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Virtual events need breakthrough to flourish, say Saudi organizers

Saudi organizers face a dilemma as events canceled due to the coronavirus have been shifted to the virtual world.
“The industries that were most affected (by COVID-19) are the travel agencies, entertainment and communications,” Obada Awad, CEO of TIME entertainment in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.
TV shows, musical concerts on Instagram and celebrity question-and-answers have became more common than ever. However, the future of these events is unpredictable even after the lockdown is over and people resume their normal lives.


According to Saudi organizers that have been setting up events and talks virtually, the future of event organizing will be physical and not online.
“We have been so busy the past years, so we took this time to organize in-house and prepare ourselves for going back out in the world,” Awad said.
He cited a number of reasons why virtual events have no chance to flourish. “Firstly, people don’t know how to monetize these events. The second thing is, with all that is going on in the world, people don’t have an appetite for entertainment.”
Events such as concerts and conventions will never move online unless there is a breakthrough in technology, he said. “I don’t think people will want the events to go virtual. For instance, why do you go to a concert? You do this because of the experience and not solely to listen to the songs. You can listen to songs online.”
“People go to these events for the environment, unless there is a breakthrough in technology and you can do something with the augmented reality and surround sound, which will guarantee you a concert-like experience. People will always prefer on-ground events more than the regular ones.”
Haitham Dghaili, events director of Maestro Group, said: “We have tried several different things, but to be honest nothing really works. It is not practical; no one really likes paying for online events. So, we are waiting for the lockdown to finish and we are expecting to do something new in October or December.”
Dghaili, 37, said that the online space has proved to be useful for other kinds of events such as those for education, meetings and talks.
“Concerts and such events will never go virtual, it is like going on a virtual vacation in Greece; it isn’t your vacation and you aren’t enjoying the environment.”
Emine Muti, management admin of Archinect, an online community of architects, students and architecture fans, has been participating in design talks in her community.
She described the first time as awkward. “It felt like I was talking to myself and I didn’t receive any reactions so it just felt kind of empty.” However, later the talks grew on her and she saw the positive sides of such talks.
“The best part was the amount of info given without any interruptions. Being online with people from all around the world is quick and easy. It is also a great opportunity to open our minds to different ways of thinking and acting toward many things and topics,” she told Arab News.
Obaid Talal AlJobaly, the head of AlJobaly Constructions Company and an active member of Archinect, was also part of these talks.
He prefers physical events to online ones. “I am a big fan of physical events where I can read the mood of the audience. Doing online events is fine for now, but for talks and dialogues I want to connect with the audience.”


Source: Arab News

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