We all know that the COVID-19 crisis has dramatically altered the landscape of the events industry. But as states prepare to reopen- some sooner than others- questions about the future are becoming more immediate. Although at its heart, the event industry maintains an experiential one, many developing trends have changed course because of COVID-19. Sadly, many event planners have lost jobs, businesses, and/or substantial income. But interestingly, some resultant changes in the industry involve emergent jobs. A lot of these emergent roles are due to the rapidly growing focus on virtual events- which is expected to continue even after states are reopened and life goes back to “normal”. (If you remember, virtual events constituted one of the largest projected trends for 2020 before the coronavirus).
It makes sense that event creators will have to rely on different skill sets as virtual events become more mainstream. It’s also worth noting that many live events feature live streaming options and immersive AR and VR technology. Recent job postings for large companies are still hiring based on core job requirements such as time management and communication skills; this is expected and will likely always be the standard. But these companies are also looking for more event managers with more tech-related skills than before.
What technical skills are needed to be on the cutting edge of this industry at such a pivotal time? Interestingly, “virtual event management” has emerged as a whole skill set, but this can be deceiving; virtual event management actually involves several sets of skills and specialities which vary among event planners with unique experiences. Overall, experience with developing interactive digital and video content seems to rank high on the list. This is a skill set that is almost universally integral to creating virtual events across niches.
Live Streaming Technicians Are On the Rise
It’s no secret that live streaming is one of the biggest industry trends at virtual and in-person events. In an experiential market, attendees get more value by being able to stream their experiences on social media, sharing them with large and sometimes remote audiences. In fact, live streaming has become so essential to in-person events that many companies hire production technicians just to handle live streaming.
Live streaming technology is quickly becoming a niche of its own, and the job is much more involved than one might assume at first glance. Live streaming technicians or production teams are responsible for planning and implementing the live streaming strategy and assisting with sound and lighting; sometimes they are also responsible for sourcing the technology. But their job is not limited to technical expertise. Many companies also expect their live streaming technicians to grow their live streaming and videography capacities over time. This means having social media expertise and customer service skills as well.
Tech Support is the Backbone of Virtual Events
Event Technology Is Not One-Size-Fits-All...
This may sound like we’re stating the obvious, but if you’re applying to new event management jobs- even freelance ones- you should work on becoming as specialized as possible. We know this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to develop specialized skill sets through training and experience. Virtual events are an emergent trend; the landscape of virtual events is rapidly transitioning through new technologies, adjustments, and trial and error. So how can you develop your virtual niche?
We’re not saying to turn down much-needed opportunities as society reopens, but if possible, work on events that are in a similar niche. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, better virtual conferences have been enabling companies to expand and reach remote audiences. Even interactive product demos can be done expertly online using AR technology, and that trend is projected to continue to grow exponentially in the next several years. Thus, event managers who can deliver excellent, authentic video conference experiences are a hot commodity right now.
Virtual event specialists for high profile video conferences are expected to have unique skill subsets. Virtual event managers may need to perform more communications outreach with OE management. Even more to the point, they need to have extensive knowledge of prominent video conference systems like Polycom, LifeSize, Business Skype, and more. Knowing how to expertly use and navigate these systems is imperative for all event managers working on video conferences. To make yourself more employable, you should also work on familiarizing yourself with control software.
Conference specialists know how to tackle specific event objectives and focus on ROI. Their event design is often focused on personalization and delivering the highest quality experience to the individual. This can mean designing breakout sessions based on the shared interests of attendees, creating comprehensive, interactive Q & A sessions, and more. Conference specialists have a keen eye for both detail and the bigger picture in terms of both event planning and execution. It is their job to find areas for improvement in the infrastructure of virtual meetings.
Sometimes companies divide these responsibilities into two roles. “Meeting designers” are cropping up all over the landscape of virtual meetings. Essentially, their job is to create the event design according to the event objectives. When companies hire meeting designers, they sometimes also hire “meeting architects”. Meeting architects take a more generalized look at the entire event execution, and look for areas for improvement.
As you can see, the virtual event world can be highly specialized. Again, it’s not one-size-fits-all.
...Except When It Is
We know we said that event technology isn’t one-size-fits-all, and it’s not. Different kinds of virtual events require unique skill sets, but it’s also important to be well-rounded. That means having a strong foundation of audio/video content development skills and special effects. As the pressure to use advanced technology to deliver immersive events increases, event management companies are overwhelmed. And although event technology has recently become a lot more affordable and accessible, it’s still expensive to hire different specialists for various aspects of live events. That’s why many companies hire “event technologists”, who are essentially a go-to person for every tech-related aspect of an event!
What does that mean? It’s a broad range of skills and responsibilities, so let’s break it down. (There is no way to cover all of the possible responsibilities a virtual event manager can have, so we’ve narrowed it down to four key skills that may have many subsets). An event technologist may be expected to:
Use event apps to deliver AR and VR experiences
Troubleshoot tech challenges as they arrive before and during the event
Source and implement the tech strategy for events
Be familiar with vendors that support virtual events
Have extensive knowledge of live streaming technology and social media
Social Media Is Creating New Jobs for Event Managers
In an experiential market that is increasingly reliant on technology to deliver memorable experiences, social media is a hotspot of activity. Interacting with attendees across social media platforms and creating relevant content based on their shared interests is tantamount to a successful business. However, most event managers have more responsibilities on their plate than they can effectively manage. They simply don’t have time to develop and carry out social media strategies on a consistent enough basis for them to be impactful.
Enter the social media coordinator. Social media coordinators need to have experience with multiple platforms, social ads, and tracking data and results. Obviously, social media coordinators have excellent people skills and genuinely enjoy interacting with different kinds of attendees. They know how to use language that relates to specific niches, but they also make meaningful, long-term connections with their audience. They see them as individuals, not just just consumers. Today’s consumer is highly intuitive and expects highly personalized experiences at events, and that includes event promotions. That’s why it’s so important for social media coordinators to understand how to observe and analyze demographic and psychographic information across platforms.
Enter the digital analytics manager. Whereas the social media coordinator is an authentic communicator and establishes long-term relationships with people, the digital analytics manager tackles data. Their job is essential because it informs the promotional and interpersonal strategies that the social media coordinator uses to engage attendees. The data that can be gleaned and analyzed from digital sources allows event managers to deliver more personalized experiences than ever.
Generally speaking, almost every emerging job role we covered today can be lumped into the “event technologist” title. (The social media coordinator is the exception to that rule, but event technologists are expected to have extensive knowledge of social media and be able to create unique content for different platforms). As you can see, the responsibilities of an event technologist are many- and that’s why we’re starting to see these duties broken down into new, specialized job roles. We are excited to keep you informed as the society slowly reopens, and we get back to business as (not quite) usual. We expect to see the digital footprint of the COVID-19 crisis on the landscape of the event industry, which means many things. New and changing job roles are par for the course as events continue to take a virtual turn.