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The Comeback

Five Ways We See COVID-19 Changing Events For The Better

Despite the physical distancing, the last few weeks have been highly social. We’ve had long calls and FaceTime happy hours with friends and colleagues, and with almost all of us in the same, decidedly vulnerable boat, we’re having much deeper conversations about the state of our lives and our businesses. Everyone is thinking about their comeback – when, and if it will happen. And with spring traditionally being packed with events, people are starting to ask us chilling questions. Will Panacea Collective events be back? Will they ever be the same?

Yes, and no.

Events are written in our human DNA. Throughout time and across cultures, people have gathered to be entertained and to celebrate the landmark moments of their lives. No past pandemic or modern catastrophic event has or will eliminate our fundamental human need to come together for shared experiences. Are virtual events a bigger thing now? Absolutely. But they’ll never replace the feeling of a 50,000 person sing-along, or the incredible buzz of being at a conference where you might meet your hero or get your startup funded. We wholeheartedly believe that events of all kinds are here to stay. Because we need them. They are essential to the soul.

They’ll also change. They’ll adapt to the new reality which includes (at least temporarily) fewer people being able to buy tickets, and more people with anxiety about germs. There will be upgrades in health, safety and sustainability.

Smart brands will invest in experiential marketing and events to make a personal connection to a world that’s tired of looking at screens. We anticipate the role of sponsorships shifting from writing checks and showcasing products to a more active role in facilitating experiences and co-creating with fans. Now more than ever, consumers want to align with brands that share their values and add value to their lives.

Events are also going to adapt to the way we’re changing - personally. As we’re hunkered down with only what is deemed “essential,” the Panacea Collective is looking within to examine what is truly essential to us, and where we’ve been investing our time and energy. We’re starting to make choices about where and what we want to focus on and experience moving forward. The events we create in the future are going to reflect that.

Here are Five Changes We Expect to See:

1. Increased number of localized, community events. People will want to be with their neighbors when we come out of this. They’re going to want to support the talent in their own communities and filter funds into their local economies.

2. More meaningful event experiences. No doubt we’ll see a huge wave of charity-driven events and events with a give-back component. But we also think we’ll see more uplifting experiences, more opportunities for personal growth and interpersonal connection, and more genre-bending and collaboration. We also expect more boutique festivals and intimate gatherings.

3. More virtual options. For a long time, producers feared that if an event wasn’t sold out, offering a digital/live-stream option would cannibalize ticket sales. Moving forward, we’ll see more of a demand for digital options, and new ways to monetize them.

4. Incredible innovation. We’re in awe of our friends at Tito’s for shifting their operations to produce desperately needed hand-sanitizer to get our country through this crisis. We expect to see those adorable bottles of life-saving genius floating about at our festivals in the near future, along with dozens of other inspired solutions. There will be innovation in safety and sanitation, and for larger events, a more scientific examination of crowd size and movement.

We expect to see major innovation around environmental and social sustainability as well. Shout-out to festivals like Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits Music Fest that have always led the way, from installing free water stations, ending the use of plastic water bottles, incorporating recycling and composting practices, and mandating the use of sustainable materials across food vendors. They’ve also been at the forefront of incorporating non-profit partners and giving them space to connect with audiences. We’ll be watching them, and the entire event production community to see what’s next, as well as incorporating innovations at our own events!

5. More Corporate & Social Responsibility. Global Citizen Festival transformed the model of profit and engagement at large events, leveraging the power of the collective to fight world poverty. In 2019, the festival raised $1 billion in commitments to the cause. We expect to see more mission-based events of all sizes, and more collaboration between events and fans to tackle local, national and international problems. The current helplessness that we’re all feeling trapped in our homes will transform into a desire to take positive action when this is over, so events that offer more ways to help than simply buying a ticket, will have a leg up.

We also anticipate that there will be fewer events without a charity component included, which is great. This downtime can be constructive for nonprofits to forge relationships with event producers who can make them the benefactor of a larger event. It will also be a good time for them to think about how to level up the experience of their signature events, and how to shore up their event marketing.

We’ll see how it all shakes out, but we’re pretty sure that corporate & social responsibility will be making a major shift from a nice-to-have, to a must-have at events.

There are still innumerable unknowns. As much as we all wish we could put that comeback date on a calendar and send the world an invite, our industry, like so many others, is in a holding pattern. But we know the time will come, and when it does, we’ll be there, helping people come together, because our souls need it.

For now, our event planners and designers are staying home, doing our part to flatten the curve while staying connected, flexible and honest about how this is changing on a day-to-day basis. Like most small businesses owners, we’ve seen everything we’ve built flash before our eyes, and it’s been terrifying. But it’s also been wildly illuminating. The very thought of not being able to do what we love, has highlighted how much we find purpose, fulfillment, and pride in putting smiles on people’s faces. It’s given us a new sense of mission. And these conversations we’re having with ourselves, our colleagues and our community are strengthening our relationships, changing the way we do business, and opening up whole new worlds of possibility.

Now that the initial shockwave is over, we’re starting to lean in, and let ourselves daydream about the kind of events we want to collaborate on in the future. We’d love to get your input! What kinds of events do you want to see moving forward?

Can’t wait to see you soon!

Lisa Hickey & Autumn Rich, The Panacea Collective

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