Covid-19 and the disrupted event industry of Pakistan

  • 27 Jun - 03 Jul, 2020
  • Eman Saleem
  • Feature

The coming of the festival culture was taking big cities in Pakistan by storm; we were celebrating our literary arts at literature festivals, inking in qawwali nights with families in our calendars, saving up to dent our wallets at pricey food festivals testing the best of the eateries all in one place and whatnot. The festival culture was truly a feat for Pakistan… until the coronavirus breakout across the country (and the rest of the world) put life as we know it, at halt. Reshaping our present with a dedicated adaptation of digital mediums, the design of our future remains ambiguous and uncertain to the point that the world almost looks unrecognisable.

Disrupting business operations in its wake, the pandemic wrecked havoc in the event and PR industry in the country, causing immeasurable damage. Keys Production, Event and PR management company, produced an impact report that analysis the consequences of the crisis on the industry and how it can adapt to the new reality.

When it came to events all across the globe, there were two options available: cancel or postpone. In the early days of the pandemic, most events were either cancelled right away until the crisis worsened and timelines of returning to normal blurred to high improbabilities. Unprecedented crisis presses on the need for event insurance as a compulsory component for planners in the future.

Hasan Daudpota, CEO of Keys Productions says, “People will eventually adopt the change, but the question is timeline, which literally depends on everyone currently in the industry. Everyone will have to play a role. It would also open up doors for new players especially in tech and safety side." The report reiterates the need of the hour: a revolutionary transition to a digitised model for virtual events that can be monetising and marketed and it would require the industry to come together to understand the events market anew.

Virtual and hybrid events

While the industry rethinks the future, in the early days of the lockdown all attention was turned towards Instagram Live with multiple artists for sing along sessions and live interactions but something like IG Live which can be tuned in and out of with a mere tap is not the most apt platform for ticketing events. Newer technologies need to be adopted to deliver a seamless and engaging virtual event, a sector also lagging in Pakistan. The other option is hybrid events, which refer to a small number of live attendees as well as a digital audience, but resources and infrastructure to manage, both are lacking since the industry mainly depended on human resources. Another factor lacking is the industry players experience in this area. According to a survey conducted by PCMA of event planners and suppliers, 64 per cent of 1776 respondents say that they do not have the experience of managing a virtual event. This also requires heavy investments in technological equipment and operators, however, the need for ground staff at the venue will decrease. A shift is indicated in the kind of jobs digital events might offer and also, no longer offer.

Digitised events

According to the report, virtual event designer applications are circulating in the market with each application offering competitive options for engagement and networking to enhance the audience experience and event delivery. With the digital world not limited by geo fencing and global events accessible at the tap on the screen, organisers will also need to rethink the quality of content to keep audience engaged. From the investors POV, online events offer transparency and feedback in real-time which might be appealing to sponsors.

“We’re back live”

Will it be that easy? No. We might be back at our desks, but our understanding of the importance of health has intensified. Before returning to the little joys of our pre-pandemic lives, many of us are stopping to ask ourselves “is this safe?” Along with the substantial security costs of event management, there will now be an added health concern, which indicates a huge cost in the planning budget. Moreover, besides the numbers, there will also be skepticism in the masses to attend events with thick crowds. According the PCMA survey, 48 per cent planners speculate hesitancy by people in attending live events. It is also indicated that the return of live events will not make the digital events market obsolete, the two will run parallel and there may also be a demand in hybrid events, a trend that planners will have consider in the future.