How Business Events Have Adapted to the COVID-19 Crisis

The global COVID-19 pandemic has taken over the whole world, forcing businesses to adapt and innovate to stay afloat in this unprecedented time. The events sector is heavily influenced by the spread of the virus, with physical events not being able to take place in many parts of the world.

Now that restrictions are slowly being lifted, we asked some of the business conferences in the region how they’ve adapted and overcome the challenges no one could have foreseen.

Latitude59 in Tallinn, Arctic15 in Helsinki, and Login in Vilnius are some of the many events that have had to postpone their event. Why did you choose to postpone the event instead of moving it online?

“Arctic15 experience cannot be replicated in an online environment, so we do not want our participants to associate the brand directly to the online version. If we would do something online, it could be "powered by Arctic15" and have the spirit.” Ivan Kraft, Marketing at Arctic15

“We decided to postpone quite early on, a couple of days before the official State of Emergency was even declared in Estonia. At that point, not knowing everything we know now, we were still quite certain that we could have a full-on Latitude59 at the end of August so online wasn’t really an option then. We did consider going fully online for a bit but in the end settled on a hybrid format.” Maarja Pehk, CEO of Latitude59

“After closely analyzing all other major worldwide conferences, we see this date as relatively safe for organizing such a large event as LOGIN. Of course, we are ready to launch Plan C which is to move the conference online. Let's see what WHO will suggest! :)” Tomas Stasiukevičius, Head of Content at Login

Wolves Summit in Warsaw quickly pivoted to move their conference online in just a matter of days. Why did you decide on that approach?

“Start-ups need vital exposure right now, and by holding a monthly pitching contest, it allows them to gain the exposure as well as keep their pitching skills sharp.” Mike Chaffe, VP of Wolves Summit

How has the process of organizing your event changed related to the corona crisis?

“Everything changed. I’ve been joking that my undergrad Event Management course never involved a module on how to organise events during a global pandemic. /—/ We’ve spent the past months brainstorming, following other events, coming up with backup plans - and all this while working remotely, like a lot of others.” Maarja Pehk, CEO of Latitude59

“8 days away from our March edition, we pivoted to 100% virtual with the goal of transitioning all elements onto an online setting. We mentioned to carry out this transition very successful, and have now pivoted into a monthly startup pitching contests.” Mike Chaffe, VP of Wolves Summit

“We’re putting a lot more focus on consumers and the community, remapping their journey and values. One of the main values of sTARTUp Day and all of our side side-events is the atmosphere, so we’re constantly researching and testing platforms and opportunities to pass the vibe on in different scenarios.” Marili Vihmann, Head Organizer of sTARTUp Day

What advice do you have for other event organizers who have to quickly adapt to the situation?

“Don’t be afraid to innovate and be creative. I see a lot of events now taking similar approaches, so I encourage you to try new things to stand out and engage with the audience behind the screen. If you’ve had to change your event’s concept, do everything you can to fulfill your whole potential, even if there are fewer participants or the event is online. UX is more important than ever, so really put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and think about what they value the most.” Marili Vihmann, Head Organizer of sTARTUp Day

“Have a comprehensive project action plan, risk management and risk response plans. There is always a risk that something will go wrong with the conference and for every risk, you need to have the action plan. If X happens you do Y. Be like a Professor from Netflix series "Money heist" - have a plan for everything :)” Tomas Stasiukevičius, Head of Content at Login

“Don't try to transfer everything to the digital/virtual. Online events shouldn't try to emulate the same things that everyone experiences in real life / offline. Identify what is the additional value that the event would give / problem that the event would solve in real life and think digitally first. Maybe it's a completely different event format you're going for.” Madara Ermansone, CEO of TechChill

Do you have any words of reassurance to future participants?

“sTARTUp Day will happen no matter what and we’ll continue making it better and better every year. We’re putting a lot more research and effort into the health & safety of our participants, and if we have to go into Plan B or C, we won’t ever compromise on quality and the main values of the festival will stay the same.” Marili Vihmann, Head Organizer of sTARTUp Day

“Even it is looking very challenging now, we as humans will find a way to move forward and adapt to the situation. The need for physical meetings is still there.” Ivan Kraft, Marketing at Arctic15

“Once everyone figures out the new normal, it will be normal again. Yet, human connection is something that everyone appreciates and is missing. Conferences will still be the place where everyone migrates towards just because there is no alternative way to experience the randomness and genuine human connection.” Madara Ermansone, CEO of TechChill

What does the future of business events and conferences look like?

“It’ll definitely not be the same, for a very long time. But these new special circumstances are the perfect sandbox for testing out new ideas and concepts.” Maarja Pehk, CEO of Latitude59

“At least in the nearest future, conferences will have to put a lot of effort to ensure the safety of participants. Yes, we will wear masks and disinfect our hands all the time, maybe we will even have to check the body temperature of every participant, but life will get back to normal eventually and we will be back stronger and bigger as never before. ;)” Tomas Stasiukevičius, Head of Content at Login

“It is going to be increasingly difficult to make conferences economically viable. Major sponsors that were so essential to the viability of an event will no longer allocate budgets after seeing how efficient virtual events can be. Likewise from the VC ecosystem, LP’s will be restricting expenses on the GPs side, exerting more pressure on the number of people able to participate in live events.

‘Coopetition’ will be the new buzz word, whereby traditional competitors will join forces to create large events that sponsors will be willing to partner with, due to the sheer volume of attendees that will attend.” Mike Chaffe, VP of Wolves Summit

If you're already craving taking part in events, check out all the amazing conferences who are doing everything they can to innovate and adapt to the situation, while still providing their core values in any means available. 

Physical events:

Ϟ Latitude59 will be taking place as a hybrid event on 27–28 August 2020 in Tallinn, Estonia. 
Ϟ Login will be taking place on 24–25 September 2020 in Vilnius, Lithuania. 
Ϟ Arctic15 will be taking place in Helsinki. Stay tuned for updates through their website
Ϟ sTARTUp Day will take place on 27–29 January 2021 in Tartu, Estonia.
Ϟ Techill will also take place on 17–19 February 2021 in Riga, Latvia. 

Online events:

Ϟ Wolves Summit takes place every month online. 

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