Sep 04, 2020 by David Becker

The Event Industry Is Changing, And That’s OK

Covid-19 has more than just disrupted our industry. It has reshaped it entirely. Around the world, we are adapting to a new reality of what it means to create and attend shared experiences. As zkipster’s CEO on our management team, I want to help anticipate where we see the industry going, and how zkipster is evolving to meet these new challenges.

The inconvenient truth is that we won’t go back to where we came from. We are accelerating into the digital future faster than we could ever imagine. In the process, everyone is navigating through many setbacks, failures and successes. By the time we are able to gather in large groups again, we will have explored hybrid and virtual events in countless new ways. Like live events, they will become an important part of our expertise.

Serving the teams behind the world’s best events, from the Oscars and Art Basel, to the Nobel Prize and New York Fashion Week, we constantly see how the best in our trade are adapting to changes at lighting speed. We have tough conversations helping planners reimagine the structure of events that were never conceived for a virtual space and turn them into successful outcomes powered by our guest management platform.

Among a deluge of new information to process every single day, there are three things that stick with me as we lead our team through this and think how we can best help our users and the event industry.

 

Real-world experiences will return, but transformations are here to stay

While the current state of in-person events is in flux, extended quarantines and restrictions have made one thing clear: people crave meaningful connections. We will want to gather again as soon as we feel safe to do so.

Live events will come back, and adapt along the way – by being smaller, more controlled, and likely more infused with hybrid models. In corporate environments, brand reputation is on the line and nobody wants to hit the next news cycle with a superspreader event.

Not every event has an exact digital counterpart – yet. No one has solved how to seamlessly take an industry trade show online and replicate all the hallway interactions and business deals over cocktails and social capital that live events naturally spark.

But equally, a lot of people are coming to appreciate that reduced business travel means less stress, less expense and environmental cost, and much less time spent trying to sleep on an airplane.

And thousands of virtual events have sprung up creating new fireside chats, speed networking, expert panels and Q&As, and much more, creating and connecting entirely new communities. The way we’re used to doing things is changing, and will continue to change. Since the spring, zkipster has convened a new series of Global Roundtables bringing together more than a dozen experts from around the world to discuss virtual event successes, how to navigate professional growth during Covid, learn from pandemic recovery in Asia, and more.

We need to see past temporary setbacks and solutions now and understand that we won’t be able to rebuild the same event industry as before. And perhaps we shouldn’t aspire to. This is an unparalleled moment to reflect on what works, what doesn’t, and what matters.

 

As an industry, digital workflows are the only way forward

The digital transformation of the event industry has been a long and gradual march, but now we are at a true inflection point. For brands and organizations with professional event teams, the only viable option is an event technology stack that supports live, virtual, and hybrid events. And because there’s no perfect one-stop solution for every type of event, that means connecting your tools into one integrated system.

We have spent hundreds of hours across the team since the pandemic began talking to diverse users and assessing what zkipster needs to do in order to successfully be the guest management platform in your new ecosystem going forward.

We’ve identified three key priorities that inform zkipster’s direction: Event planners need flexibility on their platform, they need control over every step of the guest journey, and they need to be able to protect the health of their guests and staff to the best of their abilities.

In the past few months, we’ve already built a native integration with Zoom, created connections to dozens of tools (and growing) through the workflow automation platform Zapier, and positioned zkipster to be a robust nexus for your digital guest management workflows.

Last minute decisions by authorities might force events to move from live to virtual in a matter of hours. Should that happen, using zkipster and Zoom’s plug-and-play integration provides hosts with the ability to ensure the registration process remains untouched so that the event can move online without disruption, or flexibly switch to a hybrid solution.

Guest check-in and guest list management is how many people first become familiar with zkipster and remains a core pillar in the new reality. We are making sure zkipster helps guests and staff feel safe interacting at the door without sacrificing speed, by streamlining contactless check-in using QR codes and releasing a continuous check-in mode. We are heavily investing in building audience curation tools so hosts know every single person in the room and how long they stay at an event, and have sophisticated options to help plan future events safely and successfully using the insights from past event data.

New channels for RSVP will evolve and make it more convenient for guests. Christie’s integrated zkipster’s QR code feature into their WeChat Mini App for seamless cross-platform registration and safe check-in at a 300-person gallery opening this spring. And as new channels develop and new tools service different steps of the guest journey, all formats of events will generate insights that can inform marketing, sales, and brand initiatives – if the data is usable and gathered in one place.

That’s a challenging proposition if the sum of all parts are not connected, and the virtual event happens in one platform while the in-person event gets tracked elsewhere. A registration software can help solve this problem by integrating with all the relevant participants along the guest journey, including the CRM where the strategic data ultimately belongs.

There’s a lot left to solve, but it’s clear we need to embrace fully digital and integrated workflows to survive. That they also can help us prosper and perform even better is a welcome opportunity.

 

Let’s pick a direction so it doesn’t get picked for us

We’ve been thrust into a new world with no way back, but we’re not powerless. Many of the issues we now face are just bigger versions of little problems that were always there.

Many of us are perfectionists, and want to solve everything in one go. We’ll need to settle for iterative change, but this is likely the closest to a clean slate for conceiving events we’ll have in a very long time.

It is challenging. The next chapter of our careers will be disruptive. We’ll have to throw out some skills and ways of thinking, and learn a lot. But more than anything, it’s a chance for fresh perspectives and a new way of working.

So let’s make this happen right, and let’s do it together.