The future of events post corona

“We need to get rid of that 'I organise, you buy' mentality’


What do you want to achieve? What is your role in society? Due to the corona crisis, many event professionals found time to reflect for once. Not Ken Veerman, one of the consultants connected to our centre of expertise Public Impact. He has been thinking about this for much longer. He helps organisations in the cultural and event sector to find the ultimate connection between an organisation's values and its audience. This year, he will go on tour with the master class on 'the future of events post corona', together with our centre of expertise. Time for a chat between this expert and Kaat Geboers, the driving force behind our Event Academy.


Kaat Geboers: The corona crisis shook the event sector. Figures from our centre of expertise show that 83% of event organisers had to cancel more than half of their events in 2020. More cancellations, more time to reflect?


Ken Veerman: It has never happened before that a sector that is normally constantly hard at work and in motion suddenly comes to a complete standstill. However, it offered many event professionals the opportunity to reflect on where they want to go to and what their role in society is. Suddenly, there was time and space to think about this. People active in the event sector often talk about the new insights they gained during this period. Insights about how to do things differently and better. For many event professionals, the past year and a half has meant a reset on the focus of what is and remains important.


Kaat Geboers: And what do you think is the essence of the event sector? What is their reason for being?


Ken Veerman: Events are not the 'extra in life', nor is it merely the ‘icing on the cake’ . Although some perceive it as only that. People really are in need to have actual connections and to meet other people. Events can contribute to this. The necessity and raison d'être of the event sector has never been so visible. It would be a missed opportunity, if an event organiser would not respond to this opportunity. In my opinion, it is best not to dream of an event sector like in 2019. We do need to go for events with a strong link to the public and society.


Kaat Geboers: Can you give an example of what the event sector should not copy from the period before the corona crisis?


Ken Veerman: We do not need the somewhat one-sided focus on ever-growing events anymore. More is not always better. Because of the obsession with headliners, organisers sometimes forget the core and that is: the experience of the visitors and the pleasure of being together. You do not need to snare Bruce Springsteen and you do not need eleven stages to have a successful event. In many cases the music is secondary to the meeting. In the future, meeting new people will become the raison to go to an event. We need to focus on the smaller-scale festivals with local artists. That means focusing on what people really want. And, a smaller-scale experience like this can also save money.


Kaat Geboers: As an organiser, how do you find out what people really want?


Ken Veerman: Ask your residents about events and give them the chance to think about the existing and future events they want to visit. And I do not mean via a form. Try to really engage with them, in a conversation. What do they want at an event? Interested people will be very happy to become part of this event community and they will want to participate. This way you ensure that residents want to come to the events again and again, as if they had a 'subscription' to the event offer. We have to get rid of the 'I organise, you buy' mentality.


The bottom line is: people want to meet people, whether they are acquaintances or strangers to them. Events are an excuse to get to know others and be together. This approach is especially interesting for smaller communities. For them, it is more important to create a connection between residents than to organise a second Rock Werchter.


Kaat Geboers: Good tip! In 2021 and 2022 you will be touring in Flanders together with our centre of expertise and you will be the headliner of our masterclass on the future of events. What can we expect? What are we going to learn?


Ken Veerman: During the Event Master Class 'the future of events post corona' I will go to the core: what is the vision and the policy on ‘meeting’ in your municipality? How can events strengthen this vision even more? I also will discuss the challenges of the sector in the future. We are currently in a learning phase. The corona crisis has made us less naive, more agile and richer in knowledge.


Kaat Geboers: The perfect timing for this master class! We are looking forward to it and we hope to welcome many event professionals. Each Event Master Class is also followed by a round table discussion with other event professionals. That way, you do not only learn from the experts but also from each other.


For registration and more information on the master class 'the future of events post corona': www.publiekeimpact.be/en-event-academy