Many states are starting to pause or turn around their reopening plans—indicating that even when businesses start to feel optimistic, things can shift quickly.
This makes planning trade shows and large events difficult. Venues, travel reservations and speaker commitments have to be dependable.
Due to instability, hopes of in-person events returning this year are looking grim. What does this mean for event organizers and sponsors?
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Digital events are growing stronger
According to a recent survey conducted by CEIR, 81% of organizers who were forced to cancel their events shifted to digital (compared to 69% in April). The top two reasons for this, according to Vice President of Research Nancy Drapeau, are uncertainty of regional lockdowns and corporate ‘no travel’ policies.
Spikes in cases are happening around the country and it’s unclear when an increase could cause political leaders to ban gatherings of large groups. This uncertainty makes it risky to invest time and money into planning physical events.
In 2019, MediaRadar found that over seventy thousand companies sponsored and exhibited at an event. This year is not shaping up the same way. Instead, sponsors are turning to webinars.
Since the beginning of the year, the number of brands advertising across webinars has almost tripled.
Many events—especially large conferences and summits—are now using virtual event technology to recreate event experiences as much as possible with features such as: multiple content tracks, interactivity, CRM integrations and more.
Informa plc is one of the world’s largest network of events. More than 160 of its events have been cancelled or rescheduled from 2020 to 2021, and another 300-plus brands have turned their event digital this year. Despite this move online, many professionals are ready for in-person events to return.
In-person events will return slowly in the U.S.
Even though it will be a long road back to full-capacity events, analysts say there is optimism.
According to the UK Daily Telegraph’s Questor column, Informa plc’s June 12th trading update was ‘reassuring’ because Credit Suisse changed its forecast from a £122m operating loss this year to £132m profit.
Even though things weren’t as bad as expected, Informa says it could take a decade before its stock prices return back to 2019 levels. Informa’s first in-person event, China Beauty Expo, recently took place on July 9th and the company has several more events lined up in September.
Even though international events are starting to take place, the US is slower to rebound due to the fact that the number of infections is rising. Until last week, Informa’s MAGIC fashion event was scheduled to take place in September in Las Vegas. On July 10th, Informa announced that it would be cancelled and moved online.
“The prospect of a return for some of our major events brands in mainland China from July is now real,” said chief executive of Informa plc Stephen Carter. Other areas, including the U.S., are experiencing a “gradual and phased” recovery.
As events return, there will be new health and safety protocols. Sponsors and exhibitors must be flexible and get comfortable with last minute changes. One thing is certain—event experiences will certainly be different than they were pre-COVID.
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