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The Past, the Present and the Future of the events industry

By Jill Minter, Head of Marketing and Communications (Interim) at AIM.

The Past

Pre-pandemic, the events industry as a whole was worth around £70 billion per annum to the UK economy in terms of visitor spend, a figure that represented more than 50% of all tourism spend. And it wasn’t only venues and hospitality providers that benefitted from staging events. The industry had a wide and varied supply chain including many independent suppliers and freelancers.

Then Covid hit and the events’ industry was one of the most badly affected, live events were cancelled, and social distancing introduced.  Yet despite this, event planning professionals showed resilience and flexibility, adapting to the restrictions, and creating new technologies and introducing a new way of working.

The Present

The widespread adoption of digital technologies has enabled many people to continue working from home and the virtual event has embedded itself into our way of working and living.

However, live events are once again starting to play a key role in showcasing our industrial, scientific, academic and innovative skills to international markets, driving trade, exports and inward investment. Cultural events are again in full swing projecting our creative energy, and educating and entertaining communities across the globe. Things are slowly, but surely, getting back on track but may never be the same as before the pandemic.

The Future

Virtual events are here to stay

Online events will continue to play a part of our every-day lives. They reach new audiences, are cheaper to run, and more cost effective to attend. 
Virtual events platforms are catching up with new demands and now come in all shapes and sizes with event management systems (EMS) helping event organisers to host virtual conferences, workshops, webinars, and tradeshows. No longer just ‘streaming’ platforms, these EMS’s feature:

  • ticketing
  • sponsorship booths and tiering
  • multi-stream agendas
  • dry running and backstage technology
  • What virtual events can’t do is create the ‘experience’ – the sound, smell, touch of an occasion, or the environment for in-person, real, face to face communication. This is particularly true for music, hospitality and sports industries. 

Virtual events will help us to maintain regular touchpoints with customers, colleagues and friends, but in-person, physical events will create the buzz, the excitement and the physicality needed to pull people away from the digital screen. 

Growth of hybrid events

The advancement of digital technologies has led to the emergence of hybrid events; events, involving a mix of in-person and virtual attendees.

We’re already starting to see the merging of virtual and physical events, either through interactive sessions during a physical event or extending the content of a physical before or after it has ended. Many EMS have evolved to feature networking hybrid event capabilities. As reported in recent survey by markletic.

  • 47% of event organisers say that hybrid events are a solution in connecting internationally dispersed audiences.
  • 34% of event organizers expect to invest more in hybrid events in the next few years
  • 57% of respondents say they would rather attend an in-person version or a hybrid event than the virtual version

Whilst digitalisation cannot replace the in-person interaction of most events the likely increased use of mixed in-person/digital events, calls for new thinking to generate local benefits, and new inclusive opportunities.

Going greener

There is a growing cultural shift to create a more sustainable way of living, and the events industry will need to adapt to this way of thinking. Many people are making the effort to become more conscientious consumers, and this could influence their decision making about which events to attend.  Earlier this year, the European Commission released its 7 steps for greener events – covering the main points an event organiser should consider to deliver a green event.

Step 1: Consider going online!
Step 2: Prefer green conference venues
Step 3: Go for low carbon travel
Step 4: Refuse - Reduce - Re-use – Recycle
Step 5: Green the plate choose organic, local, seasonal menus
Step 6: Make it beautiful
Step 7: Spread the word

AIM works with employers and training providers who are looking to bring in new talent through apprenticeships. The Level 3 Event Assistant apprenticeship standard is a popular choice; AIM‘s event industry specialists assess the learners the end of their apprenticeship to ensure they have the skills and knowledge required to make an effective contribution to events teams.

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