If you were to tell us a year ago that in 2020 the world would be dealing with a pandemic that will completely change life as we know it, we would have probably laughed at the idea. To say we were never ready in all sense of the word is an understatement. The past 6 months have changed our perspective on life in its entirety - our set ways of doing things, compelling us to review what still works as opposed to the major adjustments we all had to make.

The event industry is one of the sectors that is suffering a great deal due to the COVID restrictions, a lot of businesses had to depend greatly on their crisis management strategies and aggressive efforts to try to keep afloat. While some businesses were hit harder and could simply not recover from the setback.

A lot of creative concepts were born during this period moving many businesses from their standard operations to immediate solutions in response to the pandemic. The event industry for one saw a shift from live events to virtual events. As virtual events took shape, more venues and event planners adapted their offerings to support this shift.

Due to the success of virtual events in certain industry sectors, the big question that remains unanswered is whether live events will still have a place in the future?

I recently attended a webinar on sustainable events where a poll was conducted to determine how attendees would like to attend events tomorrow - 55% of the attendees preferred a virtual event while 35% went with live events and the remaining 10% were unsure. While these responses might be attributed to the safety aspect of physically attending an event, a live event still promises to be an incredible platform to accelerate business growth for B2B and B2C’s.

Although attending a virtual event might be logistically convenient for most, it is also hard to imagine that virtual events will ever replace the experience one can only have through a live event. Face to face interactions is still a great way to connect with others and build solid business relations.

It is likely that more people would have felt safer attending an event in the comfort of their home as opposed to attending an event physically during the pandemic. However, given the safety guidelines issued by the South African Events Council, our industry has adapted to ensure we can safely reopen, which should provide comfort to the public and the government. Business events has been gradually reopening, allowing for smaller events to take place while other events that target a bigger audience are eagerly awaiting a broader reopening.

Perhaps the mix between live and virtual events is the bridge that we all need during this period, these events are referred to as hybrid events. With accessible technology, your audiences will have the opportunity to connect and engage with others whether attending live or online – affording your audience a world-class viewer-friendly experience.

As the business events industry, face to face interaction is a key value driver. With this in mind we are confident that even though the opportunity for virtual events has been well received, face-to-face events will always be a necessary element for business development. One component that has been difficult to replicate in the virtual and hybrid space is the element of event networking, and whilst most attendees are more comfortable on an online platform, they have reported that the networking element is still preferred in a face to face setting.

And for some food for thought - Imagine downloading music continuously from your favorite artist but never having the opportunity to see them perform live? The same applies to business events, whilst online platforms can create a continuous activity year-round, the event becomes the highlight of the year for people to connect and engage.