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Thoughts and Inspirations

Planning on holding an event or just curious how things work? here is a quick round-up of some pratical techniques, events technology updates, local rules and regulations for UAE events industry and checklists to get you going. If you feel like adding your voice here, email us on hello@afjevents.com

'Hybrid Events' The new face of MICE Industry Post COVID-19

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The meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry is obviously one of the most hard-hit sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has then sparked a domino effect on the region's tourism, hospitality, F&B sectors and tourist-dependent retailers. Although many have already resorted to virtual conferences, some have hinted that the shift is tipped towards a mix of physical and digital.

Last year, AFJ worked on various online solutions, including digital sign-in systems, micro-site construction, cloud interactive games, cloud lucky draw, and cloud albums and the push saw become part of many beautiful stories with our clients.Taking it further we have expanded on cloud conferences and digital exhibition solutions. Our clients who would previously invite 300 to 600 people to participate in their physical events, can now accomodate over thousands through purely online or a mix of online and offline solutions, with cost savings of over 30% - 50% through our use of in-house resources and partners network.

With a conference studio at our warehouse that accomodates upto 10 panelists on stage at a time. We work as your all-in-one events and exhibition solution combining operations, marketing and PR requirements to ease your load. Apart from the basic elements such as registration, ticket purchasing, email marketing and pre- and post-event surveys, we assist in holding webinars, digital conferences, and online exhibitions, with exhibitors having 24/7 digital booths where they can have one-on-one meetings with leads integrating popular meeting platforms Zoom and Google Meet.

From a research we did over the last couple of months, we found out that 30% of people would choose not to attend an event physically in October which is two months away from now. It will take time before people feel comfortable in large gatherings again. But it doesn’t mean that events won’t happen in the meantime. The event industry is going to go through a transformation and more events are going to take place online or become hybrids. As you rethink your event strategies and upskill your teams to work in the post COVID-19 events era, have a look at some of operations and offerings you can move / add digitally to your events here.

Preparing for the new 'normal' in events, venues and organizers will opt to consider contactless interfaces or interactions which could include more voice interfaces and fewer touch screens; augmented and virtual reality solutions to deliver personalised and compelling on-demand content; and IoT solutions to capture, track and analyse visitor and delegate data in real-time. To view a few we offer, you could have a look our COVID-19 Safe Spaces and Digital Activation ideas.

Despite heavy changes, we believe UAE's vibrant business culture, excellent infrastructure and stable government will put the MICE industry in a great direction as it comes out of COVID-19 environment.

Outreach when COVID’s still around: Marketing n.0

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For better or worse, it looks as though we are still only at the beginning of the pandemic and a troubled time. Health comes first. But while governments, common sense or economics will dictate travel ban lengths and other necessary restrictions, we need to be flexible, creative, cooperative and even unified in remembering why human, face-to-face contact matters and will always prevail.

Events spur innovation, business and the spread of knowledge. They incite serendipity. They inspire with five-sense experiences. They save fuel by replacing months of travel to many locations and gathering individuals with shared interests in a single location. They preserve our common humanity and make us better. They are especially important in uncertain times to exchange first-hand information, strengthen relationships and brainstorm accommodations and improvements.

Rather than wring our hands in despair and fear, the events industry is using this challenging time to prepare for a future of opportunity and to forge closer relationships with our customers, colleagues, members, partners and even competitors.

Some of ways to reach out to your customers and partners can be:

Gesture Controlled Holograms

Gesture Hologram
In-Store, B2C Expereince

Create a new kind of engagement between customers and brands, with a gesture controlled holographic product range, floating mid-air. Suitable for mall installations, this all-in-one solution is perfect for product launches and brand promotions.

Motion Tracking Interactive

Gesture Hologram
Outdoors/In-Store, B2C Experience

Moving away from touch screens, motion-based interactive experiences allow consumers to control and interact with the screen using nothing but hand and body moments.

Drive-In Cinemas

Gesture Hologram
Outdoors, B2C Experience

The original social distancing pastime. Turn any vacant parking lot into a professional drive-in movie theater using portable large scale LED screens.

