Post COVID-19: Virtual vs Live & who will win?

susan@scene2.co.uk - April 2020

Post COVID-19, will the Virtual & digital experience battle with Live events? Scene2 CEO – Andy Dixon asks the question.

One of the knee jerk reactions to this unusual pandemic situation has seen brands cutting long term “live” budget, spending less on live events – why would you think of committing a budget to face to face campaigns when no-one is closer than 2m away  & mass gatherings are banned?

This immediate, and hopefully short-term, shift has seen brands looking to digitally based events & spending budget with digital agencies, along with an increased focus on social media.  Social media has indeed been a collective best friend to us all and will continue to be in the future, but it should not be necessary to choose between digital & live events – when the two work well together, the results are impressive.

Live venues will suffer badly, post COVID-19, as they have already lost revenues from hosting events and income from beverage & merchandise sales but the question is whether event organisers will be cautious before signing venue contracts and committing to live events in the future. Will this shift to virtual be seen as normality?

There has been a universal ‘just in case’ hesitation which, as we know in our business, means delayed decisions resulting in unrealistic production lead-times and for the live, face to face events, this could be devastating in the long term. For venues some organisations have been slow to agree postponements and cancellations.  As an industry, we are all in this together and so a united, reasonable and supportive attitude is what will get us all through.

Is the shift to Virtual a knee jerk reaction?

Even once the economy is back on its feet, will lead times be lengthened again or will we be so used to working to the wire, even more than we were before, that this will be the normal expectation.  At Scene2, we are a company that prides itself in producing high-quality work, often working within tight lead-times but we will not compromise on quality, so what does this potential shift mean for us?

Post COVID-19, we need to ensure that our industry doesn’t lose the companies and individual expertise that already know how to collaboratively work in this way.

In the short term, a shift to virtual events for small to medium sized events could drive this trend with the economic recovery dictating the larger events decisions. we will, undoubtedly, see a big reduction in conference and exhibition show numbers.  Companies will not have the budgets to prioritise exhibitions & events over other marketing options but these large scale shows are often the largest part of many companies marketing strategies.

Inevitably, clients will be more cost-conscious moving forwards and look for clear ROI before committing to budget spends. We need to work together to reshape how events are done, incorporating “digital” into live event productions.

Post COVID-19, I think that Virtual will come into its own, however working collaboratively with live events, our industry will have more value than ever before in bringing people together and creating memorable experiences.

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