The Real Value of a Professional Conference Organiser
There is no questioning the intense and immediate impact the current pandemic has had on the events industry worldwide. Our time has been hijacked by cancellations and postponements, and while recessions have come before, the consequences of lockdown, social distancing and border closures have created a brand new set of obstacles for event organisers to manage.
Working on reduced time and under heightened pressures is the new norm. Conference venues and hotels have paused their operations. Exhibitor and sponsor money is tighter than ever. Hospitality and entertainment suppliers have re-imagined their offering or simply closed for good.
Recovery and survival for the events world has become dependent on reinvention. Many Professional Conference Organisers (PCOs) have already adopted hybrid ways of thinking into their practice, but the pandemic has only accelerated the importance of technology for the future of the industry. Webinar presentations, video streaming and online group chat rooms prove that moving digitally is not just a trend, but rather a much needed improvement to event design and production.
And while just about anyone with a stable internet connection can Zoom or hang out on Microsoft Teams, translating this exercise for hundreds and even thousands of delegates is not simple. Now more than ever, PCOs are required to successfully stage a virtual event.
It is obvious that meeting online is not the same as doing so face to face, but many of the logistics involved behind the scenes are comparable. Considerations about content, pricing, timing and promotion all need to be carefully managed in a congested virtual marketplace.
Maintaining the balance between engaging and informing delegates while also keeping their attention is critical and not easily achievable. Mimicking a traditional conference format is not viable in the fast paced internet world, and so accounting for a diverse range of session types and lengths from TED style talks to Q&A panels becomes key. Furthermore, incorporating features including online exhibition halls, timed networking sessions and high-profile international speakers is best achieved through expert guidance and specialised event software.
These same principles apply to the costs of online meetings, as sound financial management is foundational to the success of an event. While some fees are eliminated by transitioning virtually, including catering and accommodation, the overall budget can still equate to the turnover of a small business. Going at it without the connections and resources of a PCO is risky, particularly as the pandemic has already hit many organisations hard.
What becomes clear is that the value of and need for PCOs is vital. While some of the tools required for a hybrid or virtual event can be staged by clients, making it informative, innovative and financially viable is reliant on the input of a PCO.
Remaining supportive and collaborative is essential as the events industry recovers and transforms during the pandemic. Regardless of the delivery method, sustaining a positive relationship with a PCO will guarantee the best position possible for event success.
This article was created for the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers for the purpose of publication in The PCO (September Q3 2020 edition, page 38). The original article can be accessed here.