Believe it or not, a successful event organizer recently said to me, “Now that face-to-face events are back, I can forget about event tech.” He had been in the business a while, but this comment made me realize that he is probably a dinosaur living on a different planet. Or not? This organizer is my friend, and we had a fascinating debate on this subject. He said that my reaction was a bit extremist.
Sound extremist? Let me elaborate on why I don't think so. I started my events career almost 30 years ago during my Apple days. Back then, way before virtual events and event tech, I realized that events were a fantastic marketing tool but disconnected from the annual marketing plan. Since those days, I have organized over 500 events. In every single one of them, I tried to understand different ways to use tech-generating efficiencies and potentially new revenue opportunities.
In 2008, I started Vesuvio Ventures. Part of our thesis was that event tech could be an attractive investment area. Why? Because events were a multi-trillion-dollar industry and almost isolated from tech during those days. Our thesis was correct but probably a bit ahead of its time back then. We paid the price for being ahead of the market regarding some specific opportunities. Some of our event tech investments died, but others snowballed and are very successful businesses today. Most importantly, we learned valuable lessons about timing in the VC world, particularly in our areas of expertise (event tech, martech, edtech, B2B SaaS and media tech).
In 2020, COVID happened, and from one day to the next, event tech was an excellent investment category. We saw billions of dollars deployed into thousands of event tech startups in a short time, and almost every event organizer engaged with event tech like never before.
I guess this situation generated some event tech fatigue for many organizers (like my friend). Now that face-to-face events are back at full speed (thank God for that), some organizers think they can relax and forget about tech.
Of course, I'm biased since I invest and advise tech startups in the space. Still, I honestly believe that tech will become more critical than ever for the future of our industry, and those organizers who will relax and go back to their pre-COVID comfort zone will pay a high price for that attitude in the future.
I've mentioned many times in books that I co-wrote, in blog posts like this or at one of the many conferences where I presented that our industry needed to engage with tech faster as a way to generate efficiencies and new revenue models, and improve ROI and NPS scores across all stakeholders. This is not because I invest in startups in this category—it is simply common sense. Software has been eating the world up for over a decade now, and events are no longer isolated.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked how the industry thinks events are returning, and if you study the results, you will see that 60% of the people who answered think that events are coming back with a different format and revenue model. But I think that more than 60% of our industry professionals believe that tech is not going away (I hope so!) and will be more important than ever before to keep our events growing, relevant, successful and profitable.
Tech and new talent skills are probably the most essential categories our industry should invest more in during the next decade to keep our market share and successful marketing tools. I believe that we learned a lot during the last couple of years on how tech could and should add value to our event's value proposition. Now is the time for industry professionals to double-down and keep investing in tech to improve events—all our events (face-to-face, virtual and hybrid).
I sincerely hope my friend is the exception.
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