After more than two decades working in events, Jennifer Brisman set up VOW, a communications hub for event planners. Here she talks about her business and industry fragmentation.
This article is sponsored by VOW.
How do you see the events industry evolving in 2021 and beyond?
The industry will remain in a holding pattern – as we have been – until June, and then will explode. I believe at the end of 2021, we will see a 20% growth in 2022/2023 bookings when compared to 2018.
In fact, I think grand scale event organizers will initiate multi-year deals and leverage competitive rates and operating costs to make up for lost revenues.
We will see an 8-10% increase in CAGR year on year from 2022 to 2030.
What are the big challenges?
Now, currently, in this new world order, we are experiencing a lot of new challenges.
Firstly, there is technical debt and switching costs. If we are producing virtual events, we’ll have to further adopt additional layers of technology fast and hire to support this. Virtual has the spotlight and event tech companies are innovating at lightspeed, making it impossible not to try on the next shiniest thing.
We’re now not only shuffling between dozens of events, people and platforms, very soon, we’ll be producing events in all types of omni-channel formats demanded by clients and shuffling between those different event formats and vastly different teams and tools for each.
Secondly, industry fragmentation is now worse than ever. Best practices are not tried, true or fully tested yet. There’s no single market leader (i.e. Apple) that is so distinguished from the pack. There’s no industry leader (i.e. Elon Musk) to tell us where the horizon line is.
Accessing talent is currently the Holy Grail. To tackle current real world problems, you need people. All types of ‘em. That is the biggest way I see the industry evolving – people will need more people than ever before.
Unseen competitors is another factor. Broadcasting is something that will be hard for virtual platforms to compete with. Broadcast demands a huge dollar, commercial exposure and existing audiences.
How do you think planners can overcome these challenges?
Planners need to start with the basics, get on page with clients, get the vision crystalized and be in alignment on KPIs. They need to work with their client to understand how they view and measure success on the most granular level. Can it be pictured? Is it measurable? Is it repeatable? And then all parties need to get in alignment. Is it achievable?
To date, many planners have delivered what the scope of technology will allow. They need to move beyond this.
Planners need to verticalize as much as possible and select technology that does so as well. One-size-fits-all anything will be heavy and counterproductive to orchestrating an extraordinary event experience of any type that drives engagement and increases the bottom line.
By verticalizing, planners can become subject-matter experts in a specific type of execution and constantly iterate on success for that market.
For example, vertical and hybrid event experiences for a large pharmaceutical company have different KPIs than one for a musical performance. A dynamic speaker panel and a trade show require a completely different technology and approach.
Planners need to create visual representations of the event tech stack that will be used to achieve their clients’ goals. That tech stack needs to be agreed upon by all parties and experts involved in the job.
From there, planners should flag the most complex areas for bumps and bruises and sort those out first before plotting, planning or payments occur. This is where people get stuck. They go full speed ahead focused just on the virtual event platform, and they don’t see the whole field.
Tell us briefly about VOW. What are the biggest problems you are trying to solve with the platform?
VOW is a communications hub for virtual, hybrid and live event experiences. VOW is the first all-in-one digital workplace solution that centralizes and streamlines how hospitality, meeting and event professionals, and their clients alike, talk and work.
We are actually solving a universal problem that all event professionals struggle with as they come together around all events and omni-channel event formats – fragmentation.
Everyday, millions of us – event planners, major event organizers, venues, vendors and our customers – are shuffling between multiple events, people and platforms to communicate and orchestrate – all working in our own systems while dealing with new technologies alongside legacy applications that are outdated.
That said, as innovative as we think we are, we have continued to push ourselves, to stay in touch with the existing and new pain points, which are evolving daily. The needle is always moving so we have worked to be agile and embrace gaps while working towards a better tomorrow.
What do you think the future looks like for the events industry?
Right now, the industry is hemorrhaging from massive losses in time, money and stress.
While virtual is all the rage, there’s actually a very modest population of business end users (event professionals) that are achieving or exceeding their 2018/2019 revenues and that’s a problem. Right now, the businesses doing exceptionally well are the new event tech companies, existing market leaders with event tech, such as Intrado, and those driving the largest events, such as Dreamforce.
That’s an issue long term for the industry. Event producers are eventually going to drive the experience – not customers – and go where they can make money while they service their clients. The ability for event producers to produce omni-channel events at scale is really the future of events.
Jennifer Brisman is founder and CEO of Vow.