Management and Sustainable Development Institute (MSD) with Save the Children support and SIDA’s funding.