Covid-19 has brought about a sea of challenges and also changes, not least the widespread use of technology — which has enhanced both digital and in-person events.
Frederik Schipper, managing director of online venue provider, VenueHub, said tech solutions will remain popular, at least in the wake of the pandemic. “Real-time virtual meetings are helping maintain business relationships until business travel becomes feasible again," said Schipper, referring to digital platforms such as Google Meet, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Joon Yeng Hew, co-founder Pigeonhole Live, an audience interaction tool, agrees. He said that leaving technology out of corporate communications can be a "huge missed opportunity, not just to impress stakeholders, but also to make your internal processes more informed and efficient”.
From an event marketing standpoint, some of the most important new tech tools include chat bots, personalisation tokens, programmatic advertising, and marketing automation that "work while we sleep and let humans focus on optimising things like messaging, targeting, and creative," said Thomas Christmann, director of enterprise accounts at Feathr, a marketing platform for events.
Christmann added that automation directly increases efficiency when promoting events. He gave the example of how Feathr Ads automates the buying and selling of digital ad space, while the Invites tool automates the creation of marketing collateral for event speakers, exhibitors, and partners.
“By leveraging this technology, event organisers can save money and focus on optimising and targeting their advertising campaigns more effectively."
New tech tools
Stepping into the digital world of booking services is VenueHub, which offers more than 1,200 unique event spaces in Hong Kong. Event organisers can source the type of venue they’re looking for, then have a virtual tour of the space.
“Perhaps the most obvious [benefit of virtual site inspections] is that it allows you to explore a venue without having to go anywhere, especially during a pandemic," said Schipper. The company is expanding into Shanghai as well.
Meanwhile, Grip has evolved from a networking app to a platform where event organisers can create virtual, hybrid and live event experiences. “Our AI assisted technology provides insights to support professionals when connecting, or data points to substantiate the value of event experiences,” said Tim Groot, CEO and founder.
He highlighted some of the notable trends in the booking, sourcing and planning process — such as smaller, more localised events, and online-offline meets. "The technology associated with hosting and running events is robust enough now that it’s likely audiences will expect digital sessions as part of an event programme, with hybrid models becoming the 'new normal’."
Groot also noted that corporate planners will want more ‘smart venue’ technology (like beacon technology) to be readily available or easily integrated into location-based services. “In terms of planning, virtual events produce a vast amount of data for event organisers, providing unprecedented insight into the behaviour and priorities of exhibitors and attendees, which can assist decisions when planning in-person, hybrid or virtual events, making event planning a more focused and insight-driven process in future."
Then there's TROOP, a new business formed during the pandemic after its founders realised that finding the optimal location to meet was complicated, took a lot of time and often resulted in the location being decided based on opinions rather than data.
Now, corporate travel managers and meeting planners can select event destinations based on objective intelligence, and track everything from travel restrictions to quarantine required to narrow down a safer destination for the next meeting — a novel and crucial feature for future bookings. Other usual business considerations such as journey times, hotel proximity and climate are included.
“Our customers require data that is up-to-date so we refresh our data daily from a variety of sources including government agencies, John Hopkins and our own risk and safety partner,” said Spencer Brace, head of growth strategy. “Our tool is designed to connect with any third-party data source so as the source of truth changes, or a more granular level of data is required, we can add in the relevant data source."
Are bookings coming in?
“Corporate events like webinars, live streaming, conference, seminar and staff training hold a dominant position in recent bookings,” said Schipper. “We have also seen an increase in enquiries for photo studios and cooking studios."
Recently, Grip has been working with leads in Asia, particularly Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and China — specifically Shenzhen and Shanghai. “We saw huge uptake of our virtual offerings over the past year and a half,” said Groot. “Sales and bookings following this trend have continued, with many corporates adopting hybrid event formats as we look to make a partial return to in-person events."
Christmann has seen the same increase in Asian business. “The government's partnership with events in Asian countries has allowed for a great flow of information, so we have recently had partnerships with Gastech in Singapore and Super 8 in Kuala Lumpur."
Is the tech here to stay?
With global vaccinations underway and hope returning, everyone's asking: Will virtual meetings replace in-person attendance for the long run?
TROOP’s Brace said the company will continue to work with corporations, travel management companies and airlines alike to facilitate better planning. “People will continue to meet in person, however we will see a more thoughtful approach being taken on whether they are in-person, virtual or hybrid.
“We also expect a more regional approach to meetings and events in the short term as restrictions and quarantine continue to hold back a more global approach with these regional meetings linking together for a virtual connection where time zones permit."
Schipper added that hybrid events and small in-person audiences coupled with high-attendance virtual events will help the industry ease into larger-scale events.
As for Groot, his view is that "more than ever before, it’s imperative that sectors share expertise and foster collaboration to drive industry innovation, as we continue to adapt to the changes brought about by a global pandemic".
Feathr's Christmann noted another trend that's gaining traction: “We’ve seen since the onset of the pandemic an increased interest in expanding digital sponsorship offerings. After seeing great results from retargeting ads for their own promotions, many of our clients are monetising their audiences and offering retargeting packages to their sponsors."