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How SA's Events Industry Can Survive During #LightSARed

16 September 2020 | 0 comments | Posted by Sizakele Nene in Extravaganza

How to improve SA's event industry

As shelter in place and social distancing measures continue to be the norm, certain industries have found it hard to adapt their business model and remain in operation, one of them being the event hosting and planning industry. Placing a limit on what they can do with their venues or additional service providers that all form part of the event planning ecosystem.

While some have been able to pivot to offer virtual events, this is far from sufficient to generate the incomes these event hosting businesses are accustom to when trying to manage expenses and grow their business.

Earlier this month, the technical production and events industry started the #LightSAred initiative in an attempt to draw attention to the effect the lockdown has had on their ability to earn a living. With organisations like Facebook, WHO and Twitter also cancelling their major annual conferences as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's clear that the industry's earnings have been suffocated completely, with little hope of being resuscitated soon.

We spoke to some of the local industry players in events to get a sense of the impact of the pandemic, and put together some insights for the industry's survival during this challenging time.

The biggest concern

Paul Ward of Event Bars, a bar service provider for events in Gauteng and KZN, says that the biggest concern for his company is not able to generate an income for over five months, with no sign of change even as we enter lockdown level 2. Mr Ward goes on to explain that these effects have impacted most individuals in the industry, who've either been put on a "no work / no pay" package or have been retrenched.

"The situation impacts a vast majority of technical crew and freelancers who are all finding themselves without any form of income and unable to honour rentals on our large storage facilities, vehicles, buildings and staff salaries,"

Explains Ilona Du Preez of Scarab Events and Promotions.

The power of connection

While the lockdown is definitely a necessary means to prevent the spread of COVID-19, one thing that can't be escaped is the need for human connection. The events industry is undoubtedly adept at honing in on this need, which can still be done during this pandemic.

According to a Bizzabo study, 95% of respondents don't believe that virtual events will completely replace in-person events. This sentiment is somewhat echoed by Event Bars' Paul Ward, who says that

"Although digital has provided a great platform for some online events, it's not a direct substitute for events as we know them" due to people's craving for "personal interaction".

Another issue is the limited amount of offerings which can be provided online. Ilona Du Preez agrees too, stating that the online reach is

"simply not wide enough to substitute the income loss of live gigs and events".

Despite this, however, it's certainly possible to host successful virtual events as well as hybrid virtual and in-person events. While most individuals in the events industry don't believe that digital can ever fully replace in-person events, more than 93% of event marketers are investing in virtual events in 2020.

Furthermore, digital platforms and tools continue to be a critical factor in keeping the events industry running during the lockdown. Digital has helped to raise awareness of the industry's plight through social media. It's also the key to promoting virtual events, as well as offering participants a way to share their feedback to make said events better.

Changing times

With the country now in level 2 lockdown, individual live events including conferences, meetings, sporting activities and concerts are now permitted subject to the updated regulations. Hybrid virtual/live events can offer unique opportunities to bring back personal interaction while still operating within the current rules.

According to congex.com, hybrid events enable a

"small group to attend a face-to-face discussion and involve a broad audience through multiple digital channels. Guests from around the globe can convene and listen to the round table discussion from experts; they can also contribute and interact with other invitees".

What can we, as organisations and individuals, do to support the events industry?

According to Ilona Du Preez, we can support non-profit organisations put in place to assist technical crew, staff and entertainers during this time. We can also opt for rescheduling, rather than cancelling, our pre-lockdown planned events.

Now that the #LightSARed has reached citizens across the country and even received a response from Government, coupled with the recent move into Level 2 lockdown, we may be entering the light at the end of the tunnel for the events industry.

For tips on how to utilise your digital marketing as well as diversify your offerings during COVID-19 times, read our survival guides for the Wedding Industry, as well as the Hospitality Industry.

About the author

Sizakele Nene is an avid lover of books and all things language. When she’s not conjuring up plans to end injustice and poor grammar, she’s fulfilling her role as Brand Strategist and Content Lead at Arc Interactive. If you need help with digital marketing, social media strategy or web development for your events company,

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Recommended reading

If you enjoyed this post and have time to spare why not check out these related posts and dive deeper down the rabbit hole that is events.

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