Bridging the gap between the physical and digital world has never been more important than in the last 12-months when face-to-face communication and physical contact has been displaced by virtual meetings, zooms and video calls. Due to Covid-19, the events industry was forced to adopt a virtual model overnight, when prior to the pandemic, many businesses’ ‘digital twin’ – virtual equivalents of an actual physical product or service – hadn’t yet been conceived. Following last Monday’s update from the Government, it’s fantastic that we now have a date for the return of live events, but we mustn’t lose sight of the progress we’ve made with the virtual side of events over the last 12 months.

As a world-leading music conservatoire in South Kensington, which hosts events from concerts and orchestras, to corporate meetings and gala dinners, we encourage the physical gathering of students, visitors, clients and partners face-to-face to enjoy a collective experience in-person. That’s not to say that digital was not a growing part of our business, however. We’re fortunate to have a world-class studio team and facilities within the building, providing a wide range of professional-quality services, including music recording, video production and web streaming. Our digital facilities were there to complement our physical events. However, having access to these facilities and skillsets within the team, meant that when the events world was suddenly thrust into a digital transformation with business models shifting to virtual events, we had a very strong starting point despite not hosting solely virtual events on a regular basis.

From the start of lockdown 1.0 back in March last year, the Royal College of Music, like many others, pivoted to fundraising events, performances and networking events virtually with great success. Our premiere online fundraising event, the More Music Virtual Gala, raised significant sums for RCM Scholarships and had fantastic feedback from guests. We’ve also held a series of virtual events, which has enabled us to engage with supporters and partners outside of London in the EU, America and Asia. As a result, we will continue to incorporate a virtual element into our future plans and are lucky to have the knowledge, skills and facilities to allow us to do this.

I often question whether we would have got to this point with our virtual offering so quickly pre-Covid, and the answer is probably no. For all its many negatives, the pandemic has actually pushed us out of our comfort zone and proved that while in-person events are our passion, we can successfully create experiences and bring people together when they most need it virtually via digital platforms.

The pandemic has pushed us all to our limits, and it is easy to get consumed with what we’ve lost, however, it’s important to focus on what we’ve learnt, what we’ve achieved, and the steps forward we’ve taken. I know everyone within the events industry, myself included, is counting down to the return of live events on 21 June. Still, I am also looking forward to seeing the new developments when it comes to combining our digital learnings with live events after the incredible achievements by so many organisations over the last 12 months.

Virtual events are arguably a by-product of Covid-19, and physical events are on course to return, albeit perhaps in a different form, but virtual events have proved their worth. With the new role digital platforms play in our lives, both personally and professionally, I expect a virtual component will continue to be part of the new events landscape as an important way to reach new audiences, engage with overseas supporters and partners, and a valuable resource for internal communications.