The future of event management: industry analysis for the post-COVID world

by Gareth Platt,

1 September 2020

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People discussing topics in an event set-up with guests in sofas and an audience

From the beautiful new city centres which have emerged from bombed-out rubble to the artistic awakenings which have flowered in economic turmoil, creativity has shown time and time again that it loves a crisis. Our most innovative, original ideas tend to come out when our backs are against the wall.

It is that same spirit which will most inspire the event management industry over the next few months. Yes, our sector is facing unprecedented turbulence due to COVID-19: just type ‘future of event industry’ into Google and you’ll be inundated with articles speculating about how we will move forward. In truth, no-one really knows.

But we also face a unique period of opportunity. It’s never been more challenging to manage an event, but each event planner has the chance to be a disruptive innovator and get their idea out there first. And there are huge rewards at stake for those who can gain first-mover advantage.

This article gives you a first glimpse of the future of event planning and lays out how an event planner can gain success in this new reality.

Bigger, but smaller

Given the natural fears around safety and social distancing, the future of the event industry is likely to be about downsizing. Facebook has already made a decisive switch in this direction by cancelling all events of 50 or more people until June 2021.

This doesn’t mean the venues will get smaller. In fact, planners are likely to look for bigger venues given the extra space they offer. However, it’s likely the capacity will come down significantly. And this means the event planner will face a new challenge: how to create a lively atmosphere in a room filled with empty space and ensure an engaging experience for all attendees.

This view was recently confirmed by Ben Atherton, founder of BCA Consulting in London and a regular commentator on event planning. Ben suggested that, from now on, the event planner will have to liaise much more closely with clients and the venue itself to ensure a satisfactory outcome for all concerned.

New directions

Perhaps the biggest single area of event planning which will change as a result of COVID is venue layout. The events industry has long favoured the classic theatre-style layout, but the demands of social distancing mean this will no longer be possible.

Those charged with managing events in the post-COVID world have various options to overcome this problem. Some will opt for U-shaped, horseshoe layouts, which leave a vast central space to prevent guests from criss-crossing one another. Others will invite guests to ‘own their chair’ and move it around with them. Some may even build a hybrid ‘news studio’ format, where speeches will be addressed to a small physical gathering and beamed to a much bigger audience outside.

While this may seem like a major problem for event management companies,  they should look at it as a creative challenge to solve. By doing so, the event planner can raise the audience experience to a new level and create standards which will last long after coronavirus has been defeated.

Technology everywhere

As we strive to create an experience which is both safe and engaging, technology is sure to play a crucial role. Event management companies were relying on technology even before COVID; now, it is going to become integral to every aspect of how we manage an event.

Mobile technology is already used to display event schedules, provide breaking news alerts and even provide QR codes to redeem offers. Soon it will be expanded to create augmented reality pathways around high-end events, along with projection mapping, which will enable organisers to project exciting 3D scenes onto everyday surfaces.

Yes, today’s event planner faces a road potted with uncertainty. But it’s going to be a hugely exciting journey and one that we can’t wait to be a part of.

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