Web Summit’s lavish online conference hosted a panel about the return of live events, alongside a star-studded cast of speakers
The team behind Web Summit, the world’s largest tech conference, recently held a digital edition of COLLISION, its event based in Toronto, Canada.
The online event ran 20-22 April, and attracted more than 38,000 people across three days.
Speaking at the event were a range of CEOs, celebrities and commentators which included Ryan Reynolds, David Beckham and Nicole Kidman. On the business front there was co-founder of Twitter Biz Stone, CEO of Wikipedia Katherine Maher and CEO of Paypal Dan Schulman.
Among the star-studded cast was some strong representation from the events industry – SISO chair Doug Emslie and UFI CEO Kai Hattendorf were joined by Forbes journalist Zach O’Malley Greenburg for a panel titled ‘What does recovery look like for the events industry?’
When asked what steps need to be in place for a return to live, Emslie pointed out that in many places around the world, we have already returned to live events. “China has been operational for nine months running events at scale,” he said.
Emslie added that SISO is putting the experience of the Asian markets to use: “We’ve been putting together some case studies for how people have brought events back safely. The All-Secure Standards have been put together by the associations and have become the norm. Governments and regulators have confidence now that we have the experience to run events safely.”
Hattendorf said that testing was not a one size fits all solution to bringing events back. Instead, the key was “having a series of protocols in place that make our show environment safe for our customers.” He added that “we’re building a volume of evidence that people can run safe events. We know how to do this. We’re showing that people can turn up to an exhibition and fill up their order book with no medical issues.”
O’Malley Greenburg asked Emslie and Hattendorf whether they thought anti-vaccination sentiment would affect the return to live events. Emslie’s response was a practical one: “I think a vaccine passport will become standard for any international flight. After a certain time, people will become comfortable with it. When you go to certain countries, you have to get vaccinated for diseases. Nobody complains about those.”
Emslie also mentioned the UK’s planned pilot events, taking place in April and May, which will be testing the water for the return of crowds. “You’ll need two bits of paper, and then you’re in. One is your ticket for the event, and the other is either proof that you’ve been vaccinated or a negative test result.”
O’Malley Greenburg’s final question was about the speed of the recovery – will the return of events be a switch going from off to on, or a dimmer slowly getting brighter? Hattendorf said it will probably look more like the latter: “This industry will work together in reopening like this industry worked together in lockdowns. We won’t be at pre-Covid level three months from now. It’ll ramp up as the market opens up, because of that confidence returning.
“Once people can have those face-to-face interactions, their phones will be going back in their pockets.”