Events are a nice to have, not a need to have. I’ve been in the events industry for almost 20 years and that declaration has followed me wherever I’ve gone. Colleagues, peers and clients have all said it to me, and in turn I have said it to colleagues, peers and clients. In some ways, of course, it’s true. Events are frequently a below-the-line marketing expense where demonstrating ROI is more difficult than finding toilet paper these days. For non-profit organizations events can be a primary revenue driver, but on the corporate side they usually don’t carry nearly as much urgency. Plans, budgets and personnel can change from year to year, often accompanied by minimal resistance.
Yet as we live through a surreal pandemic that’s upended lives and challenged everyone’s idea of normalcy, what’s missing most for so many people is the foundation of why events will always be needed. Social distancing can be difficult to accomplish because of our jobs and our responsibilities, but what makes it truly unsustainable over the long haul is our dependence on human interaction. We need to meet and gather because we need to be surrounded by our friends, communicate with our colleagues, forge new relationships and share in experiences. And while we should all be grateful that technology fills a void during times like these, it will never be an equal replacement for what’s missing. Virtual meetings, hangouts and webinars may solve for social distancing, but they don’t solve for the requisite of true physical interaction.
As an events professional and a small business owner, it has been an incredibly challenging time. Sequence was in midst of producing conferences, activations and launches over the next couple of months in New York, London, San Francisco and Chicago. We were working with non-profits on galas and awards shows so that those organizations could raise awareness and fundraise. The void will be painful, but the silver lining is that our clients are treating it as a temporary one. Of the events on the horizon, only a small number have canceled. Most have either rescheduled or are working towards doing so. The trend to reschedule speaks to a longer-term positive outlook, and re-affirms the idea that events are significantly more than a 'nice to have’. They are a critical medium to how we successfully communicate, share information and enjoy our lives. Sometimes it takes losing something to realize what you had, and I think in this case it will be a long time before we take events for granted again. Events will be back, and when that happens I have no doubt the industry will be stronger than ever.