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5 predictions for the future of events

While spending many hours, days and weeks at home during the lockdown, the way we socialise and enjoy entertainment has significantly changed.
Virtual socialising has rapidly become the new normal, with birthdays, dinner parties and even office functions moving online. Social gatherings now look very different, with a sea of faces on a screen and hosts offering icebreakers to get the conversation going without awkwardly talking over each other. One bonus for birthdays and other events is that friends and family in other countries can now join in on the fun. 

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Entertainment comes in the form of quizzes, virtual games, interactive experiences and streaming services offering all the new content they can muster. Though some people do claim to have already ‘finished Netflix’. Online platforms are taking centre stage as theatres and cinemas move performances and screenings online. 

With the world adapting in these ways and more, it’s natural for the mind to wander to thoughts of what life will look like in the longer-term, between full lockdown and the return to ‘normal’. Life is beginning to return to a semblance of its pre-lockdown state, but it’s likely to look very different until Covid-19 is no longer a threat. For the foreseeable future, many things will have to adapt to exist in these strange new times. 

© Pexels

Restaurants and gyms are likely to be a lot roomier when they do reopen, with limited capacity to allow people to have a safe distance between them. Perhaps we’ll see social distancing soap operas, with characters dramatically chucking a glass of water from a distance like an Olympic sport. Speaking of sports, it’s logical that tennis will grow in popularity while rugby and other contact sports (as we know them at least) are certainly out for now. 

When events came to a standstill, it wasn’t long before the innovations began with ideas springing forth to create income for staff and keep businesses going. Everything from music, theatre and comedy to exercise classes, education, museums and historic sites, has moved into the virtual realm. 

In some ways, we have access to more than ever before. Some of these innovations will remain, while real-world eventing will continue with some adaptations. 

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A rise in at-home options

From home, you can now visit countries on your bucket list without even leaving your couch ‒ saving a lot of money. It might not be the real deal, but it’s something for now and you’ll learn a lot about the destination for when you can eventually venture there. 

You can virtually explore everything from the Louvre in Paris, Yosemite National Park in California, Machu Picchu in Peru or the Great Wall of China to South Africa’s own Nelson Mandela Capture Site or Robben Island. 

Or you can bring some entertainment from the outside world into your home. Already, you can order food cooked by some of the country’s top chefs, take part in virtual escape rooms and interactive theatre experiences or partake in online classes in cooking, crafts and more.  

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You can order kits to your door to help you learn a new skill: everything you need to knit a scarf, make a macrame plant hanger, bake a cake, learn to screen print or paint ceramics. 

Winemakers in some of the world’s top wine-producing regions such as Australia and California are hosting in-home wine tasting experiences. Now that alcohol sales in South Africa are no longer banned, local wineries could well follow suit. 

More real-life events will be streamed and some may stay online only

As for real-world events, drive-in theatres are making a comeback around the world (including Cape Town’s own soon-to-launch Mother City Drive-In), festivals and music events are starting to take place where people are allocated designated, distanced spaces to dance with abandon, and full-blown rave suits have even been developed for partygoers determined not to be held back.  

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For many, however, the cost of producing an online event is significantly lower than the cost of hiring a venue ‒ and all the other associated costs of producing a live event. This may see some events preferring to stay online only.

Whatever the event, I expect that live streaming will become a part of events, replacing or augmenting live shows to capture larger audiences forever. 

Certain event sectors are well suited to streaming and have actually grown ticket sales numbers by making the move online. Live comedy is one such area. While performing to a silent camera is certainly not the easiest platform for comedians, who thrive from audience engagement and laughter feedback, those who have been able to make the switch to streaming have been able to draw in global audiences. 

Likewise, musicians have been performing for hordes of fans online and engaging directly with their audiences in a way never seen before. While live music is unlikely to disappear entirely, online is certainly a more viable platform to attract and grow audience numbers. 

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Screening at events

Until a vaccine is developed and distributed to the entire world, which understandably could take some time, any real-world events that do take place will have to have stringent safety measures in place. 

It is unclear when public gatherings will be allowed to return, and when they do it will almost certainly only be permitted with the appropriate safety measures in place.  

These will likely include a mandatory screening of all entrants to the event, a dedicated health and safety officer on-site, a health and safety plan that may include quarantine areas on-site, contact tracing measures, as well as pre-event communication to attendees to explain what to expect on the day with respect to safety policies. 

In addition, ticketing companies may need to assist in contact tracing. Attendees will be encouraged to still wear masks or be physically distanced from each other to limit the potential spread of contagions.

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Refund laws may need revising

With the swift spread of Covid-19 and resulting lockdown leading to many sudden event cancellations, a number of event organisers were left high and dry as event insurance providers cited communicable disease exclusions denying cancellation claims. 

I expect that either these policies will need to change, or event professionals may seek out other forms of event cancellation insurance. 

Consumer refund claims, which also threaten the livelihood of event organisers, may need a new form of treatment under consumer protection laws to navigate a post-pandemic world.

Digital interactivity at events

With half of the planet currently restricted from the outside world in many ways, event organisers have been pushed to learn more about online and digital environments to stay in touch and connected with audiences. 

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By Ruth Cooper 31 Mar 2020

These digital interactions may be so significant that they become a part of the way we interact permanently. 

Even as we return to physical gatherings, attendees may find digital activations and possibly even ways to connect with friends who aren't there physically. As we move from the virtual world back to reality, I’m certain that this interactivity and accessibility will prevail in the long term.

About James Tagg

James Tagg is co-founder and co-director of Quicket where he initially worked on the development of the platform and later shifted focus into operations as MD. With a background in web development, he is drawn towards automation and extracting efficiency from day to day operations in and out of the work environment.

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