Originally published by David Liddle, President and CEO, The Deondo Company
The lessons learned through the current COVID-19 climate demonstrably indicate a shift to events. The hybrid model is here to stay. The significance of live meetings is unquestionable. Face-to-face meetings in business situations and socially is a major factor in building relationships. Those interactions forge strong friendships and buyer/seller connections that become personal and lead to associations that strengthen ties.
However, the events industry has experienced, through forced utilization of virtual seminars, conferences and trade shows, an eye-opening realization for many who thought that “LIVE” was the only way.
Many associations and show organizers have seen an increase in online attendance in comparison to the live show figures. Those same entities expect to see a decrease in attendance and exhibitor participation as the live event format returns, with a continued uptick in overall numbers due to the virtual component. This paradigm shift means a new thought and business process must emerge in the forthcoming age of the hybrid event.
Those organizations that are agile and adapt will become industry leaders. Technology and compelling content creation will be the catalyst that drive industry gatherings, information knowledge sharing, revenue creation and live meetings.
Floor Space Sales – Previously, selling concrete was the largest revenue source for associations and show organizers’ bottom line. Now with predictions that exhibitors no longer will spend large dollars on exhibit booths, space and drayage, and travel and entertainment budgets, a combo offering of live and virtual presence must be closely examined. It will be imperative for a trade show floor to be offered at both the physical location and online that allows for connections to be made and products introduced.
Sponsorship Sales – Many of Deondo’s customers were already beginning to tell us of the new mix of revenue they saw coming. Sponsorship sales must increase, and the online model presents a new opportunity to secure needed dollars to be profitable. Sales teams should think much like the advertising sales execs from the television industry – sell 30-second spots on general sessions, single company sponsorships for keynotes, and even product placement opportunities within the online encounter.
Attendee Revenues – Some people simply don’t like subscription models or even one-time fees for viewing online content. However, associations will need to re-think the fees it charges members, especially as it relates to video-on-demand content that can be viewed post-event. Our viewing and learning habits have transformed. No longer do we have a linear process to view our favorite television programs, except for news and sports, and even that has changed. Non-linear viewing allows individual choice in when we wish to fire up the laptop or mobile device. A small charge to access content may be part of the overall revenue sources needed to make the content more compelling.
Education Credits – The industry will no longer need multiple rooms to hold concurrent sessions for education credits. With Deondo’s Learning Management System we provide an enclave for a year or more to have stored content viewed, and credits earned, accredited for human resources records. The content creation can take place at the live event, in a studio, home office or other location. With basic production techniques, PowerPoints or other content can be created and communicated easily. The ability to charge for this content, either separately or as part of the association membership, can create additional revenue sources.
Networking – The ability to connect an organization’s members with each other and its supplier base provide additional revenue potential. “Happy Hours” via chat or video are useful, but the thrill only lasts so long. Immersive experiences such as gamification, auctions, concerts and other online collaborative, and shared moments help bond and introduce individuals to each other and can become a highlight sponsorship opportunity.
In listening to industry, it is certain virtual is part of a long-term solution in the redesign of events going forward; however, many are starving for human interaction. The pent-up craving for personal connection will lead to the return of live event components for the hybrid show.
Changes abound for show management to consider at the live event locale. Through some of the early adopters to re-opening such as Together Again Expo, in which Deondo participated, we see obvious changes:
- Temperature check areas;
- Hand sanitizer stations everywhere;
- Wider aisles and one-way markings;
- Signage signifying no handshakes, maintaining social distance, mask wearing; and
- Separate areas for networking with pod structures such as the NOOK Event Pods’ ability to provide social distancing with plexiglass guards on the tabletop and attendants to sanitize between meetings.
Some other considerations will come as the number of exhibiting companies scale down the number of booth rentals and the size of the floor space desired by corporations.
Our belief is that peer-to-peer meeting is the major reason people will get on a plane, train or other public transportation; stay in a hotel room; and then mingle with 1000 to 100,000 colleagues/strangers to attend a conference or trade show. However, that is only the psychological hurdle that faces the industry.
Financially, the COVID-19 economic effect will decrease travel budgets to send people to meetings. Companies won’t expend the same marketing resources to exhibit and/or sponsor. Corporate liability becomes an issue that must be considered. Marketers will think differently with less marketing dollars to spend.
Moving forward, it won’t be necessary to have keynote speakers or conference session panelists to draw everyone into a conference room. Gone will be crowds who clamor to sit shoulder-to-shoulder among people they may not know to hear an Opening Session keynote. Likewise, speakers may not feel comfortable with traveling but want to participate.
We believe to have success in this fusion arena, show producers must move from the one-way transmit oration, with minimal back-and-forth from the audience, to a more intimate conversational live video call that allows the speaker to carry on a conversation and answer questions with people from around the globe, including between exhibitors and prospective clients.
This can provide new revenue streams for the organization:
- Virtual keynote speaker sponsorship for post speech discussion;
- An online virtual conference pass from attendees physically in attendance and from the comforts of their own home;
- Onsite social distancing virtual conference viewing area sponsorships and networking;
- Host podcast studio sponsorships; and
- Scheduled live video chats between exhibitors and customers to become commonplace for international attendees and hosted buyer meetings.
The Deondo Company is poised to be a key supplier to designers, producers and managers of hybrid events. What we find exciting in speaking with many industry players, is that companies and people will no doubt evolve mindsets to new hybrid event solutions that are safe, financially viable and beneficial for all. The Deondo Company looks forward to enabling others’ growth as a part of this ecosystem evolution.
About the Author
David Liddle is the President and CEO of The Deondo Company, a leading supplier of pop up meeting space and Virtual Conference Community platform; and, the President of Liddle International Group, an international technology management firm. In his spare time, he enjoys reporting on high school sports games as play-by-play announcer for Game Day Broadcasting.