"I see a boom in the realization of brand worlds".

The Corona crisis hit the live communications industry particularly hard, and it will continue. Habegger CEO Jürg Schwarz explains why Corona is accelerating the digital transformation.


ExpodataMr. Schwarz, what does the Corona crisis mean for the event industry in the medium and long term?

Jürg Schwarz: The Corona crisis will definitely change our industry. The planet "live communication" will take a slightly new orbit in the future - figuratively speaking. Video conferencing or virtual events have so far only been a stopgap solution for many. With this Corona time-out and the associated abstinence of physical meetings, virtual meetings have shown themselves in a whole new light. Today, we are all forced to use digital tools and suddenly realize what opportunities and freedoms they offer us! Of course, not all events will be virtual only in the future either. But I'm convinced that the digital seed for a new meeting culture has already begun to sprout and that it will be above all formats that combine the real event with the virtual world in the most optimal way that will prevail.


What formats will these be?

In addition to the hybrid event, i.e. an event that takes place physically but is also streamed virtually at the same time, the "Digital Twin" format is particularly interesting. Similar to a hybrid event, there is a physical and virtual staging. However, there is little difference between the two worlds. The virtual world is intended to replicate the physical event 1:1 where appropriate. Example: While the VIPs experience an industrial company's product presentation live on site, the virtually present audience is guided through the digitally modeled product. In this way, companies can also create alternatives for the purely physical trade show booth.


What business models are opening up for event organizers as a result of digitization?

I see digitization above all as an opportunity to increase the added value of an event. The virtual world offers organizers an additional platform to play out their event to a paid audience. Similar to how it is already handled today in sports pay TV. The mass of digital attendees can help fund the hybrid event. Imagine being able to attend a conference where Elon Musk is speaking for just five francs! I think it's important to mention that such digital events should be produced in a high-quality manner and the content must be tailored to the digital target group.


How high quality does an event have to be produced?

Streaming without additional content, such as the insertion of slides, videos or participant reactions, quickly looks unprofessional. In this way, a company would risk that the virtual participants would be disappointed and forego further digital as well as live events of this organizer.


What happens to networking live on site?

Networking is an important factor in the business world. I also value personal contact very much. But I'm already using LinkedIn more and more to get in touch with opinion leaders. The digital platform lets me meet people in a more targeted way than at a conference with 400 people. I see the same advantage when attending digital events. Of course, you're no longer going to stand in line together at the buffet and talk business over aperitifs. Instead, you'll have the opportunity to exchange ideas in virtual workshops or networking events - with a much broader audience. With a focus on content, without being immediately reduced to appearances.


What change do you see in public events?

I am convinced that public events will remain primarily live experiences that you physically attend. The emotions, the screaming, applauding masses, the magical moment can only be experienced on site. I even believe that after the Corona crisis, the need for shared group experiences will become even greater. The magic of such an event cannot be transported via computer. Nevertheless, digitization will not stop at public events.


Digitization of public events - what do you mean by that?

We may soon be able to visit our favorite musician live backstage at a concert thanks to VR glasses. For a fee, of course, but from the comfort of our own homes. Interactivity with the audience is always a central aspect here. A current example is the "living room concerts" such as "Tiny Desk Concert" or "Alles wird gut" in the empty Hallenstadion, which can be experienced via a streaming platform or via TV at home and the audience can interact live. These formats show me that concerts have an appeal even without physical presence. I can experience the artists in a private way, away from the glitz. Fading in audience reactions creates a we-experience that way, too. Digitalization as an interaction booster will probably be used more in the future.


You mention interaction. What does this mean for the organizer in terms of effort?

Today - depending on the type of event - 80 percent of the budget and focus is placed on the live experience, the physical event. With digitization and the expansion of the virtual experience, the digital world and the real world will continue to converge. The organizer has more opportunities to interact with the community before and after the live event. I expect this to expand or shift budgets and focus to the pre- and post-event phase. This is also attractive for potential sponsors.


Speaking of interaction: General meetings can also be held digitally. Is this the end of the free lunch for all shareholders?

What no one would have dreamed of three months ago, myself included, now seems to be becoming reality. A meeting room of a company is sufficient for the transmission of the statutory part.


So the small shareholders are left empty-handed?

With regard to the luncheon, yes. Exercising shareholders' rights, i.e. having a say and voting, is still guaranteed. Just no longer physically on site. But companies would do well to look for alternatives to keep small shareholders happy. I see a big boom in the realization of Brandworlds. This is a visitor zone at the company headquarters or elsewhere, which makes the brand tangible. Shareholders could pick up their goodie there. This would turn many shareholders into brand fans. Also, the majority of small shareholders are now of retirement age. The creation of the new brandworlds would therefore also offer the opportunity to serve the younger generation as a target group.

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