What Olympic Athletes and Event Producers Have in Common

Lifestyle & Culture

We were supposed to be gathered around our TVs this week, watching as athletes from around the world compete in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games. But like thousands of other events around the globe, the Olympics fell victim to the coronavirus pandemic. Rather than canceling the games, officials have postponed them to 2021.

Event producers are a lot like Olympic athletes. There is a certain amount of passion required to reach success – and a lot of hours spent in preparation. Like event producers, Olympic athletes have experienced a wide range of emotions as they’ve been left in a reminiscing phase, wondering what could have been. Eventually, athletes moved to more positive stages of focus and structure as they found ways to safely continue training – just like event producers made the switch to virtual meetings and events.

And just as the Olympic athletes will get their chance to shine in 2021, the events industry will come back stronger than ever. You see, we’re all still able to deliver those monumental moments – the impactful instances that resonate with fans (or in a producers’ case, audiences). The game has just changed a bit. Consider this: The Games are celebrated as a series of events across sports, enjoyed by billions of viewers online and through broadcast channels, and hundreds of thousands of in-person spectators – isn’t that just a hybrid event? In fact, most sporting events are. We’ve just never referred to them using the term “hybrid”.

But as the game changes, so do the rules. The meetings and events industry can expect a future of physical event amplification through digital channels, and this will provide stronger data insights to help measure event performances. Historically, producers have generated data from in-person events through metrics like attendance, square footage, and economic impact. Now, producers have the chance to tap into lead generation and key information for brands to maximize audience participation.

In this digital era, event producers can take note from the sports model. Coverage of the Olympic Games moves from sport to sport. Content is live, on-demand, and highly produced. Event producers need to embrace that the larger parts of their audiences will be digital (at least for a while, anyway). This means thinking in terms of engaging and strategic messaging. What does the audience want to hear? What’s going to have value? With the Olympic Games, it’s often the human-interest pieces that retain viewers at home. It’s the gamification component of online brackets. Yes, it’s fun to watch the game, but it’s even more impactful to hear the background stories of how athletes overcame adversity to reach the highest level of competition, or to be in a personal bracket competition among friends.

Pierre de Coubertin, Founder of the International Olympic Committee, once said, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. Higher. Faster. Stronger.” Like the Olympic Games, the meetings and events industry will emerge better than ever. While it may not have felt like it a few months ago, we were never really on the sidelines. We were learning and honing in on techniques to be ready for what the new game looks like. Higher. Faster. Stronger. Now is the time to thrive!