Drive-Thru Experience

Gesture Hologram
Outdoor, B2C Campaigns

Immerse consumers in a ride of a lifetime, safe in their very own vehicle. Transport attendees to an endless possibility of environments with Interactive projection, LEDS, holograms, live performers and more as they drive through a visually stunning and interactive brand experience.

Fun Line

Gesture Hologram
In-Store, B2C Experience

As social distancing came into effect the ques went longer alongwith the wait time. Make that time worth it through a combination of print & online branding where Consumers can scan these QR codes with their smartphones, directed to an online quiz/game about your brand. The play & win mechanism can be used for sampling, voucher distribution or brand awareness.

Experience Box

Gesture Hologram
At Home, B2B & B2C Campaigns

With this box, you can offer your product in the context of cross-category matched items & essentials to top of the experience, making this box a ‘hole-in-one’. All themes are possible & everything is customized, from the box design itself to everything in it.

COVID19 & the Changing Face of the Events & Exhibitions Industry

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With a rapidly changing global economic landscape the Covid-19 global pandemic has permanently changed the events and exhibitions industry. What do we expect when the lockdown ends? The global pandemic of Covid-19 virus has permanently changed events and exhibitions industry perhaps being one of the first industries to be affected by the pandemic. All conferences, internal events, trade shows and activations were either cancelled or postponed as of March 2020 in the country and any future date as of now looks unviable.

One of the most difficult things is to organize an event without a timescale to work back and with reports suggesting that it might be a recurring or long-term phenomenon, committing time and money to any event from an organizer or trader/attendee’s perspective seems illogical if not plain unreasonable.

So how will we adapt to the changing social and economical scenarios? Will the old events and exhibition models become redundant? Will virtual events and Zoom Meetings be the new interaction scenario? Human nature is undoubtfully resilient, coming back from the flu pandemic of 1918, the two world wars, economic crisis of 1937 and 2009 are all proofs to give assurance to anyone that life will revive and improve ways to interact and exchange information face-to-face in time. It will and has changed the way we worked and lived already after all.

Etiquette and health and safety

Will we ever go back to shaking hands? Will anyone with a cough be a persona non grata at an event? Will large-scale exhibitions temperature-check all delegates as they enter the arena or exhibition hall?

Some of these will certainly feature in the immediate post Covid-19 world, but memories are short and old habits will soon return. However, some practices will become the norm. For many years cruise ships have had hand sanitizers sited around ships to protect passengers from Norovirus, which is an ever-present threat. So, it will be at busy exhibitions and events as we add coronavirus protection to the H&S checklist. Perhaps our industry will lead the way in demonstrating we can balance the need to assemble and interact with a real awareness of the need to maintain safe practices and self-isolation for those with illness.

Supply & Demand

With so many SMEs and freelancers in GCCs events and exhibitions sector, even with government support most will struggle with the sudden nature of this challenge and exposure to bank liabilities and overhead costs, sadly some may not survive.

Given the steep rise in infections over the last 4 weeks, it’s difficult to predict how the market will react when the immediate threat is reduced and activities in aviation and tourism sectors across the region resume. There may be a short-term surge as organizers try to cram postponed events into a busy six-month period. This may cause supply chain difficulties and even a lack of good freelance staff as most suppliers have either sent workers back home on extended leaves or have reduced their workforce. Already dates for November onwards events are tight across popular venues.

Overall, it is in everybody’s interest - venues, cities, organizers, exhibitors, companies, airlines and delegates to get the exhibitions and events industry back to the pre Covid-19 levels of activity. After an extended period of isolation, there will certainly be an appetite for it. The agencies who are experienced and strong enough to survive will still be around to deliver an increased level of business as they pick up events from those who weren’t able to keep going.

Payment Terms

Payment terms will be revised with lower credits as suppliers struggle to protect their cashflows and clients manage lower marketing budgets resulting from the reduced economic activity, lower oil prices and low investment appetite in the real estate sectors.

Contingency Plans and Budget Allocations

While contingency plans are on most organizers top five list of must-dos, the speed and depth of the effects of the pandemic have surprised many people, and the financial implications have been in some cases catastrophic.

From 2021onwards all major events will be looked at with a keen eye to a potential disaster scenario. The unthinkable will become an agenda item – after all, in a year that saw the cancellation of the Olympics, the Edinburgh Festival and pretty much every football match on the planet the future is more difficult to predict than ever.

