As society slowly reopens and a vaccine looms on the horizon, event professionals face a very different job market than they did in 2019. Not only are most events still virtual, but budgets have changed, and businesses are investing their money in new ways. So how can you stay competitive in this rapidly shifting industry?
Become an Expert (It’s Not As Hard As You Think!)
As our culture became more experiential over the last several years, the pressure to be a jack of all trades has lessened. Yes, many event profs are learning a host of new skills to stay relevant, which can be really overwhelming. We hear that. But the good news is that more companies are hiring experts than general managers right now.
While the virtual event market is expected to keep booming, many companies can’t afford to hire full-time event managers. Thus, businesses are increasingly hiring specialists who have expertise in very specific areas. Since high-quality production essentially makes or breaks virtual events, new jobs are emerging for production specialists and event technologists. Online event and live stream hosts are also being seen more often.
As you might have already noticed, one way to stay competitive is to refine your niche. In order to survive the pandemic, most event businesses have had to learn new skills and further develop existing ones. In doing so, many have consciously or inadvertently become specialists in specific areas. Maybe you’ve perfected your live stream technology and your business has grown as a result. Or perhaps you’ve mastered the use of a unique product or software that will generate leads into the future.
Now more than ever, there is a market for event technologists. According to a report by Wild Apricot, the number of organizations planning virtual events doubled in 2020. Yet research also tells us that 47% of event professionals are not comfortable using virtual technology. Yes, many are pivoting to learn, but this is a competitive job market, and they have to learn quickly. Rather than rush the process and compromise the quality of virtual experiences, many businesses are hiring event technologists. And as our reliance on sophisticated event technology increases, so does our need to for event tech support. Therein lies a bigger market for tech support than we saw before.
The job market for production specialists is also expected to expand. Top quality broadcasting and production definitely ramps up engagement. As virtual and hybrid events continue to dominate- a trend we don’t see slowing down any time soon- businesses seek to improve their virtual events. One way that they do this is to hire production specialists to refine the quality of their audio/video.
Not everyone knows how to capture the ideal angles and lighting to make an event visually impactful. Enter production specialists, who offer support during tech run-throughs. How many event planners have run through tech more than once before an event, only to experience a glitch live? It happens. But fortunately, production specialists can make it happen much less often- or maybe not at all.
Grow With Your Audience, Not Away From Them
Another way to stay competitive is to stay connected. The bigger your digital footprint, and the further your reach, the more relevant you are. For obvious reasons, there has been a pronounced focus on community during the pandemic, and we expect these connections to continue strengthening as we rebuild. Now more than ever, businesses need to rely on each other and collaborate to survive; as times quickly change, evolving is critical- and it can’t be done alone. Not only are event professionals relying on each other, but they’re relying on the connections and relationships they make with their audience. Our advice? Make sure your online presence is strong.
What does that look like? Well, it’s different for every brand, but there are a few common denominators. Especially during and post-pandemic, cultivating a strong online presence means being relatable and standing out. Yes, the goal is to do that at the same time- but that’s not as tricky as it sounds. Think about the experiences that most of your audience can relate to, but be specific. For example, everyone is collectively struggling with the “new normal”, and most of us are living with a higher degree of isolation than before.
But go deeper: Are there certain connections that are more important to your audience than they may be to others? If your events are corporate, are your attendees struggling to network? How does the pandemic affect professional development for them? Can you create safe hybrid events that promote effective remote networking and thereby increase opportunities for attendees? If your attendees must learn to work with new products online, what technology can you use to create virtual demos?
The bottom line: Without even realizing it, you have likely adapted to the new circumstances in ways that are unique. What do you do differently to meet a common need? When you know the answer, build on it.
Is the purpose of your events to entertain? If so, have you found unique ways to convert to digital? For example,Amy Brooks ,the NBA’s chief innovation officer and president of team marketing and business operations, had to pivot fast when games were canceled last March. One of her key concerns was to keep the fan experience alive in a temporarily suspended industry. Brooks and her team adapted by implementing their unique Virtual Fan technology, powered by Microsoft Teams.
But large corporations aren’t the only companies that have adapted successfully. Moriarity's Gem Art is a family-owned jewelry business in Crown Point, Indiana. When the pandemic forced them to close their business in March, they knew they had to find new ways to stay open and connected to their customers. They started live streaming their gem shows through YouTube, using YouTube software. In fact, apps like YouTube and Netflix have experienced double-digit percentage increases in usage since the pandemic began.
Virtual Events Broaden Your Reach in Surprising Ways
They say every cloud has a silver lining, but it was admittedly hard to see what good could come out of the event industry shutting down. However, one saving grace emerged: The potential of virtual events to reach larger audiences. Although not every virtual event sees a higher attendance rate, data analysis from online events has shown that virtual events generally do attract a larger audience. From attendees’ perspective, virtual events are easier to attend, generally cost less, and provide a sense of connection to the world during insolation.
That extended reach isn’t limited to the events themselves. If anything, the event market has become even more experiential throughout the pandemic. FOMO is at an all time high, and experiential consumers are looking for ways to stay connected to causes, ideas, and movements that are bigger than they are. Millennials in particular feel the need to contribute to the improvement of their communities and the world at large. In ever-growing resistance to the self-made individualism that defined America in generations past, millennials are eager to embrace another side of the coin: Society is by nature interdependent, and no one can survive on their own.
A study conducted by PGI found that a whopping 70% of millennials in the workforce would like the people they work with to function as a kind of second family. Furthermore, millennials gain satisfaction and fulfillment from contributing to a cause and doing something to improve their communities. A study done by The Society for Human Resource Management revealed that 94% of millennials desire to use their skills to benefit a cause. According to that same study, 57% wish there were more company-wide service days.
How does this information help strengthen your company’s reach? Well, it lets you know what your millennial audience wants. Take on a charity and encourage your audience to work toward goals with you. Promote it on social media and keep your following updated on your progress. Give your employees and your audience new ways to connect to each other, such as through causes or community projects.
And don’t forget- virtual events don’t just broaden your audience. They also provide an opportunity to connect remotely with speakers whom you may not have otherwise been introduced to. So don’t limit yourself- think outside of the box.
The Future is Hybrid
In our next post, we’re going to explain why. For the purposes of this one, all you need to know is that it’s absolutely true! Even when we return to in-person events, hybrid events are expected to continue to dominate. The pandemic was a horrifying time to be in the industry, but it also presented an opportunity for growth in the digital space. Companies have discovered that hybrid events expand audiences and improve ROI. They also give attendees more options, thus leading to higher attendance.
As the pandemic goes on, many people will choose to skip an event altogether if it means taking even a small risk- even if they really wanted to attend.. On the other hand, there are also many people who would prefer the choice to experience socially distant live events. The hybrid model gives both groups a way to experience events in the way they feel most comfortable. So the more of these opportunities you can create, the broader your audience- and the more attendees you can satisfy.
Hopefully, we’ve given you some valuable information about how to stay relevant in today’s job market. In fact, you may have even realized some of the ways in which you already are marketable, but didn’t know it. Yes, learning and mastering new skills is important when navigating the new landscape of this industry. But it’s just as effective- maybe even more so- to build on what you already do well. Your skills may be applicable to the industry in new ways you never even considered before.