A new era for conferences and events

The need for networking and education continues, with flexibility and adaptation to the new reality as technology provides the answer yet again

March of 2020. The month which changed reality for us all. Today the COVID-19 pandemic is still here, with Greece and the entire word experiencing a second wave of cases. A return to what we knew is sure to take time, or, at least, transpire only once the vaccine is available to us. Until then, how do we proceed?

The hospitality sector has received a hard blow, and not just in regard to travel. The arrangement of conferences and events is an important piece of the pie for the survival of hotels, whether this concerns the accommodation of the delegates or the hosting of the events themselves.

Speaking in numbers, the cancellation and postponement rate for international events in Greece surpasses 95%, whilst there is a corresponding percentage for national events at conferencing venues, in accordance with a survey conducted within the first fortnight of July by the Hellenic Association of Professional Congress Organizers (HAPCO), the Athens-Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) and the Thessaloniki Convention Bureu (TCB). These cancellations and postponements are estimated to have resulted in a 69% reduction in turnover for hotels, venues and conference centers. 

Hybrid Conferencing Formats & Technology

But… Can we stop? The need for networking and training goes on, so flexibility and adaptation to the new reality through technology is our answer here as well. The digital transformation of such events may not be complete, but it could offer conferencing a new, “hybrid” form with small speaker panels and a wider audience of participants, who can observe and take part through online tools. A great number of events and exhibitions in Greece and abroad are now heading towards their virtual versions, and it’s certain that the rest will follow, with the internet and technology acting as their “lifelines”.

Something that will also flourish in the near future is the concept of small, more exclusive events. In larger venues than usual, through the observance of the necessary distancing, the appropriate measures as far as the banqueting element is concerned — the buffet is no longer in the picture — and reinforced by health measures, the next in-person events will be small and very targeted.

The new era for conferencing and events has the investment in advanced technological equipment as a prerequisite, so as to assist the ease of experience for participants. New, innovative technologies are sure to crop up so as to serve the industry in this transitional period, whilst selecting the most appropriate venue will also be given special importance. The guarantee of safety is what will make a difference for every venue/organizer, with versatile, spacious rooms becoming the most coveted. The success of an event will now be judged by the health and safety of its participants.

Networking cannot stop

On our way into the final quarter of the year, 2020 is a “lost year” for events, as will be a part of 2021, since some recovery is observable from spring of next year and thereafter. Events may seem difficult for the period that follows, but are by no means impossible. Either through technology or in small, flexible groups, networking cannot be abolished, but will be adapted to the current situation, until we are, once again, in the position to discuss the possibility of human contact. As in the case of travel, where the desire to discover new worlds can’t cease to exist, for conferencing and events, the thirst for knowledge and need to network will persist, finding its way back to normalcy once more.