Update on the Event Industry and the Coronavirus Outbreak

Like many other industries, it is a hard time to be a speakers bureau when the majority of our activities surround the placement of top speakers and talent for our clients’ live events. This might, in fact, even be compared to declaring DEFCON levels like in the 1983 movie War Games. If you haven’t seen it, by all means, now is the perfect time. A very young (and pre-Ferris Bueller) Matthew Broderick nearly launches a nuclear war by hacking from his home computer into his school’s computer to change his grades. The plot escalates quickly from there, and by the end of the movie our hero finds himself working with the FBI at NORAD to save us all from total global destruction. Sounds plausible, right? Movies of the 80’s were so wise beyond their years.

After all, we are basically fighting a war against an invisible enemy who has altered our way of life and is causing immeasurable global loss, fear and devastation. The amount of uncertainty around the virus itself is causing event planners to delay making decisions about their activities. 

We firmly believe that the live event industry will come back, stronger than ever, but the big question on everyone’s minds is, “When?” 

We are working with all of our clients to find solutions for their previously-scheduled events. We are happy that many of them have either rescheduled or are considering virtual event formats. Here’s what we’ve seen so far.

Short-Term Impact of Coronavirus on Events

At AAE, we’ve been busy helping our clients reschedule events. Over 40% of clients have already done so, and we’re encouraged by that number. It shows that we aren’t the only ones who are optimistic about the future of the event industry. 

We’ve also seen an expected increase in virtual event speaker requests. For many of our live event planners, this is not an area they know much about. Fortunately, our team is versed in the various virtual platforms, options and questions that come up, which allows us to truly partner with our clients to make sure their event needs are met.

Many of our top keynote speakers have reached out to us to make themselves available for virtual keynotes and events, showing that this pivot in the industry affects not just our event planners and conference organizers, but also that our talent is ready, willing, and able to pitch in to make their now-virtual events successful. Here’s an overview of special offers from virtual event speakers.

The PCMA COVID-19 Survey of Event Planners

If you haven’t seen this yet, the editors of PCMA Convene conducted and recently released the results of their survey that shares the initial impact of COVID-19 on the events industry.

According to PCMA’s study1, 70% of event professionals surveyed plan to move either all or part of their face-to-face events to a virtual platform. Respondents plan to do this at either a lower cost or free for participants, and will provide interactive features such as a Q&A session and polling. 

Nearly two-thirds of event planners and suppliers surveyed are expanding their skill sets to include learning how to successfully manage a virtual event. Most surveyed also believe that virtual events will have a place in event planning in the future. However, 62% do not believe it will completely replace face-to-face events. Many are hopeful that within 6 months, we’ll see live events return, but at what scale is anyone’s guess at this point.

PCMA is continuing their survey efforts in case you’d like to participate. They also have a ton of great resources on their site: https://www.pcma.org/.

Technology: A Few of our Favorite Things

Virtual event tools are also evolving with the times. Going far beyond traditional webinar platforms and into innovative technologies like virtual reality (VR) and holographics, experiential marketing technology is on the rise. Right alongside technology enhancements are enhanced security protocols to keep those technologies safe from hackers and running as expected.

Recently, tools like Zoom have invested a lot into improving security following a trend called zoombombing, where hackers were able to work their way into private meetings. Other tools like GoToMeeting, Webex, and Google Meet are also seeing unprecedented usage while employees adopt work-from-home strategies.

For events, if you’re looking for more of a full-service platform to help manage your virtual conference or event, there are tools like vFairs for your virtual conference or job fair, or BigMarker, which can provide you with marketing strategies in addition to your event production and coordination. If you’ve got the budget, these are a great option for your virtual event needs.

Moving Forward with Events

Whether the event is live or virtual, there are many benefits to being proactive with planning for the future. One benefit is that speakers who are typically harder to book are seeing their schedules with unprecedented openings. Thus, if there is someone you’ve always wanted to book, now might be the perfect time to explore that. Plus, AAE offers a flexibility guarantee if you move ahead with booking, which has helped many of our clients feel comfortable moving forward.

The answer to the magic question of “when will events be back to normal?” is yet to be determined. Also, what normal looks like for live events after this pandemic is up in the air. We do know one thing. The event industry is determined, resilient, and resourceful in challenging times, and we’re seeing examples of this every day here at AAE. We continue to focus on the future and its new world of possibilities, including innovative technology and hybrid-event formats that help us stay connected and engaged with our audiences. 


Jennifer Best: Jennifer Best is the Head of Marketing for All American Entertainment. Jen has been featured in print and digital publications, including Forbes.com, on digital marketing trending topics. She is a former SBA award-winning entrepreneur for her digital marketing work with small businesses. When she's not geeking out on Google Analytics and marketing automation, you'll find Jen cooking for her growing family or enjoying a great book.
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