In 2020, the events industry was dealt a massive blow – companies with an entire year’s worth of events had to venture into uncharted territories, making incredibly difficult decisions about whether to cancel, postpone, or adopt a virtual or hybrid solution for their events.
Fast forward to 2021 and most event organisers have successfully shifted to online events. But with the long-awaited return of live events looming, will virtual events still be relevant? What will events look like in the future?
In order to discover what predictions the industry has, over 400 event marketing professionals in mid-senior level positions were surveyed – where we uncovered valuable insights that point to what the future of events will look like.
1. Over 80% of marketers agree that the most positive effect they’ve experienced from their shift to virtual events is greater audience reach
There is truly no limit to how large an audience you can reach by leveraging virtual events. Despite the challenges and setbacks of this virtual era, organizers are seeing benefits to going virtual. Digital events eliminate the need for travel, venue capacities, and other costs or logistics that might ordinarily prevent more guests from attending an event. By taking away these obstacles, event organizers are seeing a substantial increase in their potential for audience reach. Along with a larger audience, marketers have found it easier to book speakers – another result of decreased business travel – as well as generate and convert their pipeline.
2. Attendee networking and engagement remains the number one hurdle that marketers face as they navigate the virtual events landscape.
As the effects of COVID-19 continue to create lasting impact on the industry, event organisers remain concerned and committed to providing value for their attendees – ensuring that there are minimal gaps in their virtual experience from a physical event. To resolve this, organizers are turning to technology to create interactive elements that delight and engage their audience. However, technology alone is not enough to fulfill the need for a truly engaging experience.
Planners will need to become increasingly innovative in order to deliver exceptional experiences for their attendees — by curating memorable content and creating an environment where attendees can authentically interact with the brand.
3. The Majority of marketers (63%) plan to resume in-person meetings in 2021.
While virtual events are the only option available and event organizers are seeing advantages to the digital landscape, live events remain an irreplaceable part of our lives.
It’s human nature to be social, and ultimately, people crave face-to-face interactions. They are a fundamental part of what makes events so enjoyable, which is why event marketers are eager to bring back their in-person events. That’s why we believe – and most event marketers agree – that in-person events will be back and stronger than ever.
While there is some uncertainty about how long it might take, it’s clear that most organizers have already begun to plan their in-person events for 2021.
4. An overwhelming 97% of marketers are confident that Hybrid events will become more prominent going forward.
Hybrid events will combine the best of both virtual and in-person experiences and will set the tone for the future of the events industry. Given that the majority of marketers feel confident about the return of in-person events in 2021, and virtual offers its own set of benefits like reaching greater numbers of attendees and accessing a greater variety of speakers, it follows that hybrid events will be a key player in the near future.
There is a huge opportunity to leverage digital solutions to capture event insight and create interactive experiences, especially once in-person events resume. As we near the end of the year, we should expect hybrid will be a major focus of event strategy in 2021.