A New Era in Events: Trends and Opportunities Amidst a Transforming Industry

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By Scotty O’Brien

Not to get too political, but the current leadership in our country did say that, in February 2020, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.” Again, in March 2020, it was stated that “This was unexpected… And it hit the world… And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it, and it will go away. Just stay calm; it will go away.”

I have to be honest; I wrote this story at the end of October. I do not feel that the current situation is under control, nor is it going to go away anytime soon.  From working with meeting planner clients for nearly 30 years, my gut feeling is that the effects of this pandemic on our industry will not diminish anytime soon. In the same conversations with them, it is apparent that the meeting planners’ corporate attorneys will not allow their meetings to happen anytime soon.

It only makes sense that the ABC Company is not about to be the first company in the nation to risk a major outbreak at their meeting, regardless of the city and state they chose for their event. That is not going to happen. The attorney’s job is to protect the interests of the company, and their concern is not about our industry, our jobs, or our family, or our financial security. This is a good decision on the part of the well-paid lawyer, not so good for the underpaid planner. But it is the way it is, and there is not much we can do aside from adapting. Make some changes, at least for a while.

Staying in Front of Planners… Differently

Forget the entertainment side of my career… that is gone, for a long while at least. But the audio/visual side… the Visionwork Group may still stand a chance. I have seen many changes in the quotes and proposals I have sent out to clients over the past eight months. They contain far less line items to provide, but instead show an increase in billable labor. For now, the days past of large truss-hung screens, intelligent lighting, video walls and line array sound systems leave equipment collecting dust in the warehouse. But the labor-intensive LiveStreaming equipment is suddenly necessary like never before.

Now more than ever, creativity will be key in proposing, securing, and executing successful meetings. The good news is that organizations, large and small, still must have meetings to function properly and to grow their financial portfolio. Between the reported status of hotel occupancy at an all-time low, six-foot social distancing, and the mandatory wearing of masks,  typical procedures are not going to be the same for a while. As a small business supplier, I must appeal to the planner on a completely different level.

Proper Execution of LiveSteam Events

To be honest, this serves as an advantage to me as a sole proprietor. I can, and will, customize my client’s experience according to their wants and needs with attention to current CDC guidelines and limitations. VWG has never provided cookie-cutter day-in/day-out services… which is now more advantageous more than ever. We will take the time to help the client stand out above the rest and add the creative flair to their project that larger companies simply cannot provide.

One additional thing that I have observed since March is that clients require a lot more “hand-holding” than before. Orders were placed, negotiated, signed, and fulfilled in years past. Now, options must be presented, processes must be explained in detail, and competitive pricing is essential. I say the last comment with discretion because there are suddenly a lot of start-up companies that went to Best Buy and bought the cheap stuff. Suddenly, they know how to do the job that I have held as a career. All offense intended­– their lack of experience, cheap and unreliable equipment, lack of knowledge, and professionalism, combined with devalued pricing, tarnishes the industry for real professionals and more importantly, the clients.

Future A/V Opportunities 

I truly feel that LiveStreaming is going to be here for a while. While COVID-19 exists, this technology provides a safe and practical way of having that necessary, quarterly corporate meeting. Once the planners and management understand that people do not have to travel as much to still get their message across, organizations will more freely start to embrace it. I also believe that this technology will be around long after the pandemic, as clients (and their accountants) can realize monetary savings in their budgets.

As far as opportunities for the near future, I feel that our industry is going to become much more specialized and require more specific training to provide the growing demands of our clientele. Thankfully, the aforementioned startups will fall to the wayside and those with skills will thrive… if, and only if, meetings continue to grow and add dates to the calendar. For those wonderful folks that have larger A/V companies, they will have to figure out their staffing and labor. I believe that will be the trickiest part of the equation.

I personally can’t wait for large scale meetings to return. There is nothing like having your favorite keynote come out to a roaring applause of 1,500 people in a fully catered hotel ballroom. Nothing can replace the emotions felt by the crowd together as one for this experience. But for now, the Visionwork Group will provide the best of the best in LiveStreaming technology to the clients that we are blessed to work with.

MK

To learn more about the Visionwork Group, visit visionworkgroup.com or call (636) 207-9999.

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