Safwan El Roufai, Executive Vice President of Geometry MENA, shares his thoughts on what to expect from the live events industry in 2021.
What are your predictions for the events industry in 2021?
We don’t see any significant change in the first quarter. Virtual events continue to be the go-to tool to keep audiences engaged. However, production quality will increase as businesses become yet more accomplished and accustomed to virtual spaces. We also expect shorter lengths in events duration as businesses now understand the impact of Zoom fatigue on customers. As the vaccine program starts taking effect in the region, we will see more exciting staged moments that are broadcasted for at-home audiences.
In the second and third quarters, planning begins as confidence returns. Hybrid experiences are preferred, combining small scale physical experiences as the main stage for the virtual ones. With some businesses still opting for the virtual-only approach.
In the fourth quarter (dependent on vaccine distribution internationally), we may witness events and experiences exploding as many feel the desire to congregate and want to relish their freedom and it will be like letting the cork out of the bottle. Meanwhile, some brands/products that need or have the desire to reach a wider audience beyond their local and regional borders, will continue their virtual experiences plans till they have the full confidence to return to normal. On the other hand, moving forward, there may be some brands/products that will forever maintain their hybrid experiences programs.
We're seeing some brands here in the region adopt the hybrid model of events. Could you explain in detail how it works and what the benefits are?
Hybrid events have been around for some time. However, the Covid pandemic forced brands to pivot to this experiential approach. Hybrid is an experiential model that brings together all the benefits of a live experience with all the benefits of a digital experience, harnessing the power of digital channels to deliver live experiences but combining that with physical deliverables that bring those moments to life. Key benefits of hybrid experiences are stretching the brands reach beyond the local market, reducing the logistical and physical build costs, and helping brands measure the level of engagement in real time.
What kind of changes will happen to the events business model?
In the post-pandemic phase, hybrid and virtual events become a new string to the bow impacting the business model. Hybrid events were and are the not-so-secret weapon for some the big global brands, such as Apple’s product launches, Tesla’s car launches, and Ford's Mustang Mach-E launch. Looking ahead, we will see more brands opting for this approach by adding the extra element of high-value broadcast production as expectations of the online audience are heightened, and a single web camera feed with low-quality audio stream on YouTube will not be enough.