Spotlight : The Future of Live Events
October 27, 2020 Events
By Millie Hall
This week we sat down (virtually) with Natasha Russell a freelance event manager and production professional based in Gloucester. We chatted about the evolution of the live event industry under COVID, the emergence of virtual events and the importance of networking.
How has COVID impacted the live event industry?
For me working as a freelancer/running a small event planning agency its been devastating. I had a couple of really big events as the pandemic was gathering pace in February and the first week of March and we added in additional measures, such as hand sanitiser, signs telling people to wash their hands and discouraging handshakes etc. Then there were murmurings of postponements which affected my next big corporate job, then almost overnight it was as if the year got wiped out. A couple of events held on but they have been rescheduled now. It’s the same story everywhere pretty much, and I am seeing some events that usually say January being pushed to May, there is worry about sponsorship also. I do think it will come back I just don’t think it’s clear cut. Outside of the industry people are seeing 1 st October (the restart date set by the UK government) as a green light but for the live events industry, I think its more amber and then we see what happens. For me, I don’t have anything live confirmed before May 2021.
How are you approaching the concept planning process for the remainder of the year?
What the pandemic has allowed is time, so I have been looking at both concepts for online and live events, in response to demand and also hypothetically. We can still be creative and come up with mood boards and themes. What I have had to consider is content – for corporate events, almost every industry has felt an effect (good or bad) from COVID and it needs to be addressed and discussed. What I have seen both from events I have attended and those virtual sessions I have coordinated is a sense of community in every industry where people want to talk about what is happening, how it affects business and how to move forward.
What has been your experience with virtual events?
I have managed some webinars and done some consulting on virtual events. So I believe there is a slight difference and potentially in the case of some of my online work the line is blurred but I think there are some good elements and bad elements. Content really matters to get good engagement, especially for some of my clients who are not for profit and don’t have huge budgets for some of the more advanced platforms, with networking options etc. They are getting good engagement for content, but people are only there for what they need to know. In many ways with the sessions, I have looked after the experience has arguably been better in that the ‘delegates’ have got the information they need, without the travel and losing a day of work. Like every sector though networking is important and that is the next challenge to find low cost and easy solutions to network.
Engagement wise I think for me it depends, some I watch in the background and some I really engage with and again it’s content (and a little bit of where my head is), but let’s be realistic I am sure we have all misjudged a live session and discreetly answered emails only half paying attention. We do need to be innovative though now and continue to explore ways to really capture the attention of attendees with activities and interactivity at online events.
What have you found to be the top priorities for events?
Networking every time, every client wants to replicate that ability to network and some platforms offer various solutions, I think we need to move beyond chat functions though. Also team activities, its hard to find something in real life that captures the attention of the whole team but online is harder. A priority for me is getting clients to understand they still need a budget for online events. Communicate with attendees, tell them what is going on, how to interact, how to use the platform. Provide good content and make it easy for them. Finally, have a reason for your event and not just because – yes you can host a webinar on zoom but is it offering something unique – there is so much out there don’t get lost in the noise!
Find out more about Natasha by visiting her website https://natasharussell.co.uk. Learn about how Photofoxx can help boost engagement by adding a tech twist to your live events by clicking here to understand how we work.