“This will blow over,” my next-door neighbor told me in early March, as I walked back from grabbing the mail with latex gloves on. COVID was in the US and there was a lot we didn’t know yet.
Instead, it blew up.
For the event industry, revenue plummeted overnight and refund requests came pouring in, creating a financial disaster unlike any other.
A lot of us in events felt our confidence shaken. When we build a business, it becomes part of our identity. When it struggles or fails, we question our self-worth. In this case, bringing people together transformed from a social good into the complete opposite: an illegal activity. The pandemic turned our worlds upside down.
But I believe things are about to change. Even as we enter the darkest moments of the pandemic, I have reasons to hope for 2021.
People want to get out 🚀
Americans are going stir crazy from a year of lockdowns and quarantines. Everyone is itching to get out and reconnect, meaning more pent-up demand for in-person events than ever before.
As soon as the CDC gives the all-clear for groups larger than 10 to gather, that demand will be unleashed in a rush of event planning for friends and family celebrations. Couples who postponed their weddings will put them back on the calendar. People will gather just because they can.
But when will that happen? I believe it could be sooner than we think.
Vaccinations and warm weather will converge ☀️
Vaccine distribution is ramping up significantly. In a matter of months, tens of millions of Americans will have been vaccinated just in time for warm weather to arrive.
The result? Important numbers like case count will begin to improve—a lot.
It’ll be worth spending to make it special 💰
Because in-person events will feel fresh and novel like never before, people will be more willing to splurge on event planners, venues, and entertainment. That’s where things really start to look up for the events industry.
I believe the ripple effect will usher in a new, golden new era for events—maybe even like the roaring 20s all over again.
Big events are another story 👩💻
Large events like SXSW are staying virtual in 2021. My prediction is that it will be later in the year, if not 2022, before festivals, conferences, or other large-scale events can be held primarily in-person again. For now, they’ll stay virtual or hybrid.
However, once we cross the herd immunity threshold and people can safely gather in large numbers, it could get crazy. What if everyone wants to go out at the same time? If that is the case, tickets to sporting events and concerts will be more expensive than ever, and places like restaurants and bars will have lines out their doors.
It’s time to get ready
I can’t see the future, of course, but if you think I’m right, now is the time to get ready for it. There are plenty of things you can do that won’t break the bank. If you wait until a surge comes to launch or restart your event business, you’ve waited too long.
Here are three ways to prepare for a better 2021.
1. Update your packages 🎁
The consensus among event industry veterans is that virtual events are here to stay. I agree, but I wouldn’t put all my eggs in that basket. If they peak this year and budgets shift back to in-person events, it would be a good idea to have offerings that address both.
The safest thing to do now is have a product mix that includes thoughtful solutions for both in-person and virtual events. More importantly, make sure you have a compelling “hybrid event” package for small to medium sized events that are likely to come back first.
2. Develop your web presence 📱
Event industry search keywords that mattered in 2019 are going to become important again in 2021.
If you can’t get to the first organic spot in Google, getting on the first page should put you in the running for a lot of new leads.
Given the unfortunate fact that a lot of event vendors have gone out of business and not all will have the capacity to handle more in-person bookings, leads may have to check with multiple vendors to find availability. The key is to make it as easy as possible for potential customers to find you.
Keep in mind that any changes to your website will take at least a few days to rank on Google, and often several weeks before they climb up the rankings at all, so it’s important to get ahead of the action. If you’re new to SEO, you can track your rankings with the Google Search Console and use Google Trends to research other keyword opportunities to publish content for.
3. Be ready to scale 📈
If you’re eager to grow fast when the demand increases, you can hedge your bets by preparing to increase capacity without making any final commitments just yet.
Start talking to new candidates and previous employees about availability in 2021, but keep an open timeframe. If you have a list of people on deck and ready to work, you can increase your capacity much quicker when the timing is right.
You might also consider researching what equipment or software you would need to handle multiple bookings. Suppliers may be more likely to give a great deal right now than when business picks up significantly.
If it makes more sense to stay small and not increase capacity, consider raising prices for hot dates in the summer and fall. Customers will understand if prices have changed in these uncertain times. If you book up, you can’t go back and charge more later.
The year of the comeback 🎉
We’ve accustomed ourselves to being cautious in the last 9 months. We’ve warned ourselves to take things one step at a time. Nobody is expecting a miracle.
But we might just catch a break soon. The pandemic caught us off guard, but we can be prepared for the recovery. This is the year of the comeback for the events industry.
Let’s make the most of it.
About the AuthorMark Hennings
Co-founder & CEO of Simple Booth
Mark led photo booths into the age of social media with the LiveBooth app in 2012 before reinventing them from the ground up with the original Simple Booth app in 2013. He has 12 years experience in the event industry that started in college when he launched his first business filming wedding videos.