The media industry continues to struggle with getting back to a pre-pandemic conference and tradeshow routine. It’s such an important part of the value proposition for most media companies, and it’s equally important for the sectors they serve. Both buyers and sellers need face-to-face interaction.
We can ponder the fate of live events as much as we like. Digital platforms are improving and will continue as such. We’ve all gotten used to online events, and there’s plenty of value in not having to get on a plane and spend two or three days out of the office.
So maybe the frequency of live events changes, and we become more selective, but the fundamental need for in-person meetings (including sales calls and the like) will never disappear. It’s hardly necessary to restate their advantages.
Which takes me to two recent personal experiences. I spent a good part of last week struggling with my ambivalence about attending non-business in-person events. One would have been an indoor convention with thousands of people. The other was a smaller function, a local fundraiser. I just don’t know whether I want to expose myself if I can avoid it. I mean, why?
I’ve been ambivalent all along, but last week’s dilemma came in the wake of the news that a series of Phish concerts in New York last month were super-spreader events. Maybe half a dozen people in my small Facebook feed reported they got COVID at those shows.
Then, on Friday morning, I spoke to a colleague about an upcoming event where masking and proof of vaccination will be mandatory. The colleague politely objected, suggesting masking should be optional.
This is the dilemma the events industry faces as we come up on summer 2022. Professionals want and need in-person events. Buyers and sellers alike need them. But when they get into the details, they start asking questions like:
Even as event producers seek to create transparently safe spaces, all these concerns nevertheless exert downward pressure on event attendance.
I definitely faced this issue last month. I hosted an in-person event in NYC for my company, and I was getting advice from the event planner that I should have everyone show proof of a negative COVID test from the past 24 hours. Friends and colleagues said that was overkill and they wouldn't want to come if they needed to do that. In the end, I opted for this line: "We require proof of vaccination and request masks through out the event." We had a great turn out, more than 120 people at an indoor event. And though people started out wearing masks, 99 percent took them off halfway into the evening. The good news: I had no reports of any COVID cases after the event.
Good to hear.
Media Financial Management Association will be holding its 62nd Annual Conference Media Finance Focus 2022 next week in Tampa. We are expecting over 500 individuals!!! We are taking all kinds of precautions to make sure that all individuals are safe. We are requiring proof of vaccines, negative COVID tests, etc. Even offering different colored lanyards to identify those that may want to keep a bit of distance from others but do want to interact. I guess it all does come down to personal choice and common sense when attending large gatherings. Respecting each other's choices. We only had one person back out due to these requirements...everyone else is willing to abide by the rules and policies. I think that says something about how we all want to get back to some normalcy and are willing to do what needs to be done to do so. We hope we can hold the event without incident. Wish us and our attendees luck!
What's worse, getting COVID, or being forced to listen to Phish? Tough call.