When considering our local events industry, it’s not so much about whether we’re on track with the rest of the world. It’s whether we’re on the right track for the South African marketplace. We have a unique marketplace with a unique spectrum of cultures, unique demographics and in many ways, unique access channels to the nation.

That said however, one cannot question the fact that the digital revolution has irreversibly changed our lives in SA as much as anywhere else on the planet. Look back only 20 years: No mobile phones, no e-mail, no internet. Today we couldn’t operate without all three!.

We can access anyone at any time – and be accessed by anyone, anytime. A blessing which in some ways has become a curse, to a large degree resulting in the marketplace and society becoming increasingly discerning, selective, hostile and even scizophrenic.

The quest for virtual events and virality continue to stretch imaginations and endeavours, often seeming to eclipse real world events. But the romance between live events and virtual is still hot, sticky and relatively unexplored. With time, the relationship will no doubt refine and mature to a point where each establishes its own space and relevance, symbiotically leveraging the other towards common cause.

While the virtual space certainly facilitates two way engagement with almost anyone, anytime, it still relies on only two senses, generally in 2D space – and leaves the ball in the target’s court to disengage.

Live events on the other hand provide a platform to engage face to face using all five senses. …And just as significant, while in any virtual space there may be latitude to ‘pull the plug’ if necessary, in the live space no such luxury exists. The live events industry is one of few industries where the client only sees what he is buying on show day.

The future of event marketing and communication will no doubt evolve into a hybrid of both – possibly including yet unheard of technologies. But success in getting messages across and influencing behaviour will remain underpinned by process and methodology which have defined the industry for years, ie. create experiences, communicate values, establisgh relevance, address needs, own emotions and harness moments to create clearly beneficial memories.