“Field of Dreams” is a 1989 movie. A poetic one, which owes much of its popularity to the famous phrase “If you build it, he will come”, uttered in the movie by a misterious voice to the farmer Ray Kinsella while he’s walking through his cornfield in Iowa. It urges him to build a baseball field to make the legendary – and obviously deceased – baseball player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson return to play along with all the other members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team of 1919.
All this preamble to say that in the world of business events, especially at the beginning of this strange year, something very similar to the plot of “Field of Dreams” happened. Event managers who, like Ray Kinsella, had hitherto organized their events in presence as he cultivated his corn, suddenly were hit by a message that was both mysterious and imperious: “If you build it, he will come”. Instead of corn, in this parallel movie that maybe someone will shoot sooner or later (and in that case we claim copyright), it is not the corn speaking, but Covid, just a moment after it had put to a stop every type of physical event, of any kind and size.
But what should one build?
And who should be coming?
Build online events,
and attendees, sponsors, exhibitors and speakers will come.
This was the promise: move your events to online, to virtual, and everything will resume working as it had always done. And for a while it worked, that’s true.
But now that we are about to celebrate the first anniversary of this “new normal that will never be such”, while we wait to finally be able to forget words like “lockdown”, “distancing” and “quarantine”, perhaps it is worthwhile to give some thought to what we should bring in the new – and hopefully much better – 2021.
Yes, it is our last article of the year and we’d like to try and take stock stock in the form of our usual “three points” formula, which we exceptionally transform into our “three wishes”.
1. Virtual events and online events will no longer be constraints but choices
For nine months we lived through this forced contrast: since physical events could not be held, the solution of switching to virtual and online events was seen as an obligated choice. A “sink or swim” formula that disconcerted many, galvanized some others, created frustrations and expectations.
Hence, when we’ll finally get back to being able to organize in-presence events, many – as they told us – will continue with the online ones. No longer because they have to, but because they want to. Sometimes they will do this by completely replacing physical events because they found in the online/virtual mode a more effective and/or efficient dimension of doing the same things.
Sometimes they will do this by adding online appointments to physical events – perhaps smaller in size but more frequent in time – to address specific issues or to strengthen ties outside the more “institutional” events.
These will be online events that will be built to be able to best express a specific potential, because they will be a deliberate choice and no longer due to a lack of alternatives. They will be events truly capable of doing something different, and they will be specifically designed and managed to provide audience, speakers, sponsors, organizers with unique and meaningful benefits.
This way, the “If you build it, he will come” formula won’t be enough anymore, because in the face of alternatives, every preference will be earned on the field.
2. The democracy of tools and tech will launch the real challenge
After having spent almost a year experimenting, evaluating, validating processes, programs, activities, we can say it: technology is no longer an issue. Technological tools are so affordable for everyone that the right question – when planning an event – is no longer “how” to do something but rather “how to make the right choice” between options to get exactly the desired result.
Competence therefore becomes the central element in the discussion: we’ll all have to keep up in order not to be overtaken, not to risk frustrating months’ long work, and in order not to lose one’s “grip” with providers and consultants. Will this mean that new professionals will appear? Maybe so, but the first challenge is for those who are already in the industry.
It will no longer be “If you build it, he will come”, because it will no longer be a matter of tools but of the competence necessary to choose the best ones.
3. It will no longer be a matter of engagement, but of ROI
Last nine months’ mantra has been “engagement”. And if the issue of how to best engage attendees in an event has always been relevant to event managers even before this annus horribilis, as the physical distance between participants in an event increased, the question became more serious. After all, when there is a screen between people and the camera may be off, even the skilled nose of a seasoned event manager has trouble in understanding if people are interested, or even if they’re there at all.
We have already gone through this here: when events are online, the attendees’ attention has many contenders and thus the “engagement anxiety” in the management grows. For us at SharEvent this challenge has been an opportunity to prove the effectiveness of all the tools we built over time to create and promote engagement. However, if we look at 2021, we have a clear vision of how it will no longer be “If you build it, he will come” for two reasons:
- the first one is that, as their experience in the participation to online events becomes more mature, attendees will reduce their need to “be stimulated” and they will grow the right to choose when to get involved and when, at the opposite, not to. And this will in no way diminish their experience of the event. Probably those who will have to get used to this new routine will be event managers, but after a year like this, what other adaptation will ever scare them again?
- the second reason is that in the near future – it is already a reality, but we said these are our wishes for 2021, right? – at the center of the mind, heart and action of every event manager there will need to be something else: data. We will never get tired of repeating it: data. Because if there is one, even only one advantage that online events have over physical ones, it is that they produce data, a lot of data. Valuable tools for evaluating, planning, planning and, above all, investing. Should we add more?
Have you already started planning your events for 2021?
Contact us for a consultation or a free demo and unlock the full potential of your next event.