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Good venue data holds the key...
Tuesday 11 August 2020
Data always has a better grip on reality than opinion. And, with virtual/digital events offering data and metrics in abundance, will the 'traditional' model hold up? We think face-to-face events will get stronger but there is a lot at stake and they will be under pressure from all angles.
GUEST BLOG: Peter Heath, MD, Venue Performance
I'm sure you've all been reading lots recently about the rise of and potential for virtual events. All my clients are events venues so naturally, they are all concerned about this.
Is the virtual and/or hybrid event an opportunity or a threat?
Well, that depends on who you are talking to:
Caterers - threat
AV companies - opportunity
Venues - somewhere in the middle....or probably both.
But what about the clients, the people who actually pay for the events?
For them, it's a massive opportunity and a very exciting one at that.
And for that reason, it should be a very exciting future for everyone. And I mean everyone. I don't think the threat will last long for anyone. We will fly again, we will meet again and we will socialise again.
I've been keeping an eye on the travel market. Business travel drives hotels and airlines. Hotels are funded by business travellers (predominantly) and hotels provide the event spaces that are the spratt to catch the mackerel of beds. Hotel beds earn 80% (gross) profit (or should do) and M&E earns 20% (gross) profit. It's no wonder then that hotels usually have conference facilities built in to catch the business bed, where they earn decent profits. Hilton has recently invested in developing an extra 180,000 beds since lockdown. That's either very smart or the dumbest thing ever. I'm sure you will have your opinion. Me? I'm a data guy, so I go with the numbers.
Jim Barksdale, head of Netscape, once said:
"If we have data, let's look at data. If all we have are opinions, let's go with mine."
Of course, everyone is trying desperately hard to pivot, if only to show to their board, themselves and their investors that they are doing something. It's a bit like some advice I was given once when I worked for a large corporation. A colleague told me "Whenever you walk around the building, always have a piece of paper in your hand so that you look like you're going somewhere and doing something". Many companies are doing just that, walking around with bits of paper (pivoting) but not really knowing what they're doing.
There are some dire (and comical) stories coming out about virtual conferences, online events and other internet related 'digital' stories.
"Who's turning the platform on"? said an event manager on the day of the (digital) 'event'.
Who's integrating registration details between the systems?
Who's pressing the send button to get the 'go live' email message that was sent out on the wrong day - yes, seriously - the WRONG DAY....!
On the other hand, there are some really interesting stories coming out too about brands that have had lightbulb moments and realised that they don't have to change what they are doing, they just have to fast track what they were thinking anyway regarding engaging with their (event) audiences online. And guess what? they have discovered that it's not an 'instead of' measure, it's more of a 'whilst we can't' approach. When they can, they will be back - in all their event glory. Spending a LOT of money on their VIP delegates - in person. But whilst they can't they have simply accelerated the inevitable - online. They have also found out that not only is their reach wider but the ROI is greater. "Yes, we can". No that's not a reference to Barrack Obama's election pledge, it's a reference to the fact that we CAN measure digital reach, digital engagement, digital footprint and ultimately digital value.
Full disclosure. I run a business that measures the performance of venues with regards to the events they run/sell. On the surface, it could be that I'm one of the threatened. Not so. We will now start to measure the virtual element too.
In 2018, the average price per head for all event types was £90.22
In 2019, the average Price per Head was £91.47
2020's data will be a fascinating data set and of course, the devil is always in the detail, which incidentally we have. Our platform and data can dig into different event types and event sizes, and any period and then slice and dice that data again. As I said, I'm a data man.
So my question is, what will the data tell us in 2021 and beyond?
What will the shift be?
Will the 'in-person' events command a premium because it's where you wine and dine and roll out the red carpet for your VIPs, whilst the masses engage online, around the world and will the number and size of the in-person events change?
Watch this space. Digital is coming and our platform will have the (data) answers.
Peter Heath is the founder of Venue Performance, an online benchmarking platform for the M&E industry