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Opinion

Numbers, numbers…

Andy Stinton

Owner, Event Studio
Co-founder, Live Event Community

Everyone keeps talking about what number of people attending an event is safe. This seems to be based on capacities for event facilities, set by governing bodies. As a producer of a range of live events, the roadblocks to live events are much more complicated than these numbers suggest.

I’m not going to win popularity here, but as a business owner, there are realities that I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. These realities affect anyone in our business, and we should be mindful of them.

In person corporate events are not going to happen for some time, due to liability and insurance issues;

In person corporate events are not going to happen for some time, due to liability and insurance issues; no corporation is going to expose themselves to lawsuits and liabilities. Actually, “Lawsuits and Liabilities” would be a great name for a law firm, but I digress.

Many industry sectors have a ban on non-essential travel: no people, no live event. Additionally, the incentive to save company money is immense. A domestic, Canadian corporate in-person convention can cost $2.5 million, including costs for travel, hotel, food, rental and production. This can be replaced with a webcast/ broadcast. Say you pull out all the stops with a high-end online broadcast of this event, it might cost $250,000. That is big savings to the company, and the webcast/broadcast can go global, potentially reaching a much larger audience. Very attractive to the company bean counter.

Since April, I have been approaching my clients with our broadcast platform, which is visually sexy. Time and again, I’ve been turned away by clients who use heavy production for their live meetings, “Thanks, Andy. It looks great, but we are happy with Zoom”. How does one fight a platform costing $25 a month?

Now it’s August, and I’m starting to see the tide turning quite dramatically towards virtual events. Clients from every sector admit that they thought this COVID “thing” would be over by September. Well, it’s not, and these clients still have to communicate with their target audience in a more non-Zoom like way. Companies are looking at long-term virtual strategies and investing on a long-term basis.

Many events are ticketed and targeted at the public and industry, like Collision and Boots and Haerts . It’s obvious that attendance is king, but today in Canada there’s hesitation to even go to restaurants or board a plane. Promoters will back away until ALL the number crunching makes sense. I often hear about hybrid events, with simultaneous in-person and online elements. Adding a virtual component to a live event increases the budget, in an era where lowering overheads is the objective.

I could go on about presenters and bands trying to jump on a plane and cross borders, let alone the two-week isolation at either end of the gig.

Many still think that live events will come back shortly, and that online and virtual are passing fads. Smaller industry companies like A/V supply, Staging, Decor, Meeting Planners, and other industry suppliers are scared – they do not have the money in the bank to survive in the long term. Many industry suppliers fancy themselves webcast experts … this will not end well for them. However, webcast/broadcast need studios, and our techs and our industry have the skills to adapt to this work. They will stumble back, maybe not in its former glory, but let’s try to remain confident for some short-term success.

So standby in 5, 4, 3, ?????

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