By Christopher Bo Shields, Co-founder, Totem
Hello 2022. As we look forward to the year ahead, I suspect many events organisers are likely to be feeling some trepidation about the surprises and ‘learning experiences’ to come.
No wonder. From international events such as Cannes Lions and Glastonbury to major conferences, internal comms events held by global multinationals, right down to CEO roundtable seminars – every event organiser has faced their own unique challenges as they’ve built relationships with production and tech partners to help them pivot to virtual and hybrid in 2021.
It’s almost impossible to summarise everything that has changed across the industry already – and yet there are some learnings that remain true for the entire events world. Here at Totem, we think these five lessons apply to all organisers, no matter the level of event. And these remain important as companies face more uncertainty in 2022.
1. Client/agency relationships are built on trust – not tech
It seems obvious, but it’s a lesson that was often forgotten when event organisers scrabbled to find tech partners to help them switch to virtual. We have to put trust in our partners first and foremost. In pre-Covid times, events organisers depended on trust in their partners to ensure that the big day went ahead according to plan, and regardless of whether that big day takes place online or in real life, that need for reassurance remains of paramount importance.
That means that you shouldn’t make decisions based on tech alone. Instead, listen to your gut and make strong partnerships with people that you can trust to deliver your vision.
2. Some events don’t ever need to go back to real life – and others will never work virtually
Many organisers came through 2021 to realise that some kinds of events don’t ever need to go back to being held in real life. But they also discovered that virtual isn’t right for every event – some need to be face-to-face or they just won’t work. There are other formats that are naturally best when they are presented as hybrid experiences. And some are a blend of all these things.
Once again, the important thing is finding the right partner to help you to find the best format for the event you want to create – and for the outcomes that you want to achieve.
3. Clients are no longer at the mercy of the technology
No longer are clients at the mercy of the providers of their tech platforms. After a steep and often dizzying learning curve, we’ve all become experts in virtual and hybrid. As 2021 progressed, I noticed that the conversations that we had with our clients became more sophisticated, because everyone has become savvy to virtual.
That means that the relationships between client and agency have become truly collaborative again – and that we’re returning to the perfect scenario: clients who know exactly what they want, working with partners that can deliver.
4. The content comes first – the tech follows
The content and the experience should always come before the technology. So, think about how you orchestrate the event in order to help delegates to navigate the experience, friction-free. Because the potential for distraction is huge. The dream of a perfect delegate experience must be at the centre of the world you construct. An individual should be given a full suite of truly interactive experiences. They should feel cared for – and catered to.
Companies should be aspiring towards creating seamless hybrid experiences. The audiences of the future will only know that kind of experience, so we should be prepared to cater for them. Think about your event as a journey that takes every delegate through online and real life experiences, from the very first online interaction to the final one.
5. Tech partners are evolving – the best ones will take you with them
The best partners are those that work truly collaboratively with you, to create an experience that fits your vision – and don’t simply try to crowbar your event into their restrictive tech platform.
Not only that. They’ll want to continue to evolve what they are doing, and want to take you along with them in their journey. For instance, Totem is developing a learning management system to allow our clients to seamlessly build training course modules into their hybrid experience.
By forging true partnerships based on trust, you will be in a far stronger position to face the fresh challenges of 2022, than if you are fighting your corner alone.