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What every events and publishing company has to do to survive

The coronavirus crisis has turned live events and publishing upside down. Many publishing and events companies will not survive.


Much has been written on this subject - especially about the impact it will have on people working in these sectors and the viability of businesses servicing these sectors. If events and publishing companies do not change how they engage with their audiences; their survival may be at stake.


Traditionally, both events and publishing houses have had one or two levels of engagement. These included:

  • An awards show - black tie, dinner, party, central London: £450 a ticket
  • 2-3 day conference - flight, hotel, suit, time off work: £1000 to £3000 a ticket
  • Buying a monthly magazine subscription: £50 to £100 a year
  • Networking - fun and relaxed social engagement, to more formal presentations: From free to £100
  • Exhibitions - wildly varying in quality from a rich multi-day learning experience to a day of being bombarded with irrelevant sales pitches: Generally free to attend for anyone significant in their sector
  • Content on the website on which tends to be quite a low-level mass-journalism, often with thinly disguised advertorial elements: Free
  • Online material and podcasts - sometimes high quality and insightful, other times nothing more than a 30-60 minute sales pitch (where the "Guest" has to pay to be on it): Free
  • High-level membership programs - exclusive, high-value content, meaningful networks and various options for conferences, content, awards shows etc. £2000 to £50,000 per year


This crisis has created a situation where many of these engagement options involving human contact may not be viable. Consider how this will affect the income of the organisations offering these engagements, and you will realise that this may completely undermine their revenue stream and therefore, their businesses altogether. Most events, awards, conferences and publishing businesses are now at serious threat.


These companies need to consider the different levels of engagement and to assist with this, I have created the below proposal, which I call the 'Engagement Pyramid'. At the top are the small numbers of people spending large amounts of money. At the bottom of the pyramid is a global audience paying relatively small amounts of money. At every level, there are engagement options that have zero cost and intended to provide free value to customers.




Tier 1 - Elite 

Engagement - Exclusive, high-value, discreet, high-level content and membership.

Cost - High (unaffordable for many)

Audience Size - Small and elite

Audience Location - Highly mobile, with the event location somewhere incredible - an exclusive hotel, a private island or somewhere even more exotic.


Tier 2 - Live, in-person

Engagement - Traditional conferences and awards, but with enhanced real-world human connection and networking.

Cost - In line with traditional events

Audience Size - Limited by venue capacity

Audience Location - Centralised at a venue


Tier 3 - Live Virtual

Engagement - Like being at the event, but via virtual links. The attendee can engage with questions, networking and be "on stage".

Cost - A percentage of the live event price. Accessible to a new audience demographic

Audience Size - This audience size can be many times larger than the in-person attendance.

Audience Location - Global


Tier 4 - Live Viewing

Engagement - Exclusive online viewing of an event. One-way experience but with enhanced/additional content

Cost - Can be low-cost must still be an investment for the attendee

Audience Size - Infinite

Audience Location - Global


Tier 5 - Print/web content

Engagement - Customers can benefit from online or print content. Having to drive engagement with the other levels above

Cost - Comparable to traditional subscription. Or free with a paywall on "premium content".

Audience Size - Infinite


Some people might look at this and say "but that will cannibalise my revenue!". Not so, if you price each level of engagement properly, you will retain people in the levels they were already in as well as engage a new audience.


Others might say that creating this wide a gamut of engagement is much work. Frankly, it is likely to generate more work, but all events and publishing businesses are now at threat of closure, so a little more work may make the difference between survival or failure. 

Creating additional content and levels of engagement does not have to be that hard. If you are already producing a live event, it doesn't take much to film and live stream it. If you already write articles, it is not that different, creating a podcast.


Some people are concerned about the cost and complexity of running live events if they have not done so before. Indeed your first live event can be risky and scary - it takes decades to learn to produce a live event. So it may be better to enter the events market as a virtual offering, using something like the virtual venue in Bristol ( ).


Other people may be concerned about the online infrastructure needed for doing all of this. There are many platforms available for online publishing, but, live events are a different kettle of fish. A new entrant to the market is Intelligo which is both an education platform and a conference/events platform which features live engagement, paywalls and online networking. 


Event and publishing professionals do their work with tremendous passion. The future is uncertain, and it will be vital to diversify your offerings to survive this situation. I look forward to a world where every event and every piece of content has multiple engagement points.


Johnny Palmer events and media entrepreneur who holds shareholdings in some of the industries most innovative businesses including SXS Events ( , SolCell ( , Intelligo ( and The Virtual Venue ( His 20+ year career has gone from being a professional DJ to heading up multi-million-pound group of companies. Johnny also runs his Private Equity fund (Autonomous Investments), commercial property portfolio and is the founder of the Warleigh Weir Project (


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