How the Global Pandemic will shape the future of Events and Conferences: Skandha Gopalan
The events industry has had to push the envelope and re-write a well-worn script — finding new and innovative ways to bring an immersive experience into the virtual world writes Skandha Gopalan, Co-Founder & Marketing Head, Tacnik & Samaaro.
If there’s an industry, there will be an event. The B2B sector has traditionally relied on large networking events and conferences to showcase products, build networks, and generate leads. In recent years, industries like travel, hospitality, and advertising, in particular, have seen enormous growth in events and conferences. So much so that by 2017, global B2B events was a trillion-dollar industry.
COVID-19 and the Events Industry
As COVID-19 swept through nations, major conferences started getting cancelled or postponed. More interestingly, many of them decided to go virtual. Google Cloud Next ‘20 was the first to lead the way. It went from a three-day conference to a global, digital-first virtual event.
A bunch of other event organizers followed suit — Adobe, DocuSign, Cisco, and Oracle. Big cross-industry conferences also started going virtual — from the SAS Global Forum to Collision (one of the fastest-growing tech summits in the world).
In the past few months, the events industry has had to push the envelope and re-write a well-worn script — finding new and innovative ways to bring an immersive experience into the virtual world.
What does the future hold?
Social distancing will become the norm for the next 18-24 months (until a vaccine has been developed and widely disseminated). This means that virtual events are likely to be the go-to for the events industry in the near future.
But is this just a flash in the pan, or does it portend a bigger shift in how the world organizes and participates in events?
Both event organizers and participants are already starting to see the benefits of virtual events. Taking time off work, visa issues, travel restraints are all big barriers to participation in offline events, and virtual events are a big winner in that regard. In fact, some people actually feel more comfortable interacting in a virtual setting rather than in an awkward face-to-face meeting.
The role of technology
Having said that, there is an obvious flipside to virtual events today. Event organizers struggle to recreate the same immersive experience that comes in an intense 3-day conference. For many experts, sitting in front of a screen on Zoom or a webinar software just can’t deliver the same experience. Many say that the networking, the casual encounters, and the entire ambience is something that’s very difficult to recreate online.
Emerging event-tech companies beg to differ. These companies are building virtual event technology that replicates the offline experience — and even seeks to improve upon it. From networking opportunities to a more immersive experience, startups across the world are building this product.
The demand is clearly there. Hopin, an online event platform in early access has seen a jump in its waiting list from 10000 to 18000 event organizers in a matter of weeks. Run the world is another event tech startup looking to build the future of events.
Closer to home, Tacnik is an immersive technology company that has launched a virtual events platform called Samaaro. Tacnik has built tech-based immersive experiences for clients across the board — from Facebook to Tech Mahindra to Amazon — and is using this expertise to create an events platform that is close to the real thing. Samaaro has seen tremendous growth since it’s launch, with a long list of clients that are moving big events online for the foreseeable future. Features like exhibit halls & booths, conference halls for sessions where a global audience can assemble together, and the scalability of the platform itself are the big reasons why platforms like Samaaro are witnessing this kind of unprecedented demand.
This space is not only seeing interest from the big conferences and event organizers. It’s also seeing the growth of online communities, with managers of these groups using platforms like Samaaro to build immersive virtual events for a global audience.
The bottom line
The in-person marketing industry has naturally taken a big hit. Most event organizers are now faced with a hard choice — innovate or die. Instead of shutting shop altogether, many organizers are choosing to move events online. As event audiences are restricted to their homes, and are also looking for ways to engage meaningfully with professional networks, this could be the ultimate win-win situation.
In other words, the next 12-18 months are a golden window for event tech startups. If technology disruption happens, and they succeed in building immersive online event experiences, we might well be looking at a future where the trillion-dollar event industry goes virtual for a long haul.
Around The World