Yes, we’re finally asking the million-dollar question: do we even need in-person events anymore? And no, the Brew Crew isn’t trying to trigger anyone here. But rather, they’re interested in starting up a conversation about the challenges we are facing as an industry. And arguably one of the biggest is trying to convince people as to why spending so much money on live events is still worth it. Sure, when the pandemic subsides, we’ll all run to the first concert we can find.
But what happens when the enthusiasm dies down? What happens when people are reminded of the hassle that is spending $1,200 in a live conference that is several states away? Yes, we do need in-person events. But what kind? And why? Well, join us for another episode of Event Brew, as Thuy, Nick, Will, and Dustin attempt to answer that exact question!
The Industry Challenges
As an industry, we’re facing a lot of challenges right now. And we’ll be facing even more in the future. According to Nick, though, it can all be summed up into a simple question: why do we even need face-to-face events? “We know the answer to this. We feel like we reflexively know the answer to this, you know, meetings mean business. And bringing people together”, he says.
“Yes, ultimately that’s true. I do think, however, that we’ve never before trained this volume of humanity to have an experience that is not face-to-face in order for them to come together. And I think the only thing that we need to hyper-focus on is why do physical bodies in the same room matter? And I think everything else is just going to be built on top of that. Because we’re no longer the default. Everyone has done the alternative now”.
What Needs to Be In-Person
“I think there are certain social experiences that we’re craving right now. But as time goes on, as we do more of this, we’re going to crave that less. And when we get that, we’re going to be disappointed. Because I think we’ve all got a little bit of amnesia as to all that goes into having those experiences and the travel”, says Dustin. “So there’s a lot of pressure on live experiences when they come back. So I think in order to truly answer this question, we’re going to need to really start to accept the events that shouldn’t be events anymore, the live experiences that shouldn’t be. And until we can start to take those out and say, this doesn’t need to happen in person. Do you need to fly around the world to see a convention center anymore? Or can we figure out how to do this virtually? And once we start figuring out what are the events that deserve to be live and can only be successful live, then I think we can really start to answer the question as to why”.
“I’ve never, ever spent so much time in my office, not driving from meeting to meeting, to meeting, to meeting. And that used to be all I did. And I don’t ever want to go back to that type of meetings and events. So we better figure out what deserves to be called a live experience”, he adds.
The Core of Live Events
“You can convey emotion through a screen, but it’s like that hug that moment where you can feel that energy that you don’t really get through just what we’re doing now”, says Thuy. “When we’re in a room together that synergy, when we’re all collaborating and talking and sharing stories and ideas. Yes, you can do that virtually, but I don’t think it hones in, it doesn’t impact as much when you are face-to-face with someone”.
Engaging The Senses
“I think it’s hard to challenge all the senses when you’re doing virtual. I think there are ways, of course, but I think something that happens in a live event, that’s very difficult to replicate is getting all of your senses going. But I think that you can enjoy an artist virtually just as much as you can in person, depending on how you like your experiences. The technology is going to get better and better and better”, says Dustin.
“So your home experience is going to be just as good as sitting in the very, very back row. I do believe that. I think business meetings and somebody standing on a stage and talking, if that’s the only thing you have to offer, that can be done better virtually. So I think that when you start to combine full experiences of the sight, the smell, the taste, the feel, those are going to be the things that if you can’t accomplish virtually, that deserves to be in person”, he adds.
Replicating The Magic
Dustin recalls at least one event that simply has to be in-person forever. “I think about C2 Montreal, which is an incredibly immersive marketing conference. And that is an event that you can’t replicate the feeling. You can not replicate the hair standing up on the back of your neck. When you walk into this completely immersive environment where there’s so much going on your show, it’s incredible. It’s all around you. I mean, I don’t care how good you are at virtual. You will never get that sort of excitement and that rumble in your body that you don’t even know where to go next. It brings you almost to your childhood of this sort of like uncontrollable excitement”, he says.
Nick believes that these are the experiences that can help us answer the big question. “I think that experiences that people into change agents, that make them sing the songs of it. That are able to have raving fans. These matter. If it doesn’t, then it’s just a transaction and then that can happen anywhere”.
Make It Smaller
“So cue the idea of smaller, more intimate in-person with a larger audience online”, says Dustin. “Imagine these experiences moving to smaller theaters so that everybody has a good seat and the people that are not there are getting an incredible online experience. Now take that into conferences, take that into all the other events that we’re doing, where maybe we don’t go back to 2000 people crammed in a 50,000 square foot hall”.
“Maybe it’s a closer, more intimate, higher price point experience for those that are live and everybody else is getting an amazing virtual experience. And I obviously think that’s going to be the way we restart. Hybrid’s not a new thing for anybody, but I think that we’re going to find a lot of success there. Allowing those that don’t need to be there in person to not be there. And those that want to pay for the experience because now it’s gotta be incredible”, he adds. “I would pay more for a better experience. I’ve been saying for a long time, I would much rather pay more, go to less events, and have a much better experience. Because I’m so over going to these $1,200 conferences that are just slapped together. I would much rather pay four times that and talk about that conference. Like I talk about C2”.
The Future Is…Interesting!
Nick is excited to see just how much virtual will evolve and, by extension, how much in-person events will learn from that. “You see some of the innovations that take place in the next year or two in virtual events and see how live events will learn from those. The money will shift that way. And I think that that technology is going to change a lot of things there. There’s an opportunity for virtual events. I’ve always been looking at face-to-face events as the inspiration for design. And I think that’s going to shift and virtual will be its own thing. And then it will go the other way”, he says.
What The New Live Is Going To Look Like
To end things on a spectacular note, Dustin hits us with the perfect analogy for the whole virtual/in-person debacle. And it’s Peleton! “A lot of people are like, no, I need to go to the group class. Because I love the community. I love the vibe. I love the energy, I love the connection with the instructor. And what Peloton has done is they filled in all those gaps at home where you don’t get to travel. You go on to Peloton, you do a live class, the instructor knows you’re there. They shout out your milestones, you high five each other in the class virtually, you get to be a part of something that’s even bigger”, he explains.
“And in my opinion, it 100 replaces what that experience is live. It feels good. And those conversations that happen while you’re on the bike, carry on into their different communities and all their other platforms. It’s genius. And it is the template for how we’re going to continue to move forward with events”.
“We’ve been saying this for a couple months, that the technology is going to get better and better. And the smartest brains are trying to figure out how to keep this online. And I think that’s a win. I, 100% think that’s a win. There’s going to be a place for in-person, there’s going to be a place for virtual and we’re going to live in a hybrid world from this point forward. So let’s not worry as much about getting back into live. Let’s figure out what the new life is going to look like”, he concludes.