There’s no denying that 2020 threw a massive curveball at the events industry, nearly all in-person events were cancelled almost overnight. Within weeks, the virtual event format took off as associations and organizations fought to continue with their programs in any way possible. As we move into a post-vaccination, post-pandemic world, what is the future for conferences and event management? Let’s explore.
No-one really knows how a post-pandemic event industry will look but, despite all that has happened over the past twelve months, the general consensus is that we will return to the in-person format.
By going virtual, events were able to both recreate many elements of the traditional on-site event as well as create new features. Plenary talks, parallel talks, poster sessions, all survived the move to digital whilst additional tools such as live commenting and playback of the lectures created an added value. Unfortunately, there are elements of a traditional conference that simply do not translate well to a virtual format regardless of how innovative and creative the hosts try to be.
Networking is a key part of events, by bringing peers together from across the world conferences helped foster new relationships and research collaborations. We are by nature, social creatures, and desire the company and engagement of other people. This is likely to be the biggest driver to return to on-site, we simply want to share a space with our colleagues and peers and virtual simply isn’t the same.
How do we get there?
Of course, getting back to normal is not going to be a quick process. A 2020 survey suggested that 66% of conference attendees would not attend unless a vaccination program was successfully implemented, something that some countries are struggling with.
The solutions to how we move forward are many, and firm answers are few. Suggestions include;
- “Hub and spoke” style events with one main base and multiple parallel smaller meetings dotted around the country/world.
- Bigger but smaller events. This means big venues with fewer delegates.
- Massively reduced budgets.
- Design social distanced environments including spacing seats six feet apart, sneeze guards and partitions, no shared materials, and spacing guides on floors.
- Outdoor, open-air meeting spaces.
- And so many more.
What about hybrid?
We’re entering a phase of transition between lockdown and a return to “normal”, and that is where we begin with the concept of hybrid. This model allows the combination of virtual and on-site conference styles and tools, mitigating the reluctance of many to travel but providing the benefits of an in-person event for those that can and do.
The experiences gained through the height of the pandemic have provided a greater technological understanding and upskilled many in the use of varied technologies that play an integral role in virtual and hybrid events. More people have access to webcams and microphones, a knowledge of how to attend and participate in online sessions, experience recording and uploading content, and skills in communicating digitally. It seems foolish not to take advantage of an already prepared community.
While some talks and sessions are held onsite and streamed to a virtual environment, others can be presented from remote locations either live or pre-recorded. Attendees and speakers can communicate in-person and via digital networking tools. All the work to create the required elements and gain the required skills has been done in the past year, all that remains is to pull the elements together from our pre-pandemic and pandemic events and create a unified and comprehensive event solution that meets the needs of the emerging environment.
How can ePostersLive help?
Due to the very nature of ePostersLive as a digital poster platform, transition between on-site to virtual, and now virtual to hybrid, meant we were instantly able to adapt and provide an ideal tool for our clients. Digital posters are collected, published, and viewed in a web based environment that works equally well from a personal computer as on an on-site display. With optional included audio or video, even poster presentation can be included.
We’ve worked with over 30 virtual events in 2020 alone and we’re already working with virtual, hybrid, and on-site events scheduled through 2021.
Alongside our digital poster service, we provide support for;
- Virtual, live or pre-recorded oral presentations with optional hosting.
- Abstract management
- Consultation with our team of meeting managers for general advice and event planning.