Live events were a rarely acknowledged victim of the pandemic, with everything from the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and other sports events to live theatre, musicals, and concerts all canceled, postponed, and rescheduled during 2020 and the early part of 2021.
Though many of those events have resumed, the face of live events may have changed forever. Indeed, the Tokyo Olympics 2020 did eventually go ahead, albeit a year later and in a way so different that it resembled no Olympics, past or future.
The impact of COVID-19 on live events
During the height of the pandemic, live events and social gatherings were missed by people the world over. A study found that 54% of people had spent their lockdown reminiscing about memories of pre-pandemic events and that 51% had actually watched concerts and other events online, in place of the real thing.
This same study found that people, though bored, were actually likely to bounce back from the pandemic, contrary to the doom and gloom predictions of the media. These findings suggested that people were likely to want to go out, socialize, and attend live events once the pandemic was over.
63% of people said that they had missed going out and attending events during the pandemic, meaning the events industry should be prepared for a massive rebound once it becomes viable. But how will live events have changed when they can go ahead?
A different kind of in-person event
Since the beginning of the end of the pandemic, some events have begun to go ahead. These events have been operated with strict health restrictions that appear to be working, in some cases.
It appears that safety measures are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future, and these measures will be on the onus of both the event organizers and venue staff, as well as the attendees themselves.
What is the best practice for future live events?
Research is constantly being conducted to find the best practice for holding live events, indeed Loughborough University is currently investigating how venues may evolve to reduce transmission.
The research is being carried out at nightclubs and live events to understand how ventilation may prevent the spread of Covid-19 at mass gatherings.
Along with an increase in safety in crowd control and hygiene factors, there could also be a reduction in the number of attendees. Throughout the pandemic, different regulations meant reduced numbers at social events, such as weddings, conferences, and graduation ceremonies.
These restrictions were put in place to accommodate events where social distancing was still necessary but people have found that they prefer the intimacy of smaller events. Smaller, in-person events allow for the socialization craved by humans in a way that keeps them safer.
And along with smaller events, where it is possible, events could move outdoors. Though we may be heading into cooler months, outdoor settings offer a less risky venue for mass gatherings. People are likely to feel safer outdoors as airflow is constant and open.
The hybridization of events
Another huge change to in-person events will be the move to a hybrid way of operating. During the pandemic, we were all introduced to the innovation of virtual events. From online conferences to virtual concerts, technology allowed us to attend events from our own homes.
Since the world began opening back up and live events were possible again, it may have seemed like virtual events would dissipate, but this has not happened. Many organizers have committed to hybrid events for the foreseeable future, if not fully virtual and 90% of musicians agree that digital events will allow for all audience members to attend events.
Rise of virtual and hybrid events
While virtual and hybrid events offer accessibility and affordability to many, there are some drawbacks. Some attendees may feel the digital is lacking the atmosphere of the live and in-person events and so it is important to consider this in the organization of these events.
Adding in ‘experiential elements’ to your virtual events, such as beverages sent to attendees, merchandise, and the opportunity to socialize with other attendees, can help to make the experience more fulfilling. This tact can also be utilized at hybrid events, allowing virtual attendees to get involved in the live action from their own homes.
Further to this, investing in and utilizing the technological innovations that have come out of the advent of virtual events can help to enhance the experience more fully. Using social networking to allow attendees to fully immerse themselves in the event can make them forget they’re actually sitting at home.
Virtual events are here to stay, and with the popularity of hybrid events, it’s probably best you get to grips with this new way of working to evolve with the industry.
Now that we can see the end of the pandemic, live events have been pressing on with bigger audiences in attendance. And while this will allow the industry to bounce back after eighteen months of shutdown, it is important we do not forget all that the pandemic taught us about innovating in the world of events.
As anxiety dissipates and people get out more, remember that live events will not resemble those of the past. With additional safety measures, smaller audiences, and digital innovation, the face of the events industry has evolved, and we think the future looks pretty exciting.