We’ve had three pieces of vaccine news in as many weeks, and ongoing developments in rapid testing which are helping to open up ‘green lanes’ like that between Germany and Singapore. So, what does this mean for physical, virtual and hybrid events? More specifically, what does this mean for EventProfs running those events or looking for work?
Let’s start with the vaccines. Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford all showing positive signs that we’ll see them begin to be distributed within the next couple of months, perhaps sooner. What are the obstacles, other than getting the all-important approval? The biggest challenge apparent to me is getting enough of the population willing to be vaccinated and understanding that being vaccinated doesn’t mean they can immediately go back to normal.
There is a vast amount of misinformation and distrust for these vaccines because they have been developed very quickly. Overcoming this misinformation and educating the public that any risks are truly very minimal will be a crucial battle in order to inoculate enough of the population for the vaccines to have the effect that they need. For my two-pence, any perceived risk of a vaccine pales in comparison to the very real effect the pandemic is having on current quality of life, so I shall take the vaccine at the first opportunity.
In order to be realistic about the time-frame in which the vaccines will impact our industry, we need to understand a couple of things. They are likely to need more than one dose, around a month apart. Experts are advising that you will not be immune to COVID-19 until about 6 weeks after the first dose, so don’t get the jab and throw away your mask, that’s not how this works. There are thirteen vaccines at Phase 3 so we can expect to see more and more being rolled out over the next six months or so. As time goes by we should see confidence returning to the market - just look at the Informa price going up (and Zoom plummeting) following the Pfizer announcement. Confidence breeds events, and events breed jobs.
So what about rapid testing? Beyond our industry’s mammoth achievement in proving we can run Covid-safe events, rapid testing is another layer of security to assist in bringing people back to our events in a shorter time-frame than vaccines alone. Testing is important on two fronts. Firstly, that word confidence again - testing gives confidence to our customers in a much more tangible form than hoping distance, masks and hygiene are successful in keeping an invisible foe away. Knowing that every single person at the event has a document with the word ‘negative’ on it just feels far more definitive.
Secondly, going back to the green lane between Germany and Singapore, testing will enable more and more of these green lanes to be established. With airlines such as Quantas pushing for ‘vaccine passports’ and IATA responding to say testing is more important in the short term, the prerequisite for either a test or vaccine in order to fly Internationally will slowly but surely enable global event organisers to physically host their international audiences once again.
To conclude, as the world opens up we will see physical participation return en masse. However, we’ve been dragged online this year, some of us kicking and screaming. The event businesses that have communicated effectively with their verticals and adapted to their customers’ changing needs will, more likely than not, have developed new revenue streams for themselves and added value for their communities. It isn’t one size fits all, and a handful of markets may see zero benefit from keeping any kind of online output. However, for the vast majority, this digital dawn will require additional headcount, new skills and expertise, and continuous adaptation. The world feels smaller than ever, but our potential customer base has never been bigger. We’re going to need more EventProfs, and that is very exciting.