The restrictions on movement that the fight against COVID-19 necessitated brought the in-person events industry to a sudden and shuddering stop.
In Latin America where the personal touch is so valued in business, the termination of in-person events was particularly difficult. But the region has also experienced some of the worst effects of the pandemic, and with vaccination rates patchy at best, the return to conference venues still looks some way off.
Technologies have played their part in helping meetings remain possible and many new innovations have been born from the crisis, supporting the drive for business as normal and helping reduce concerns over the mental well-being of industry personnel.
Now, almost 12 months after the World Health Organization officially announced COVID-19 as a pandemic, thoughts are turning to the post-pandemic future.
We spoke to Miami-based Marco Giberti, founder and CEO of Vestuvio Ventures where he works as a corporate innovator VC and private equity investors, and author of the recently-published Reinventing Live: The Always-On Future of Events, to gain some insider knowledge on the future of corporate events and what, if anything, the pandemic has taught us about face-to-face conferences.
Q: The inability to meet and engage with business people in conference settings is extremely unwelcomed in Latin America – where face-to-face is so deeply cherished. Is it possible this experience will intensify interest in physical events in Latin America once we are in a herd immunity phase?
Giberti: The inability to meet face-to-face at tradeshows and conferences was a massive global problem for the last twelve months and will continue to be difficult at least for another six to nine months or more. Nevertheless, buyers and sellers are still connecting and finding new and exciting event technologies that allow new and existing connections to meet. As soon as we can go back to live events, we will see companies and people gradually returning to face-to-face events but also continuing to connect digitally in different ways. I just co-wrote a new book, “Reinventing Live” focused precisely on how live events could capitalize on this unique opportunity by engaging technology and innovation and creating better opportunities for events in the future.
Q: Digital events are sort of must-have during the last year. Do you see – even after the pandemic is over – a great ongoing reliance on online platforms?
Giberti: I believe that online – virtual events platforms – and offline platforms – trade shows, conferences etc. – will collaborate in the future more than ever. The future opportunity for creating hybrid events will allow event stakeholders – from organizers and exhibitors to visitors, venues, speakers and vendors – to capitalize on many new opportunities for making their events experience more productive.
Any event that adds value to their specific community & industry will continue to grow after the pandemic.
Q: What are your favorite innovations to come out of the pandemic, especially in business and tech conferences?
Giberti: We are seeing amazing new event tech startups growing faster than ever. Specific categories like matchmaking, registrations, virtual events platforms (all year long), and many other segments saw accelerated growth and adoption faster than ever during the pandemic. The quality and scale of these technologies are exponentially better than a couple of years ago.
Q: What is your projected timeframe for a return to in-person conferences in Latin America?
Giberti: Based on the latest research from global associations and leading organizers, I would say that late 2021 or early 2022 is probably a realistic forecast assuming that we don’t see any significant changes with the region’s vaccination plans.
Q: Do you believe that there will be the same level of engagement/enthusiasm for startup/boot camp events in the post-vaccine future as there was pre-pandemic?
Giberti: Any event that adds value to their specific community and industry will continue to grow after the pandemic. In the end, any successful event is facilitating trade and connections between buyers and sellers. The next generation of event organizers will need to rethink how they bring their community together and incorporate technology to increase more and better opportunities for their customers.
Q: What advice would you give to Latin American companies hoping to host digital-only, hybrid, or in-person events during 2021?
Giberti: We have a unique opportunity to rethink our investment at live events regardless of whether these events are happening virtual, hybrid, or face-to-face. My advice is to focus on simple ways to add value to your buyers’ and sellers’ community and think all year long instead of a couple of days for one specific event. There are significant differences between virtual and face-to-face events, and both options are valid for particular goals in your marketing and business development plans. I continue to be excited, now more than ever, about the future of live events as a critical marketing tool for global B2B trade opportunities. I hope that Latin American companies will be able to capitalize on this opportunity.