Contracts will be tightened, and cancellation terms carefully re-worded. Venues and suppliers will be trying to protect themselves from losing revenue, while agencies and event managers will be trying to ensure they can avoid paying for an event that may never happen. There will be just as much focus on what happens if an event has to be cancelled as there is on making it a success.

Insurance costs

While it would be remiss of any event or exhibition organizer to skimp on insurance, many insurers have excluded communicable diseases from their policies, especially after previous outbreaks of SARS and Avian Flu. On top of flooding and terrorism, the insurance industry will take yet another hit from thousands of coronaviruses claims and will be taking steps to protect itself.

Event specific insurance policies that include cover for Coronavirus type illnesses will undoubtedly become very difficult to find or at a premium, and will be subject to stringent terms. Looking forward, insurers may continue to offer communicable disease cover as an optional extension, however this will in most cases exclude Covid-19.

Undoubtedly, insurance for events large and small will become a must have not just as a third-party liability for the contractors but for traders/customers as well (surprisingly this has not always been the case), because let’s face it the next disaster may take a different form so you never know.

The role of technology

With an already abundant use of technology at events pre-COVID19, plus digital marketing channels including webinars and increased social media channel usage, we are already maxed out on traditionally available channels. However, we're now seeing event organizers look to live streaming to deliver their conference content to delegates sitting at home. How will this translate to events and exhibitions in the future? Will virtual events be the way forward?

Probably not. While the days of the single-meeting flight or the round table meeting for a handful of geographically-dispersed people are pretty much over, medium to large scale exhibitions and events meet a different need.

Exhibitions are tactile, and offer opportunities that simply can’t be reproduced electronically, even in the most realistic VR world. Anyone who has ever attended the Edinburgh Festival, Glastonbury or a World Cup match knows the visceral excitement of being part of a live event and a like-minded group of human beings.

However, what the pandemic has taught us is that there are benefits to streaming, VR and online collaboration and it will accelerate the use of these technologies as enhancements and added value to live event programmers.

How your company office could change in the post-coronavirus era

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Exactly when employees will be heading back to work is still an unknown, but what is certain is that when it does happen, things at the office will almost certainly be very different. Just as the pandemic is likely to have a lasting impact on our personal habits, it will also change the way we work. Among the key changes companies are already considering: more space, sanitation and flexibility, with more employees working from home on a semi-regular basis.

So how will all this be achieved? According to a number of office designers, companies will be installing more sensors to reduce touch points, such as on light and power switches and door handles, antimicrobial materials, more and better air filtration, temperature monitoring at entry points, desks that are spaced farther apart, plus subtle design features that remind people to keep their distance.

Through properly spaced desks and visual cues, such as bold colors and large circle designs in the carpet, the Six Feet Office concept will remind employees that 6 ft. must stay between people at all times.

Another feature the commercial real estate company says to expect is an increase in signs instructing employees to walk in one direction in hallways, or clockwise in a meeting room, to ensure an orderly flow to foot traffic.

More emphasis on sanitation
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Shared workstations have long been a hotbed of disease transmission, and the current pandemic is likely to change this trend. Designers say they expect the disappearance of shared keyboards and for companies to introduce clean desk policies with nonessential items stored in cabinets and drawers rather than on the desk to ensure proper cleaning and sanitation.

We are hearing more inquiries about disinfecting UV lights, which can clean not only equipment like keyboards but entire rooms overnight.

Another feature that could come into more common use: negative pressure rooms. Now used mostly in medical facilities or airport smoking rooms, negative pressure rooms could help contain germs in, say, a conference room, which can then be cleaned using UV light.

Enabling collaboration through design
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Working from home has many perks, but one downside is that collaboration is difficult with limited face-to-face communication. A recent study from PwC showed that half of the businesses expect a dip in productivity during the pandemic because of a lack of remote-work capabilities.

Assuming more people will be working from home regularly in the future, we will have more specialized spaces in the office. Rooms geared toward specific tasks such as small group conversations, as well as larger spaces for events and maybe even some rooms dedicated to virtual reality.

To control these factors, designers use various materials such as carpet, acoustic tiles or curtains. Many of these factors are common considerations in the hospitality industry but new to corporate office environments.

