Adam Shapland, Associate Director of CSM Sport & Entertainment, shares how the events agency is evolving and planning for the future.
How do you see the event agency landscape changing?
If you’re asking someone to travel a thousand miles across the world, the event has to be worth it. Otherwise, they’ll sit at home and attend from there. All face-to-face, hybrid or virtual events have to be to a very high standard and the event agency delivering that has to provide a good proposal with all three elements to it. If you’re only going to focus on one, you may lose out.
What are your biggest challenges as an agency?
Having, or getting on board, the right people with the right skillset that have embraced virtual and hybrid. The events industry as a whole needs more people to embrace it and come on board as there’s a real mix of skillset needed.
What specific challenges are your clients facing, particularly with the digitalization of events?
The natural habitat for networking and B2B events is face-to-face. The challenge for our clients, and in turn for us, is to provide a solution that answers what the world’s been used to (networking, exhibitions, hospitality) that’s engaging and also relevant for the generation to come.
Every client wants to see a tried and tested example as budget and ROI are so crucial, especially now. They may not initially be willing to commit to it, even though they have the ability to connect the world in one place. The challenge for them is jumping first and committing. But they need to have confidence in virtual and hybrid solutions before they commit.
Earlier this year we delivered the first-ever extended reality virtual squad reveal for The British and Irish Lions. It’s one of the most anticipated moments in world sport and our client was keen to deliver something different in a Covid environment, which was producing the reveal of the rugby captain and squad through virtual reality.
The show included in-person interviews, interviews via Zoom brought onto the stage, and the use of AR technology to “teleport” the Captain, Alun Wyn-Jones, into the environment from a remote location. This technology had never been seen before for a live rightsholder announcement broadcast to the public.
The event offered fans worldwide an engaging viewing experience and the client was delighted with the project and the resulting social engagement numbers, and broadcast and media exposure. This was a good example of a client jumping first, committing, and seeing fantastic results.
What have been your biggest lessons learned?
Audiences are used to seeing broadcast-ready content and you need to provide a solution for that at your virtual or hybrid event. A single-person Zoom or Teams platform won’t cut it. Audiences want to be engaged with speakers, programs, and content.
Looking ahead, what event trends are you seeing from your clients and future bookings?
Everything has to be looked at from a global-to-local perspective. You and your client have to ask, ‘Will the audience get on a plane and travel to this?’. The event has to be really good and worthwhile, otherwise, the audience won’t be engaged.
We also have to acknowledge that tomorrow’s consumers will have radically different expectations in terms of experiences and what consumers and fans will want. Technology is catching up with real-world solutions very quickly.
Augmented Reality is in every smartphone around the world, in the palm of the audience’s hand. VR and smart speakers are part of everyday real life and our transactions, and this is where the virtual world will begin to connect with the real world.
I believe the events industry will adapt but organizers are still getting to grips with virtual/hybrid as a concept and still playing safe. The industry needs pilots and pioneers to test and then everyone will embrace.
The emergence of the MetaWorld and the crossover into virtual worlds is on the rise with gaming, NFT & crypto, and the events world hasn’t yet embraced that. That’s what I see as the future of events – transporting people to places they won’t ever go to and unlocking experiences they won’t ever find. 5G will be imperative to this – it will make virtual and hybrid events much more prevalent than they have been before.