James Morgan, chairman of the judging for the inaugural Digital Event Awards shares his thoughts on the pace of change shown by this year’s entrants.
When asked to chair the Digital Event Awards judging, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Digital events have usually been an add-on to other awards competitions. I thought a standalone awards programme for digital only events, would be risky. Seeing nearly 200 entries from 19 countries not only surprised me but made me think that the pivot to virtual events during a very trying time has been a phenomenal exercise in so many ways.
The first way in which the industry has shown its resilience is the pace at which technology platforms have adapted to new ways of working.
Back in March 2020, technology companies like Brella, Crowd Comms, Glisser, Grip, Hubilo, VenuIQ and Swapcard demonstrated how agile the event technology sector was by adapting their platforms to offer virtual and hybrid event solutions within weeks.
This pivot allowed large and small organisers both peace-of-mind that events could go-ahead and a variety of solutions that they could pair with varying event types.
However, this innovation surge was not limited to those established companies.
Platforms like Airmeet and Hopin are good examples of new companies that shot to fame overnight.
UK-based Hopin started its life at the London-based incubator Launch 22 in July 2019. Its initial investment of £10,000 has certainly taken it places. This month, it achieved unicorn status by attracting a Series C funding round of $400 million at a $5.65 billion market valuation.
Another way in which the pandemic has shown the resilience of the industry is how event professionals have developed – at a very fast pace – new skill-sets to make sure they create engaging experiences for their clients and organisations.
These new skills have been developed because of enquiring minds and also with industry professionals stepping up to offer new education opportunities on virtual event design and delivery. For example, William Thomson’s Virtual Event Campus kicked off a series of training camps in mid-2020.
Venues have also up-skilled and reconfigured themselves. This has been partly driven by the need for new revenue streams, as well as keeping clients happy during the ‘virtual-gold-rush’.
For example, the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London and the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore were straight out of the starting blocks with offers of digital recording studios; with many venues, as well as AV and production companies quickly following suit.
New revenue streams have also been created by event organisers. Looking at the entries, I have seen profitability like never before.
Whilst many production costs have gone down, revenue streams and profitability – due to an increased attendee reach that can be global – have soared.
Not only have we seen new revenue streams, but also new audiences that were hard-to-reach physically.
For example, Reed Pop’s METAVERSE – a global event for the Comic Con generation- achieved a global audience at one event. Usually the MGM Comic brand runs three events – in Australia, UK and USA. Technology has driven this global reach to attract greater numbers and new audiences.
Lastly, the ‘F’ word. The ‘Festivalisation’ of the virtual event offering is now an established norm.
For example, Exquisite Cocktails – offering virtual cocktail making sessions and creating the ‘touch, make and taste’ cocktail kits posted to attendees, have been a major hit with virtual audiences.
Whilst Song Division – the corporate entertainment company who engage attendees in creating corporate anthems and providing other musical entertainment, have gone from strength to strength.
In conclusion, the Digital Event Awards have not only demonstrated innovation in event design and delivery, and the resilience of the industry but also illustrated new benchmarks for the future of virtual and hybrid events.
Congratulations to all the winners.