The Association of African Exhibition Organisers’ (AAXO), collective concern over the past year switched rapidly from shock to actively seeking solutions within the largely uncertain parameters of Covid-19.
Reigniting the events industry is vital for its impact on networking and lead generation for the many brands and products that rely on the engagement and exposure events bring.
So, while we may have taken a pummelling in the early stages of the pandemic and lockdown, we are by no means out for the count. In fact, it may have taken the industry far longer to implement the digital solutions we have now, had it not been an absolute necessity.
Look and feel of the future of events
The hybrid concept of mixing in-person and live streaming is a valuable “in the meantime” response to taking events to the masses, where current protocols prevent that. I see this as a solution with a bright future, and one that can evolve into great value even when real-life events come back on stream.
The offerings that have been rapidly brought to light at this stage include virtual showrooms for brands and the ability to view goods and services and purchase them via e-commerce.
Post-Covid exhibitions are likely to combine multi-platform, device-agnostic events that run virtual simultaneously with in-person. The key benefit of a multitude of combinations is choice for exhibitors as well as real-time webinars for trading information, where attendees can engage from wherever they are in the world.
From a financial perspective, digital opens up huge opportunities for brands and organisations that are already offering online engagement and transactions, and is likely to drive digital transformation more rapidly in South Africa.
The evolution of opportunity
With the rapid upskilling of staff of all ages because of Covid coupled with the ongoing influx of digital natives to the workplace, opportunity for digital integration removes the restriction of venues, opening doors to every type of event to go hybrid.
Where the initial shock of lockdown brought a sense of despair, the equally speedy positive response is likely to prove invaluable to the exhibitions sector in years to come.
As we refine hybrid offerings, I see the live exhibition becoming more exciting with the backing of its digital counterpart, and profitability – financially and in customer satisfaction – growing.
Where some thought we’d be forced to throw in the towel, I believe now is the time to step into the ring for the full twelve rounds.