Digital vs F2F - Innovation in the Event industry

15-Apr-20




Over the last month, we have all faced unexpected challenges in not just our work life, but our day to day life too. However, it has been very refreshing to see the determination and togetherness of the events industry, typifying the attitudes that have made our industry so successful thus far.
 
Another key attribute of the events industry is innovation and an immediate reaction to the unprecedented times we find ourselves in has been to accelerate the use of digital events. Over the last few weeks, I have had a great opportunity to speak with current industry professionals as to how they see the market taking shape in the future and it has been great to understand how they are planning on mixing both creativity and technology to continue to maximise the success of events & exhibitions.
 
Due to ever developing technology digital events can take place in many forms: Video conferences, Webinars, VR/AR Events, Teleconferences etc and I am certainly excited to see the talented creatives of the events & exhibition world challenge the boundaries and take digital events to the next level.



I have been speaking with industry professionals about digital events, and the methods that could be used and how they have seen movement in the market. Here is what some of them had to say:

“… There are lots of positive that can be taken from digital events, the reduction in build & venue costs, potentially higher attendance at events, as they can be accessed from all over the world. Similarly, this could also be a positive for the environment, as they would be less travel for more attendees and there will be no limitations on who could attend. In terms of how, there are many ways you could bring a branded environment to life through VR/AR. It’s a really interesting time, as restriction builds creativity and there is no limit to the ideas that people could bring to the table. However, there is no substitute for F2F events, and I see the digital side growing alongside what we have known previously.” (Greg, Freelance Senior Creative)

“… Initially the reaction was for everything to go digital and merge tech for quick wins, but brands/companies have since taken a step back in order to take the time to implement proper strategies, to maximise their results. Whilst there is still nervousness around large events digital tech will play its part and the positive is that it is a good wake up call for many who weren’t on board with it previously and it will be very interesting to see the creativity that comes from it, as it will be more focused now.” (Martin Hall, Digital Director)
 
As it stands, F2F events are and will continue to be on of the best forms of communications for companies. As the benefits that they give are unarguable, brand recognition, internal & external comms, business development and more. So for this reason, I believe that F2F events & exhibitions will continue to be at the forefront of companies minds when looking at their marketing strategies, and continue to take advantage of the benefits that F2F brand activations, conferences, exhibitions etc have to offer. My colleague Archie was also keen to add his thoughts on topic and added the following:

“…Having specialised in recruitment for the experiential sectors over the last 6 years, its predominantly been for traditional branded environment projects with the incorporation of digital within those spaces. With the sole purpose of displaying content, data capture and referable lead generation beyond the event itself. Digital’s place within events has needed this push for some time now, along with working hours and space to develop it. What a perfect time to do that now! In the long run this simply won’t be able to achieve the same level of non-tangible experience a F2F event offers delegates and exhibitors. As a sales professional I understand the value of getting in front of my clients or candidates to get greatest value out of that newly formed relationship. Bring back the handshake!” (Archie Harvey, Team Leader, mustard XP)


 
For me, I believe that the necessary growth of digital events will only be a positive for the events industry, as I think it won’t be a replacement for F2F but an addition. Over the next 12-24 months it’s likely that digital events will come to prominence with F2F taking a back seat due to government guidelines and a lingering negative stigma on large groups/gatherings. However, I do think that it was be difficult to compete with the benefits of F2F events. Having attended events myself, F2F have a great power to keep you engaged for the duration of the event, this is something that could be difficult to replicate digitally, as you are not physically at the event, so there could be less desire to “see and do” as much of the event/experience as possible. Whilst they can be seen as separate entities there is also great scope to produce hybrid events of both digital and F2F, whilst this might sound like a logistical nightmare to most, it’s also a great opportunity to combine the benefits of both types of event.
 
There is plenty on uncertainty around at the moment,  but one thing that I am confident on is that given the amount of talent and ambition there is amongst event professionals in the UK, there will be a great bounce back from the lows that Covid-19 has provided and there is a huge amount of potential to be unlocked once it is safe to do so.



Josh Howell runs our Events, Exhibition and Experiential desk focussing on clients based in the North of England. If you would like any further information or roles from that division please visit www.mustardxp.co.uk

From everyone at mustard XP, we hope you stay safe during these difficult times!

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