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What will the events and exhibition industry look like after coronavirus?

The events industry is likely to be the hardest hit and the last to return after the coronavirus outbreak. For those already working in the events industry, and those hoping to land their first events job in 2020, this is a tough pill to swallow.

Conferences, trade shows and exhibitions have been cancelled or postponed across the board until Q4 2020 and Q1 2021. 

It might feel like an incredibly bleak time for anyone working in the events industry, but it’s important to stay optimistic. 

Better times lie ahead. 

Events will return. 

And the industry will emerge stronger than ever before. Here are just some of the reasons the events industry will come back stronger than ever after COVID-19.

People need to connect

At the start of the pandemic, people flocked to video chats for everything from work calls to socialising. The overnight success of Zoom has proven that we have an innate desire to connect. Events have moved online and we’ve adapted to a new way of doing business. But it can’t stay this way forever. Some things cannot be bought and sold online. Some connections cannot be forged over video chat.

Exhibitions and trade shows will return, but until there is a vaccine or a cure for coronavirus, they will likely look a lot different. The way event planners design events might be drastically different in the future, but you can rest assured they will return. These are just some of the ways events could be different in the future:

Temperature checks on arrival

Self-check-in with print-at-home name badges

Hybrid events, with physical and online attendees

Sanitation stations throughout the conference or exhibition floor

Regular cleaning of booths and conference facilities

Modified seating plans to enforce social distancing while encouraging conversation

No more buffets, to be replaced with “packed lunch” services

Fewer socialising opportunities outside of the conference room

Plans to isolate attendees if they fall ill during the event

The investment is starting to emerge

The investment might not be direct, but it is starting to emerge. From the £1.57 billion to help the cultural, arts and heritage sectors, to the VAT cut on hotels and the hospitality sector. These are all steps in the right direction for protecting ancillary industries that are vital to the survival of the events industry.

The UK is host to industry-leading events across a range of sectors. The UK events and conference industry is worth £41.2 billion, and conferences and meetings make up £19.2 billion of this. This is something that the government should not let slip away, particularly with Brexit on the horizon. We need to keep the pressure on the government to recognise the struggles that lie ahead for the events sector, particularly as other parts of the economy reopen and government support winds down. 

Moving events online is a learning opportunity

In the absence of live events, many event organisers have been forced to move online. This has been a huge learning curve for many event planners, but the experience is invaluable. Live streaming has proven to be hugely popular and could help to transform the way we plan events when we return. 

If event planners have to limit capacity, online streaming could offer a way for more people to access the event. It could also make events and conferences more accessible than ever before and pave the way for unlimited event attendance and new revenue streams. Disability groups have long been campaigning for improved accessibility, and the pandemic has taught us that these obstacles aren’t insurmountable.

We all got a crash course in contingency planning

If the COVID-19 outbreak has taught us anything, it’s the continued importance of contingency planning. As news of the coronavirus broke, event planners were forced to make a decision. Either move forward as planned, reschedule their events, or switch to an online format.

Expecting the best and planning for the worst is standard for the events industry, but the pandemic will lead to stricter contracts and even greater attention to contingency planning from everyone involved. 

It might seem like there is no end in sight, but the events industry will return stronger than ever before. With increased demand and a renewed dedication from event planners, there’s no reason to mourn the end of the events industry just yet.