Paul Campbell is the founder and director of the Purple Patch Group, a business that started life as an event agency in London over ten years ago. Through years of live events experience on both sides of the fence, managing them and sitting in the front row, Paul and fellow director Holly then created the Presentation Experts, as well. Through Purple Patch Group, they develop corporate events and conferences for brands and companies that are looking for a reliable but innovative event agency.
Events Management in the Age of Zoom
Recently, Zoom announced the release of a new events platform that will let organizers monetize and promote their events. Zoom Events is packaged as an “all-in-one” platform that can build event hubs, provide customizable ticketing and registration options, integrate networking for attendees, track event statistics and more.
While the new Zoom Events platform holds benefits for the future of virtual event planning, what does it mean for event management companies? Can more sophisticated event platforms displace traditional firms that provide event management and planning services?
Zoom Is a Late Adopter
With the COVID-19 pandemic and rise of virtual and hybrid events, the development of more powerful event platforms like Zoom Events seemed inevitable. However, the consensus among many in the event management space is that Zoom is a late adopter of this kind of technology. Those in the industry of managing trade shows and events foresaw this shift and were surprised it took Zoom so long to catch up. Several virtual event management platforms with similar capabilities as Zoom Events already existed, such as Whova and Hubilo.
Although Zoom may be late to the game, the Zoom Events platform will likely still be a popular choice for virtual events. Zoom’s meetings, chat and video webinars remain popular more than a year since the beginning of the world’s initial lockdown, and familiarity with Zoom will probably drive users to the new platform, as well. On the other hand, the prevalence of “Zoom fatigue” may make users crave something different for their virtual event.
One thing is certain: “all-in-one” event applications, while accessible, can only do so much for managing virtual and hybrid events.
Will Platforms Like Zoom Events Challenge Event Management Companies?
With virtual event applications growing more sophisticated, many wonder how traditional event management companies will fare. These companies had to switch their service offerings – almost overnight – to meet the demands of virtual and hybrid event planning that arose in 2020 and which persist in 2021. Can they compete with the likes of Zoom Events?
While Zoom Events and similar platforms do boast a lot of features, they’re still fairly basic in comparison to what a virtual and hybrid event management company can offer. Zoom Events can’t help you recruit exhibitors to your virtual trade show, find a keynote speaker, or negotiate deals with sponsors. Zoom Events can’t set up your camera, mics, lighting and backdrop for you, either. And while virtual event platforms may provide customer support to assist with the platform’s technical issues, they won’t have an audio-visual technician dedicated solely to your event.
Zoom Events has several solid features that could suit a company’s in-house event or even smaller-scale public events. But larger virtual and hybrid events are still better off relying on the services of virtual event management experts. Zoom Events lacks the logistical and management support of a professional company and for this reason, doesn’t pose a challenge to established event management firms.
The Switch to Virtual and Hybrid Events Is More Permanent
The release of Zoom Events signifies one important fact – that virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. In Zoom’s own study about the future of video communication, a majority of people surveyed across 10 countries agreed that everything will continue to have a virtual element post-pandemic.
Even after in-person events are allowed again, they won’t be as large as they once were. COVID-19 restrictions will loosen gradually, allowing 500 people to gather, then 1,000, and eventually, large events will be allowed to take place again. But too many people – organizers and trade show attendees alike – saw the benefits of virtual and hybrid events:
- You can attend from anywhere in the world
- Virtual and hybrid events are more cost-effective
- Attendees save money on travel and lodging
- The planning time for virtual events is reduced
Many companies are asking themselves, why host an event for 5,000 people in-person when you can host a 10,000-person virtual event for more than half the cost? Virtual and hybrid events will stick around for a while because they enhance every event organizer’s main goal: reaching as many people as possible.
How Events Will Evolve in 2021 and Beyond
Whatever your attitudes toward virtual and hybrid events, the return of in-person events depends ultimately on how countries handle COVID-19. Traditional events can’t come back until the public health and safety situation is completely under control and that may not happen for some time. Even when the capability to have large in-person events is available again, many people may not feel comfortable cramming themselves into an event space with 10,000 other people. After the shock of COVID and the various stages of lockdown, delegates and attendees simply may not have the appetite for large events.
Moving forward, event organizers and event management companies will continue to focus on hybrid and virtual events. Zoom is clearly banking on the ongoing popularity of virtual events with their new release, which will make pulling together a virtual event much easier for some organizers. Ultimately, however, professional event management companies will produce the best virtual events in the months and years to come.