The world's leading event technology expo had to make the big pivot to virtual this year taking place between Monday 2nd to Friday 6th November. Due to the pandemic restrictions, their renowned event was taken online. Event Tech Live 2020 became a virtual event for five days with the headline sponsor being Eventscase, and wow - what an event it was (EventMind had two separate talks!)
With international exhibitors all across the globe, there’s one thing for sure, this event definitely took a lot of planning so exhibitors could deliver their usual content, but from home. With an estimated 2500 visitors and 100 exhibitors across the five days, this was sure to be an unforgettable event during the current pandemic.
It can be said that technology has certainly helped to push businesses of all sectors and sizes around the corner and attendees have had a different experience of communication with the exhibitors. Opposed to the usual in person agenda at the event, all of the talks were streamed live on YouTube (which is great as it gave anyone a chance to watch them back if they missed one!) with a live Q&A feature which was available to view by the host, who could then ask the specific speaker the questions.
The agenda of the event across the five days was jam packed, with sessions running from 10am to 6pm. These sessions were completely varied from panel discussions, Q&A’s and technology demos. The speakers were all industry professionals within the event technology sector, and all provided truthful insights into their job, and their topic in discussion. Of course, the event was based upon the event technology sector, however the current pandemic was sure to creep up in a few discussions - as this is the main hot topic of the year.
Below are the stand out discussions for me:
On Monday, the two stand out discussions for me were What Will Hybrid Events and Exhibitions Look Like Post Covid? And Virtual Events: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. The first discussion was a panel session hosted by Carina Bauer (CEO of the IMEX Group) and Chris Carroll (CEO of the Eventful Group.) It was discussed how for the last eight months, virtual has been a lifeline for so many organisers. During this session the two hosts explored the concept of hybrid, its reach and the benefits it has. It was interesting to find out their views on what they believe the influence will be on events post-covid. The main takeout from this discussion was that everyone should now expect something different to live events, as great as virtual events are - they are different to what we are used to. It was mentioned how networking can be a lot harder if we are required to social distance at live events, and therefore virtual fills this void.
The second discussion which stood out to me was Virtual events: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, a discussion by John Martinez (Chief Executive Office and Founder of Shocklogic.) This provided an insight into the benefits, and potential negatives of using virtual for your event. It was clearly stated that organisers do need to find a way to adapt the online environments to satisfy the needs for their parties involved. There was an overwhelming amount of positives of virtual events mentioned, including those listed below:
There were many discussions in place about how people believe the future of events is going to go, will virtual events stay? Will they be seen as a compliment to live events? On Tuesday, Natalie Campbell-Reid (Content Marketing Lead at Explori) discussed What are attendees saying about the future of virtual/hybrid events? This talk was based upon data-driven insights, and the main takeaway was that virtual is just as good for content as live. People are bound to have taken part in virtual events already, whether this is a YouTube live stream or an online yoga class - these events have been around for a while and only just getting the praise they deserve. Natalie discussed that for new events that have never been held before, people are more than happy to try virtual. However, for live events they have previously attended in the future, people are a creature of habit and want to attend what they already know. Within the data it was found that people do prefer live events when it comes to networking and generating leads, but this is something that will improve over time.
A massive stand out discussion for me, of course, would have to be the panel discussion EventMind’s Ashanti did on Diversity and Inclusivity in Event Technology. Her panel was full of industry professionals including Sabrina Meyers, David Hughes, Pamela Benitez and Meg Strahle. It was really astounding to hear that there are very little events out there that cater for accessible needs. An example used was many virtual events which provide video content did not provide subtitles - which of course, is not suitable for anyone who may be hearing-impaired. Megan stated that "generally, events are not always inclusive, whether they are virtual or live." It was discussed how at the bottom of event registration forms, there should be an option to discuss your additional needs. It was clear on the panel that everyone agreed that if you’re an event organiser, you need to be conscious of who you’re speaking to, and to address everyone's needs if this is possible. Pamela made a good point, stating that "Event managers, Marketing Directors, MD’s and business owners have the duty now to start using their event budgets to create events more focused on minority rather than majority."
David mentioned "in the world of videoconferencing, we have the opportunity to be more inclusive by offering translation and interpretation on our platforms. What to use, be it written commentary or live interpreting depends on the output" which is extremely important, there is options out there which can be used to help cater for those who may have additional needs.
Sabrina added that "As an online moderator, inclusion to me means making the speaker feel comfortable and secure within the online ’space’ that we are sharing together. Connecting with them prior to the session is essential to build a foundation of mutual trust as well as ’see’ the other person, their movements, their tone, their mannerisms so in the actual session, there’s no awkwardness and it feels like a natural open exchange." We cannot assume that everyone's abilities are the same, and it is important that care and effort is put into time to ensure everyone's needs are met.
Ending the discussion, Megan left it with a really important question all event organisers should consider - "What do my attendees need and how can I help with those needs" and not only consider what you can do, but listen.
EventMind also had a feature on Event Tech Live on Wednesday. Our Partnership Manager Dean O’Reilly and our MD Ashanti, were able to answer any questions that were written using the live Q&A feature that EventMind offers. The majority of questions were based on whether companies should be adopting virtual and hybrid, and where to start. It was understood that there are so many technologies out there for different reasons, but to be careful for any hidden costs otherwise you could be making an expensive choice. Both Dean and Ashanti both agreed that now is the time to get into virtual - otherwise you will fall behind your competitors and lose out on business. In terms of finding the right platform, it was mentioned to go to a platform (like EventMind) who are tech agnostic, and provide unbiased advice.
Baptiste Boulard (CEO of Swapcard) held a Covid Lesson on Thursday which was a stand out, titled Virtual and Hybrid Events in Shaping the Industry’s Future. Although similar to the other Covid talks, Baptiste provided really interesting data facts which were great to see him putting his facts into perspective. He mentioned how although event tech was nice to have before Covid, it is now a must have. 82% of companies he questioned said they would consider pushing to hybrid, and 50% of event organisers are now increasing their event tech spending. This just proved that organisations are starting to believe the virtual event ‘hype’ and that it will be around for the future. A really good point Baptiste made is that companies will grow faster and have a larger reach if they use both virtual and hybrid alongside their live events (when this will be allowed again.)
To summarise, I would say Event Tech Live 2020 was a success considering it was bought online. Although many discussions were based upon the stand out topic (Covid and the virtual event world), each speaker covered such different ideas and bought different insights. It was bought to my attention that diversity and inclusivity has not been considered enough when it comes to virtual events, and that people underestimate the power of technology!
Event Tech Live 2021 - I’m ready for you!