Conserving energy

After the crisis, some workers will likely continue working from home on a regular basis. To accommodate a more flexible workforce, companies have more reason to demand adaptive energy systems. Right now offices are designed to accommodate a certain number of employees on any given day. That means if only half of the employees show up on any given day, the energy usage is unlikely to change much, and the room may end up being colder than usual.

More room for tech collaboration

With more employees working remotely even after the crisis, companies will likely invest in more and better technology to connect more effectively with remote workers. A survey by Gartner found that 41% of employees are more likely to work remotely at least some of the time post-pandemic.

Conference tables will not only include electrical plugs for computers and other equipment but may also have built-in microphones and provisions for tele-conferencing systems.

5 hacks to make the most of your marketing budget during COVID-19

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The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is impacting ad budgets around the world, no matter the scale of operations. While online subscription services, ecommerce, social media, and gaming services can survive this outbreak, most brands are rationalising spends as things progress.

However, contrary to popular belief, most digital consumers seem to be spending more time on online platforms than ever before, leading to strong engagement on relatable content, and leading to a great opportunity to drive wider adoption at a lower cost.

Here are five simple tips on how your digital campaigns can continue to thrive in the COVID-impacted ad industry

Tweak brand messaging Updating the major messaging for key products and services not only enables brands to stay abreast with the times; it also indicates to customers that you are empathetic to those struggling with COVID-19. Customers are more likely to shop from a brand if they are informed of the responsible initiatives you’re undertaking to keep your store, office, and products safe.

While you do not have to overtly mention COVID-19 or its effects on daily life, but your web/print copy may positively allude to winning against it.

Alter key objective While this may not be the best time to try and drive a large number of conversions for products/services directly impacted by the coronavirus, this is the perfect time to take a step back and promote wider online brand awareness and consideration programmes that will allow your brand to continue to stay at the top of the mind for customers until services fully re-open. By increasing your potential net new users at the top of the funnel, you can expand retargeting opportunities once the outbreak dies down.

By increasing your potential net new users at the top of the funnel, you can expand retargeting opportunities once the outbreak dies down.

Remain authentic Customers may not be completely open to seeing gaudy and over-the-top advertisements for products that may not be ‘essential goods’ during such times. It's important to stay true to your brand voice while recognising that people have genuine concerns, while offering real solutions in a compassionate and caring manner goes a long way.

Play the long term game Some brands are too focused on the short-term and are taking aggressive measures to reallocate their ad dollars through the rest of the year. This scuffle may hurt the brand over the long term. Brands that maintain a healthy online presence and use sensible messaging that doesn’t overtly try to capitalise on COVID-19 will stay at the top of the consumers’ minds.

As you work on your next campaign, leverage these actionable tips and remember that it’s key to ensure your brand messaging is aligned with the customer’s interests.

10 Tools for Hosting Virtual Events

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Lights! Camera! Action! Get ready to create and produce your next virtual event with these powerful video production, engagement, and event marketing tools. Featuring examples, tips, and resources to keep your digital audience engaged.

With an increasing number of events turning to virtual environment, there are a few key areas to focus on when starting out. This includes broadcasting or recording a live event session, creating opportunities to engage your virtual event audience, and integrating key tools to an existing event management platform to centralize important event data.

Read on to learn how these 10 tools can help for broadcasting your event sessions, engage attendees, and integrate into your existing event tools.

Video Conferencing and Webinar Tools

1. Google Hangouts
covid mktg Google Hangouts is one of the most familiar video and meeting tools available, making it easy for both event organizers, speakers, and attendees to use for connecting virtually. Google Hangouts offers direct messaging, group chats, video, and emoji usages. It's a great tool for collaboration and a good option for small, internal virtualized events.

2. Microsoft Teams
covid mktg Microsoft Teams (formally Skype for Business Online) allows event organizers to easily collaborate remotely. Features like group chat, one-to-one messaging, video conferencing, sharing and editing Word, PowerPoint, and Excel all help to accelerate collaboration and spark creativity.

Microsoft Teams is a great collaboration tool for event organizers working remotely or those that are putting together an internal meeting with different business groups.

3. On24
covid mktg On24 is a comprehensive webinar platform allowing event organizers to create a live, always-on personalized digital experience for virtual event attendees. The On24 team is on a mission to redefine how audiences engage with their attendees through interactive, data-rich webinar and content experiences.

