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Tug of War: In-Person Events NOW VS LATER


Welcome Back Campers! In our last Summer Camp Session, we explored the financial and other business impacts of the pandemic and what it has meant for the event industry. We also put forth an activity meant to help recognize opportunities and weaknesses (aka Smoke Signals) that come when a company is facing challenging times. Remember… sometimes it is through adversity that brands find the inspiration to emerge stronger than ever.

In this Summer Camp Session, we’re going to “dig in” to what is shaping the future of events. Going back to that survey by EventMB, there are two forces “at work” in the event industry:

  1. A strong desire to return to in-person events
  2. A reluctance to resume pre-pandemic-style gatherings out of concern for safety.

When surveyed near the beginning of 2021…

– 68.3% of companies had NOT been able to host any live events VS 31.7% who DID host live events.
– 76.1% of companies had NOT hosted any in-person events in the past 6 months VS 23.9% who DID.
– Only 11.7% anticipated a return to in-person events before Q3 of 2021 VS 88.3% thinking later.
– 52% believe in person events will return in Q3/Q4 of 2021 VS 34.6% who say sometime in 2022.

Why does this matter? Quite simply, because for companies that are ready to host in-person events in 2021, the time to start planning is NOW. For those that aren’t comfortable with such a return, then it’s time to start shifting towards different solutions, including (but not limited to) virtual. Some of the concerns facing those who are hesitant to resume in-person events include:

  • Safety of attendees and stakeholders (55.5% of respondents)
  • Travel limitations (15% of respondents)
  • Lack of financial viability with lower in-person attendance (10.7% of respondents)
  • Logistics of physical distancing (7.7% of respondents)
  • Expense of social distancing and safety measures (6.0% of respondents)
  • Other budgeting concerns (5.1% of respondents)

Clearly, just like a game of Tug of War, the concerns and timing is going to continue to evolve and change over time. When asked what would make people confident to return to in-person events, the #1 answer was a widely accessible vaccine – which is continuing to rollout on a global basis. As it does, the push and pull over things like travel and quarantine restrictions, indoor or outdoor venues, and other similar scenarios will go back and forth as well.

Activity Time! Pull and Release 
Any time there is a difficult or important decision to be made, there are going to be two sides tugging in opposite directions. This is generally a good thing as it keeps anyone from leaping into a decision without thinking it all the way through. At other times, however, it can get teams stuck – just like a tug of war game going nowhere. Fortunately, getting unstuck can happen much the same way it does at camp.

  1. Look at the teams on both sides. Are they truly even? Is one team pulling with seniority and little effort while the other is pulling hard with effort but lacks the seniority to make something happen?
    Level the playing field and see what changes
  2. Who’s judging when one side wins? In traditional tug of war, there is a flag in the middle of the rope that must pass a line on either side for one to be declared the winner. It is not a requirement that the one team must pull the other through the mud.
    If one side has advanced the issue far enough, it’s time to stop pulling in the opposite direction and start being supportive. If someone is unable to declare a winner – look towards research or a customer opinion survey or other metrics to help make the decision clear.
  3. Is exhaustion setting in? Sometimes the team that wins tug of war isn’t the biggest or the strongest, it’s the one that conserved their energy, waiting until just the right moment to apply their efforts when resistance would be easiest to overcome.
    Consider whether your team would be better served by tabling the issue for another day. For something like in-person event planning, maybe knowing your location of choice has reached a certain level of vaccination in its local population might remove obstacles. Sit down and discuss this with your team rather than pulling against each other.

What internal tug-of-war are you having regarding a return to in-person events. Let us know at .  Until next time, stay sunny!  

About the VIBE Agency: The VIBE Agency is a Miami-based award-winning full-service production agency that specializes in the creation and orchestration of live and virtual experiences for the corporate industry.   The agency is forward-thinking and was recognized as one of the 50 top event companies by Special Events magazine in 2019 and 2020.  Most recently, Valerie Bihet, founder of the VIBE was named a Smart Women in Meetings 2021 Hall of Fame honoree by Smartmeetings, for her consistent work advancing the industry.  If it can’t be live, make it VIBE!

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