Bruce Keebaugh part 3 – What next? Opportunities for events as we come out of COVID

Bruce Keebaugh owner of the Big Group "If we’ve got 500 people at $500 a head at the ‘In Real Life’ event, why haven’t we got 2000 people at $50 a head, having the virtual experience of the investment that we’ve put into the hotel ballroom?"

Bruce Keebaugh is the owner of the Big Group. He lives in Melbourne, which is the most severely COVID-19 restricted city in the western world. In this last of a three-part interview, Bruce outlines some of the opportunities he sees for events as we come out of COVID.

“What’s coming out of the US market, and unfortunately we tend to follow their trends, is organisations like Apple and Google suggesting they might not have people back in the office until mid 2021, enforces this drip down effect that Australian companies won’t take the risk and get their staff back. So, I don’t think we’ll see all corporate workforces returning to offices until early 2021, and even when that happens there’s going to be that double working from home and at the workplace. What that does for the business events sector is show how that sense of risk aversion from the corporates will shape their events. We’re not going to see dinners for 1200, cocktail parties for 800 or large conferences over 3 days coming back first. What it does do though, is open up a new market, which will be a two-tiered market utilising what I call an ‘NRL’ – in real life, and ‘VG’, which is a virtual guest. The way the consumer has adapted, even with Zoom for example, will accelerate that virtual and digital element and lead to VR and gamification in events. That’s really exciting and it’s a great space for the events industry to move into.

This next tier, the virtual piece, allows us to capture a market that we currently don’t have. Look at the philanthropic market for example. If we’ve got 500 people at $500 a head at the ‘In Real Life’ event, why haven’t we got 2000 people at $50 a head, having the virtual experience of the investment that we’ve put into the hotel ballroom? The fashion sector is another example. All the couture parades in Europe went digital this year, but they were shared at a high level to high end consumers, as a VIP experience.

We have a great opportunity to get this two-tiered market going.


Event distancing and tracing app from Harry the Hirer

They knew there was going to be a problem in the events industry and came up with a social distancing app that has also developed into a contact tracing solution. It can create an event bubble and if people get too close the app beeps and drives us all us crazy. But it’s also got the ability to do contact tracing within an entire event. So, if there was a problem after the event, you go straight to the data and trace those 25 or 30 people who may have been in close contact and instantly message them. That’s going to give a lot of confidence for the industry and for government.

They have a distributor, a brochure and they’re ready to go with thousands of units ready to roll out  – It’s a game changer.


And last but not least – Australian Carparks and events

This came out of something I said on the Today show recently. It was just a throwaway line, “Lets activate the carparks”. Carpark Australia gave me a call the next day, because obviously, with the workforces gone from the CBD, the carparks are empty. They’re having a really hard time for their members, the owners of those carparks, and they want them activated. It’s a perfect match that’s come out of COVID and we see them as them long-term partners for outdoor events.


Many people in the events industry have gone into a hole and are understandably scared to come back out. But nothing will ever replace the joy and the power of in-real life networking and eventing. We’re like cockroaches, we’re adaptable and we aren’t going away. 

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