If you’re looking for a more interactive webinar experience, On24 offers different ways for your attendees to engage with live or on-demand event content. On24 offers a variety of solutions to help marketers create engaging webinars, drive demand generation, and capture relevant analytics.

4. Zoom
covid mktg Zoom is a popular video conferencing and meeting solution. Their cloud platform is used for video, phone, content sharing, and chat across mobile, desktop, and telephones, and room systems. Zoom includes HD video and audio for up to 1,000 video participants allowing for the in-person experience in a virtual environment.

Features like high-quality video, recording and transcripts, built-in collaboration tools, calendars, and chat allow you to make the next internal or external virtual meeting fun and convenient.

5. GoToWebinar
covid mktg GoToWebinar helps event organizers easily create large scale live or recorded webinars. GoToWebinar is packed with valuable features including custom webinar invitations, registration page and automated email reminders, analytics, and presenter tools to make your next webinar a highly engaging and easy experience. HDFaces allows presenters to share their webcam adding an additional layer of engagement during your next virtualized event.

6. Soapbox (Wistia)
covid mktg Looking to create great looking, high quality video content for your next virtual event? Soapbox is an easy to use, free Chrome plug-in that allows you to record, edit, and share videos instantly.

Create highly engaging video content for your next event that weaves screencasts and split-screen views, gives you the option to customize your player color and thumbnail to make video recordings easy for anyone on your team. This is a fast, free, and seamless way to create a variety of video content for your next virtual event.

Attendee Engagement Tools

7. Glisser
covid mktg How do you keep your audience engaged during the whole duration of your session? The first is an engaging speaker touching on a relevant topic of interest. The second is offering a variety of options to participate in a live discussion through questions, polling, and fun ways to reinforce curated event content.

Glisser is an audience engagement platform allowing event organizers to manage audience Q&A, live polling, slide sharing, quizzes, analytics and more. Glisser’s suite of tools allow for a richer virtual presentation experience while providing relevant analytics about your attendees.

8. NetworkTables Virtual
covid mktg NetworkTables helps event organizers manage table seating at large scale in-person events and virtual events. NetworkTables Virtual allows event organizers to meet relevant attendees through interactive roundtables, 1:1 meetings, keynotes, and breakout sessions.

NetworkTables Virtual allows event organizers to confidently personalize attendee schedules no matter their timezone. NetworkTables Virtual also integrates with some of the most popular webinar/video tools including GoToMeeting, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and more.

9. Brella
covid mktg One of the unique values of in-person events is making connections with different people to expand and deepen your professional network. However, it can often be difficult to find someone with similar interests or professional goals while navigating a full event agenda.

Brella prides itself in creating the world’s first intent-based matchmaking algorithm using AI technology. Brella matches attendees based on what they are looking to achieve.

They have experience working with some of the largest technology enterprise companies including Google, Microsoft, AT&T, Informa Knect365, Ernst & Young, Qualcomm, IBM, TechCrunch, HubSpot and more.

Hybrid Event Management Solutions

10. Accelevents Virtual Events
covid mktg While different tools and technologies can support facets of your hybrid or virtual event, it can be difficult to find a tool that takes a holistic approach to in-person, hybrid, and virtual event experiences.

Your affordable, All-in-one and easy to use Virtual Event Software for any type of event including performances, conferences, tradeshows, expos, and more. Accelevents is known for ease of use and live 24/7 support. The platform offers robust virtual event hosting features including ticket sales, live streaming, live chat & polling, virtual exhibitor booths, breakout sessions, A.I. powered networking, gamification, and more. Whether hosting an event for 100 people or 100,000+ Accelevents will allow you.

Summing Up: Your Virtual Event Marketing Tools

When looking at hosting your next virtual event, consider investing in tools to help you deliver a quality audio and visual experience as well as attendee engagement options throughout your virtual event.

You can also combine your virtual event tools with your event management platform to tackle the virtual world to deliver a comprehensive event experience to reach attendees wherever they are.

Interested in bringing your event vision to life in a virtual setting? Let's get in touch on +971 50 2186 186 to see how to bring your in-person experiences to the virtual world the best way forward.

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