“Event managers are having to shift and redesign events last minute again. We had started again to work within physical events environments for hybrid solutions, but we now see that online is still key as we go into 2022.”
Let’s begin with an overview of the last few years, beginning with when and why was GoRemote started?
Ben: GoRemote was founded in April of 2020. Just after the pandemic and lockdown changed everything for the events industry, Gus and I could see how the events industry was struggling to adapt. Clients were really having difficulty trying to transition their events to online only.
As a result of many years working in events, we had built up a really strong network of experienced event professionals. We saw that they were all losing work from the physical events sector as everyone went into lockdown. And we thought, well, maybe we could combine this team with their excellent skills with our online technical knowledge to support clients who were having difficulty making the move to virtual conference environments. Over the next few months, we began to understand the biggest issues for event managers and finally ended up focusing on managing and supporting speakers for large events.
These large congresses had hundreds of speakers. While many companies focused on platforms, technology and streaming to help events transition, there wasn’t a specific service to help speakers, but they were an incredibly important element. Speakers are what fundamentally makes an event; they are who the audience come to see, Their experience has an impact across the entire event. It doesn’t matter how good your streaming or platform is if the talent doesn’t show up or they have technical problems getting to their talk. And with this, speakers had even more pressure on their shoulders, not only with having to give a presentation but handling a lot of the technical aspects from their bedroom or home office.
Gus: Yes, to add to that, we saw that interpersonal skills were so important. We had access to event professionals who could offer this with a digital events industry background. So we were able to advise clients when everybody was feeling a bit lost and unsure what to do with their event at the outset of COVID.
Ben: Gus and I had been advocating digital events for a long time; we are from a generation where everything is online, and we see the potential and future in digital events. COVID forced many people who hadn’t yet considered digital events to quickly move to an online environment. For us, it was fairly clear that COVID wasn’t going away soon – we saw that they needed the assistance right there and then, work out what the change was and how best to respond. Since then, we’ve been adapting, growing and solving problems as they arise.
Gus: I would have answered this question differently last month, as we were thinking events were post-pandemic, but now we are back to plan B with people needing online events again. So, event managers are having to shift and redesign events last minute again. We had started again to work within physical events environments for hybrid solutions, but we now see that online is still key as we go into 2022.
What should events teams be aware of when moving quickly back to online?
“Events teams need to develop a non-binary vision – their speaker is not either remote or onsite – they could be both – their journey is not linear.”
Gus: Speakers might need to switch back and forth between onsite and online, and it might be hard to predict if they will be virtual or there on the day. Events managers may need to pivot quickly to address changes in their status. Events teams need to develop a non-binary vision – their speaker is not either remote or onsite – they could be both – their journey is not linear.
Ben: Because of this, your communications with speakers need to be super clear, concise, and direct them through a simple staged journey. So if they change to virtual, they have a straightforward process to guide them through.
Time Zones are also an issue; virtual speakers need to understand when they are speaking. If they are travelling from one timezone to the next, they need a calendar that updates invites with the timings for their current location.
It’s also important for platforms to be understood; MS Teams or Zoom type solutions that speakers are familiar with are often better than overly technical bespoke platforms with everything on there.
Interactivity is key – you want to engage with the audience, but the speaker needs to know how they can interact and when the audience will interact with them and how to get questions for on-demand viewing etc. With hybrid, it’s even more complex – it needs to work for both online and physical all at once. Sometimes an app is best for this – it doesn’t need to be overly complicated – easy to use and develop a good experience. i.e.Sli.do does a great job of polling, moderating chat, and getting the data, and it works across devices.
Gus: One-to-one briefings can help get speakers familiar with the tools, platform, and pre-event processes. But you can also run a webinar for your speakers with Q&A’s which can be recorded and distributed ahead of time. It goes back to communication; you want speakers to be confident, informed and less stressed before the event starts. It makes it better for everyone.
When managing speakers, we give them tips on presenting themselves and looking at the camera, positioning themselves, and talking clearly. We coach them to the stage – so that even though we deal with high-profile and sometimes intimidating speakers (dignitaries, professors, politicians) – we remain in control and can clearly explain the process.
Also, know what you don’t know – appreciate that things are not in your remit – such as technical expertise and delegate to people who can help, as it’s what we do.
How has COVID changed the events landscape?
“A key point is that you have to have contingency plans and flex events to respond to change. Still, for 2022 there is a lot of uncertainty, so your in-venue event might need to move to a studio – but the infrastructure can be the same.”
Ben: It’s completely changed the events industry forever and has kicked the events industry forward half a decade. Events were already starting to transition towards digital experiences, but COVID has accelerated this in a way that wasn’t anticipated.
Digital offers so much more for an event:
- Expands events participation and audience (which is great for stakeholders)
- Events can command higher profile speakers
- Provides better data collection – data can be better structured, and more data can be collected (if done right)
- It brings down the environmental impact with fewer people travelling and attending a venue event.
- You can offer different models – physical and virtual together – the best of both worlds.
- Digital recording during an event delivers long engagement well after the event’s end.
- Better brand exposure on many virtual channels (youtube, Vimeo, LinkedIn etc.)
Ben: A key point is that you have to have contingency plans and flex events to respond to change. Still, for 2022 there is a lot of uncertainty, so your in-venue event might need to move to a studio – but the infrastructure can be the same. i.e. the same streaming company can be used across both, the same cameras, the same crew, it’s just you are moving from your, say 1200 capacity venue to a studio with a small team supporting the speakers.
Gus: Hybrid can actually be quite resilient if it’s designed, built and planned in the right way. But moving from a purely physical event takes work. It’s more of a shift if the online isn’t yet in place.
What do we think will happen in the next six months for the events industry?
Ben: In the next three months, we predict that events will all need hybrid components. By summer, I’d imagine we’ll have physical events as pretty much normal, just with some online component. Really, I think the new normal for many, at least international events, will be hybrid – and for many national events too. Expect more local meetings connected together – so rather than one major event, more local country level events linked with one another. Depending on the omicron variant and whether there are any other variants around the corner, we’ll likely see a winter wave at least for the next couple of years, so events at this point might need to consider contingency planning more.
Gus: It depends whether we go into lockdown, which we hope is unlikely, but if people do have to move away from the office – for us and what we do, a strict lockdown means more domestic environments with distractions and technical problems.
Ben: We have an opportunity to send out kits to help those needing to create in-home studios, but we are looking into this. We advise a good headset and a ring light as a bare minimum for those who need to present from home.
Gus: It’s really unclear what will happen right now with events, so it’s best to have those contingency plans in place with a flexible hybrid event design so that if you need to transition it all online – it’s not so much of an issue.
In January, you can meet with Ben Axtell and Augustin Perret for some free advice on how to better prepare your event’s speakers for remote environments and how to smoothly transition online. We have 10 free consultations up for grabs for event managers. To apply, head over to the form on our site to enter your details: https://lnkd.in/eD79YsKW.
If you are successful, our stage management team will contact you later this month to arrange a free hour of our insight and advice via Zoom.