Event management is among the industries that have been most badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While other struggling sectors such as retail, in-person services and restaurants have been able to create contingency arrangements, such as placing greater focus on online sales or pushing deliveries, live events have been shut down completely.
Worldwide government lockdowns, along with subsequent restrictions, have slashed the revenues of event management businesses practically overnight. As a result, many companies, both large and small, have pivoted their business models dramatically. In this post, we’re going to look at five of the most unusual, innovative and successful examples.
But first, what is a business “pivot”?
The term “pivot” describes a significant change of direction in a company’s core business model. In most cases, organizations that pivot do so because they are experiencing some kind of serious difficulty, whether related to shifting customer behaviours, market upheavals, internal crises or, as happened with the COVID-19 pandemic, an unforeseen and unavoidable natural or societal emergency.
Pivots represent fundamental shifts in a company’s foundational business strategy, and may involve changes to marketing strategies, product ranges, internal processes, infrastructure and supply chains, or any mix thereof. In the context of COVID-19, alterations to all of these elements have often occurred simultaneously.
1. Reuters Events: Virtual Conferences
Reuters purchased FC Business Intelligence in October of last year, marking a transition for the company into the events space. It promptly organized a programme of seventy events for the subsequent year. Fast forward six months, and all of those events had been cancelled. The newly-formed division, Reuters Events, which was meant to provide an additional revenue stream, rapidly turned into a potential liability.
Reuters quickly pivoted to an online events format. While virtual events have become relatively commonplace, what makes Reuters stand out is its unique approach. The company isn’t simply live-streaming traditional event formats. Rather, the innovative model relies on extensive post-conference attendee research, collaboration between participants, niche conferences for smaller audiences, and more.
Moving forward after the pandemic has passed, it is likely that Reuters will focus on a hybrid model that combines both in-person and global conferences, and leverages the success of its approach to virtual events.
2. Sotheby’s: Online Auctions
Sotheby’s, which is headquartered in New York City, is one of the world’s largest auction houses and specialises in collectibles, jewellery and fine art. With people reluctant and often unable to attend live auctions, there was a significant risk of diminished demand and revenue.
Instead of slowing its operations, however, Sotheby’s has instead pivoted to a fully online auction model, with a corresponding shift in promotional initiatives and renewed presence in foreign markets.
And the results have surpassed expectations. An auction held in April focusing on 20th-century design set a record as one of the highest-grossing online auctions ever held, with more than half of all pieces exceeding their estimates.
3. Opera Philadelphia: Enhanced Online Shows
Dramatic and musical theatre companies are among the biggest casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most well-known theatres have closed their doors indefinitely, with no set date as to when they might reopen.
Virtual alternatives have also proven problematic. Part of the appeal of theatre performances is the fact they offer an in-person experience. Without this important element, you’re essentially left with a film without any special effects or editing.
Opera Philadelphia clearly understood this, and rather than transition to live-streamed events, the opera company instead opted to produce original films and release them on a dedicated online video channel. This on-demand subscription service, which is similar to other popular media platforms like Netflix and Disney+, makes use of special effects, professional video editing, green screens and so on.
President and General Director David Devan summed it up by saying, “If HBO were to take over an opera company it would sort of look like this.”
4. Citysocializer: Online Events Guide
Citysocializer, a platform that promoted in-person city events and meet-ups prior to the pandemic, has recently relaunched as a guide for virtual events. Citysocializer’s approach has proven effective because it occupies a clear gap in the market: paid events run by small business owners that don’t require high attendance numbers.
Citysocializer relies on its existing network of users, many of whom attend numerous events every week, while leveraging a large pool of independent creators, including yoga teachers, fitness instructors and cooking experts, that are looking for alternative ways to monetize their skills.
5. Stagekings: Desks Instead of Stages
Stagekings, a manufacturing company that relied exclusively on income from building temporary stage sets, undertook a dramatic pivot to deal with reduced demand.
With all the in-house experience and equipment required to work with large quantities of timber, the company started to make an assortment of desks suitable for use at home. In the process, it also started to use the brand name IsoKing.
The results have been an astounding success. Since undertaking this radical shift, the company has employed seventeen new members of staff and is considering expansion into foreign markets.
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If you are excited by the prospect of helping companies navigate tumultuous and uncertain territory by implementing original and innovative ideas, then you should consider a career in business. Nobody knows exactly what a post-COVID-19 world will look like, but companies of all sizes will require talented, forward-thinking leaders if they are to thrive.
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