Since the onset of COVID-19 over a year ago, the virus has reshaped nearly every industry in the world. These changes have straddled the line between making and, sadly, breaking organizations. This adversity has also led to widespread innovation as companies have found creative solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems. This includes virtual adaptations and an altogether new customer experience, many that will live beyond the pandemic.

One area in particular that touches nearly every industry is events. As part of personal and professional life, the absence of in-person events and experiences has been felt deeply in a culture that thrives on these connections. Major annual events that draw thousands from other states, countries and continents were pushed online or cancelled altogether. Social rituals like weddings and funerals were observed in small or virtual settings. The silver lining? Events that were previously out of reach to individuals due to location, date or price became available to a global audience. Yet, as vaccines continue to roll out and in-person events return in full, it’s likely some facet of pandemic-induced operations will remain.

The Professional Events Sector

In the professional world, events help make valuable connections from vendors, partners and investors to new business prospects and future employees. Whether B2B or B2C, conferences, tastings, pop-ups and more are integral to showcasing brands. For firms like our own, in-person events are the perfect opportunity to broaden our networks. Events have different objectives for our clients – from our travel/tourism friends forced to cancel new and annual cultural events to an architecture association shifting its biggest annual event/fundraiser (an in-person homes tour) online, the pandemic required a variety of creative solutions to continue to serve audiences in a safe and effective manner.

For one client that launched last June, Blue Norther hard seltzer, events have always existed in a COVID world, creating a landscape of opportunity for the future. Like most CPG (consumer packaged goods) launches, the hard seltzer would typically rely heavily on live tastings to spread the word and build awareness. Instead, Blue Norther found new ways to reach people – from a month-long campaign supporting breast cancer research in October to partnering with local musicians and maintaining a robust social media presence.

AIA Austin’s annual Homes Tour was remade to be totally virtual in 2020. A first for the tour, this change presented its fair share of challenges. But, the Tour was able to reach a wider audience, as well as feature homes normally unlikely to make the cut for in-person tours due to size or location. As a result, tour organizers will continue to offer a virtual element to reach a broader geographic audience this year and beyond.

The Events Culture

In addition to the benefits of professional events, in-person gatherings have long played a vital role in our personal lives. From social rituals such as weddings, graduations and birthdays to social comforts like funerals, in-person gatherings mark milestones of human life. For many, the loss of these events during the pandemic was felt deeply. These events serve as experiences meant to bring joy and/or comfort in a way that can’t quite be matched in a virtual world. As events return, the power of in-person connections will no doubt resonate at a higher level.

Equally important social pastimes include dinner with friends, working out at the gym, going to the movies, or traveling. To fill the void, many flocked to parks and/or spent hours on the phone. Concerts and church services were held outdoors or online. Then came outdoor seating at restaurants, limited capacity at movie theaters and more. Little by little, as events have returned, people have sought the socially-acceptable (and health regulation-permitted) connection to pre-pandemic times.

The face of live events is likely changed for the foreseeable future. While the in-person component is slowly returning (much to everyone’s excitement), many virtual formats or alternatives will remain. Virtual events will continue to be an integral part of personal and professional relationships. For better or worse, the pandemic has generated more conversations, and has opened a dialogue among many who might not have interacted before.

No question we are ready for the return of music festivals, weddings, Sunday brunches and more. But we must also be ready, willing and able to follow new guidelines developed to protect our public health. The world is ready to reopen, and we are nearing the end of the tunnel.

If you’re looking to plan, host or promote an event of your own (online or off) to launch a new business or simply get back in the saddle with an existing business, we’d love to help.