With meetings derailed during the pandemic, meeting planners are trying to figure out how to rethink their events for today’s environment. A new white paper, “Reimagining Business Events–Through COVID-19 and Beyond,” suggests that three areas will be key to creating events that thrive in our changing world: business models, delegate experience, and talent and capabilities.
Created by PCMA, the Singapore Tourism Board, and UFI—The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, the paper offers real-world examples of how events reshaped and innovated to survive—and sometimes thrive—during the pandemic.
Business models. The paper noted that events have to get creative, think like a startup, focus on core elements attendees want, and improvise. “In the most fundamental sense, innovation is about adapting to customer needs and recognizing what aspects of the business are relevant to current requirements –and what are not,” the paper said. As an example, the white paper showcased Unexpected Atlanta, a tour company that shows the history of cuisine in the American South. During the pandemic, Unexpected Atlanta transitioned to virtual tours and sent gift boxes filled with Southern goodies to participants.
Delegate experience. Ensuring the event delivers value to delegates will be key to any reimagined experience. “Technology has opened the door for digital tools and techniques to expand and enhance audience engagement, but nimbleness has become the key to delivering value to delegates,” the paper said. It highlighted how the Italian Society of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation, and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) literally took its show on the road when the pandemic placed restrictions on gathering size. Using a large truck that housed a studio, the roadshow traversed eight cities to meet SIAARTI members where they were.
Talent and capabilities. “The business events sector is ultimately about people, both on the tradeshow floor and behind the scenes,” the white paper says. “Very few technologies can run fully autonomously, so business events personnel must also evolve.” The white paper recommends organizations engage proactively and transparently with employees, cultivate stronger digital literacy and skills, and source ideas and talent from different places. One example pointed to was exhibition company Montgomery Asia, which asked employees for their best ideas on how to make dynamic and needed changes, and then listened to their advice.
“Our success in emerging from the pandemic is dependent on our ability to solve the transformational challenges of our audiences,” Sherrif Karamat, CAE, president and CEO of PCMA, said in a press release. “The pandemic forced us to look at how we deliver on what our audiences need and what they want to be successful for the future. While the pandemic has changed the way our audiences engage with business events, it has not altered their desired outcomes from these events.”