2020 will be a year that Singapore’s events industry will never forget. Life before COVID-19 saw the country’s meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) sector supporting 34,000 jobs that contributed 0.8% of its GDP. When the pandemic struck, the numbers of the local travel and hospitality industries took a significant nose-dive at the onset of the pandemic, losing US$935 billion, forcing the country’s business events sector to recalibrate its priorities and strategies.
The recent stabilization of the infection rate in the country has allowed health protocols to grow more lenient towards in-person gatherings. With these developments, Kenneth Research sees the MICE sector growing at US$ 5,214.9 million in market value by 2027. If there is one thing that saved the local events industry, it is the running theme of resilience and being able to work around the safety measures resulting from the pandemic.
A trend of satellite events has been seen emerging in the United States. These events are smaller hubs of a much larger event situated in remote areas of either the same country or another. Presently, people still have apprehensions of joining large gatherings but are willing to commit to small-scaled ones. With this comes the challenge for the future: to come up with a happy medium of satisfying our hunger for human connection while facing our society’s present-day reality.
In the future, events are bound to return to its former glory. While some things may go back to normal, certain changes within the industry have made an indelible mark on it; and are bound to never leave.
Hybrid is the Future of Events
While COVID-19 has partially dulled the romance of events, all is not lost. Opportunities to engage in casual conversations or professional networking have been made possible through the existence of hybrid events. Seamlessly marrying the best of both worlds—warm, physical in-person connection while employing contemporary digital technology—these events have helped the industry to work around the constraints set by the pandemic, thus allowing the MICE sector to continue to thrive.
Hybrid events play on the side of the events planner as these events have three main selling points: cost-effective, globalizing potential; and ultimately, safe gatherings.
Cost is King
Let us state the obvious here: the number of attendees is directly proportionate to the size of the space needed to host an event. To put it plainly, a bigger group demands a bigger space. We all know that bigger spaces come with heftier price tags, and with the current state of the world economy, no one wants to spend more than what they earn.
Take for example Geylang’s The Common Ground, a quaint space that can easily host up to 100 people at a time, with prices starting at SG$ 1,000. The hip space’s stark white walls moonlight as a viewing medium for projectors when hosting virtual town halls, panel discussions, or conferences. To cater to this challenge, planners can leverage on the capability of hybrid events to allow participants to engage with each other in various virtual channels like: a mobile event app or attendee messaging & networking, just to name a few. Virtually hosting your events will not require that much estate as it will only be housing the host’s team and a few attendees.
A Matter of Transcending Borders
Now, what if the event you’re planning requires attendees from either remote areas of your country or different parts of the world?
Different countries have different health travel protocols, and it is almost inevitable for any event not to have people choosing to attend remotely. Luckily, several venues around Singapore have adapted to this demand. For one, JW Marriott Hotel in South Beach has JW Connect, the five star hotel’s on-site and off-site meeting solution for webinars or simulcasts, complete with menu options, meal delivery service, and virtual team-building activities. Another venue adapting to the needs of event planners is The Fullerton Hotel in Fullerton Square. Equipped with 80-inch monitors with touch screen capability, Fullerton’s meeting rooms or its regal ‘The Straits Room’—the hotel is prepared to host any hybrid event a planner needs to organize.
Technology has made the world a smaller place through hosting and streaming apps. These recently introduced advancements have allowed people to transcend space and time in the comforts of our respective homes. It is now, more than ever, during a health crisis like this that we tap into the globalizing powers of the digital space.
Staying at the Pink of Health
COVID-19 has made everyone prioritize health over everything else. At present, when an event is organized, event planners need to constantly ensure that safety measures drafted by the local Ministry of Health adapt to the “new normal.” In the future, that most likely will never change as health is an evergreen priority for just about everyone.
Different venues have invested in new state of the art disinfecting technology to be able to align with standardized cleanliness protocols during the pandemic. Staff members of some have also undergone rapid testing to ensure that attendees are safe when interacting with them; and event attendees are required to undergo testing by some establishments.
Embracing the Virtual Landscape of Events
Since the dawn of a new millennium, life has seen a 180-degree turn from traditional to digital. Whether consciously or unconsciously, every industry in existence has ridden technology’s fast-paced wave, and the events industry must continue to ride along to stay afloat. As much as everyone misses the warmth in-person conversations bring, something that web-hosted events will never replicate, the reality is we live in a world where money, time, and safety are of the essence; and hybrid events deliver all three.
In an interview with Forbes.com, Keneisha Williams, a co-founder of Black In Events Network, was asked if she thinks virtual events are “here to stay.” She answered, “Yes. But not at the magnitude many are assuming. There will always be virtual and hybrid events — but in-person events will always reign supreme over virtual. We had to adapt to virtual because we had no choice. Humans are social creatures, and we need face-to-face experiences.”