It’s no secret that the Canadian events industry has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. With large in-person gatherings banned in most areas, industry stakeholders have had to get creative in order to survive. But with the hope that the new year brings, and the promise of widespread vaccination, it’s time to look towards the future. How has the events industry changed, and what will events look like in 2021?
To help answer these questions, we sought the expertise of Josh Taylor, Sales Manager and founding partner at X Events. With locations in Toronto, London, Calgary, and Vancouver, X Events has first-hand experience in adapting to the current challenges facing the industry.
X Events is a progressive, multi-faceted interactive production company that (under normal circumstances) provides exciting event support to Festivals of all sizes, Universities, Private and Corporate clients nationwide. COVID-19 has shifted the business to now also focus on creating original content for virtual events and a custom virtual event platform.
In our Q&A session with Josh, we asked him to share his thoughts about where events are headed, and how they will be different in a post-pandemic era. He also shares some great tips for his fellow event industry professionals trying to get through these difficult times.
Josh: X Events has always aimed to help our clients accomplish their event needs. When it became clear that 2020 was not going to be the year we expected, we reached out to our clients to see what they were hoping to achieve in terms of events, and to see if we could help with the creative aspect and execution of those ideas. It became evident that many clients were looking to turn their events virtual but didn’t know where to start.
The first thing we did was convert our warehouse into a production studio so we could develop and film original content for a virtual audience. Thankfully, we had an arsenal of talented entertainment professionals to draw from. We worked with them to create original video content including DIY Art Classes, Trivia Game Shows, Cooking Classes, and more. We could customize the film set to suit the theme of any event, and the client was able to host these videos on their own websites or social media pages.
Additionally, we also designed an online events platform called CEON for clients looking to provide more of a full event experience. With CEON, you could host pre-recorded or live entertainment, as well as visit different vendor booths in the marketplace.
Josh: A particularly enjoyable virtual event we did was for the town of White River, Ontario. White River hosts an annual Winnie-the-Pooh Festival, but had to come up with an alternative to the regular in-person event. We created a themed set for the stage to look like 100 Acre Woods (Winnie-the-Pooh’s home) and created both live and pre-recorded Winnie-the-Pooh themed variety shows. Since they had been running the festival for 32 years, it was great that we were able to help them keep the festival alive.
Josh: Suppliers have definitely been forced to think outside the box and pivot their businesses if they hope to survive. A production company we often partner with called SAVI started selling and distributing hand sanitizer to support their business.
Josh: I personally think we’ll see a hybrid style of events as we return to normal, where both live and virtual experiences happen simultaneously. When live events are allowed to happen again, there may be a percentage of people who wish to partake in the festival or conference, but are still uncomfortable with attending in person. We will have to consider ways to allow those people to participate from a more comfortable and safe distance. I think catering to both demographics of people will be in the best interest of event producers.
Josh: Absolutely! Like the rest of the event industry, I am certainly eagerly anticipating a return to the world of live events. I think our perception will change as we move forward. The event industry will put a stronger emphasis on things like available hand sanitizing stations, stepping up cleaning measures, etc. Wearing masks to events with a large number of people even after they are no longer mandatory may be a more common thing or will still be encouraged.
Josh: I would say it is very important to always be willing to adapt and pivot your business. You never know what is coming ahead so to be willing to change and go with the flow is crucial. Belonging to organizations like Festivals and Events Ontario has been helpful, as they provide support through constant information on government updates and opportunities we can take advantage of. Lastly, I think one of the best things is to connect with other suppliers and organizers to work together and maybe partner on new ideas. We’re all going through this. If we can support each other and get there together, it makes the process much easier to handle.
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