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Corporate Event Trends for 2021 [and what you need to do about them]

Posted on 01/14/2021

Our much expected report Corporate Event Trends for 2021 is out! Constant changes, demand for advanced and adaptable technologies, search for creative strategies focused on the customer experience; none of this is new in the world of corporate events. The presence of these characteristics continues to be strong in the current scenario and growing for future views.

  1. Events are becoming hybrid
  2. Security is paramount
  3. Adaptation of Technologies
  4. Strategies for monetizing virtual events
  5. Enhancing virtual experiences
  6. Rethinking Engagement
  7. Accessibility and Diversity
  8. Sustainability is a necessity

Introduction

Part of what was assumed for the 2020 events has not been confirmed due to the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic.

With the worldwide spread of a new disease at the beginning of last year, most events had to be canceled at the last minute or changed quickly to the virtual format.

Many of the events we were used to were simply no longer feasible. The need to apply strict security and prevention measures, such as social isolation and other restrictions, has resulted in profound impacts in the planning of corporate events worldwide and in the sector in general.

Uncertainty is still here

We entered 2021 with many uncertainties, but it is possible to see the gradual return of events and the expansion of solutions to circumstances that can already be predicted. In this context, new technologies appear in an increasingly central role.

For this year, the impacts caused by the pandemic in the events sector point to specific and determining trends. In this sense, one of the most evident corporate event trends for 2021 is the new and strict security standard for face-to-face events.

On the other hand, there’s the possibility of a transition to a post-pandemic moment due to mass vaccination. We can have a progressive movement that goes from situations in which COVID-19 still presents a significant risk for occasions when measures of social distance and restrictions begin to become increasingly unnecessary.

In-person, hybrid, virtual, online, digital: they’re all events, with no boundaries in between.

In this way, we know that virtual and hybrid events are quickly becoming part of a new reality in which event organizers and marketers will need to adapt and learn new skills. And yet, there are relevant event trends for 2021 that are independent of the situation of COVID-19 next year.

We present and analyze here a list of event trends for 2021 that you can count on in the events sector worldwide.

Event trends for 2021

1. Events are becoming hybrid

► [90% of the organizers are currently working on events that will have an online component.] Source: Northstar Meetings Group Pulse Survey.

► [67% of respondents agree that hybrid is the future of events.] Source: EventMB

No doubt this is the main topic of this Event Trends for 2021 report. Hybrid events are likely to become a big key trend in the industry in 2021. They allow small groups to participate in face-to-face sessions. At the same time, they become accessible to distant audiences by digital media. This can create an amplified reach for events without compromising health and safety.

Among the participants, there will be those who wish to attend in person, as well as those who prefer to attend virtually. 

But the tendency is that the participants are much more selective with events that offer the face-to-face option and that they will avoid traveling if they realize that their personal limits are not being respected and valued. And many are more likely to consume online content whenever possible.

What you need to do about it

STRONG TECHNOLOGICAL INFRASTRUCTURE

The digital infrastructure needed to handle virtual and hybrid meetings will replace previous priorities in the event checklist. Internet speed will be essential. The search for venues equipped and designed for quality live streams will intensify.

Technological resources such as A / V equipment, studio cameras, adequate lighting and LED screens will make events more attractive and competitive. Holograms are a differentiator.

ADAPTED RENTALS

Environments designed specifically for digital and hybrid events are already a reality. Many convention centers have redefined their spaces to offer experiences to both in-person and remote participants simultaneously, offering high-tech broadcast and streaming studios.

Examples are the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York; the David L. Lawrence Convention Center of Pittsburgh; the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando; the George R. Brown Convention Center in Texas; the ICC Sydney; the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Singapore, among others.

ON-SITE TECHNICAL SUPPORT 

Event professionals have quickly adapted to the new scenario of virtual events and are now proficient with videoconferencing applications and virtual meetings.

However, in order to guarantee the quality of hybrid and virtual events, the tendency is to increase the demand for technical support that is available throughout the event, in addition to managing and monitoring the network to ensure smooth operation.

2. Security is paramount

► “Meetings can only come back when participants feel comfortable enough to attend”, says Jonathan Spero, CEO of InHouse Physicians, an organization that provides medical professionals for meetings and corporate events. Source: North Star Meeting Group .

Firstly, the risk of contagion with safety measures for live events is minimized. Every event will need to have a health plan that clearly establishes measures to protect the health of the participants. This includes a comprehensive approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19 at the event, detecting when participants are sick and being able to respond quickly and manage an outbreak if it occurs.

This creates a tendency for smaller events, in which the size of the audience is more manageable. In addition, it is essential to provide a sense of security, protection and comfort for all participants, adopting strict and visible hygiene protocols.

Vaccines can mitigate all of these when they become available. But until then events cannot afford to become points of transmission, which would put people’s lives and health at risk and negatively impact the brand reputation.

What you need to do about it

PROCEDURES

The World Health Organization – WHO has published several guidelines to reduce the risk of transmission during face-to-face events, especially in closed environments. The tendency is to incorporate into the planning easy ways to create an atmosphere that highlights safety and caution, while minimizing the threat of transmission during the event.

  1. Distribution of face masks for participants to wear throughout the event.
  2. Hand hygiene stations in various areas of the event, mainly at the entrance to the venue, where control can be more rigid.
  3. Check the temperature of the participants, or, if possible, use of quick tests of COVID-19 before entering the event.
  4. Surfaces, bathrooms and high-contact areas thoroughly disinfected before, during and after the event: microphones, door handles, handrails, speech pulpits, elevator buttons, etc.
  5. Installation of acrylic partitions or other types of materials in smaller environments.
  6. Team training to guide event participants and enforce the rules at all times.
OPEN SPACES

The spread risk of COVID-19 is considered to be less significant outdoors, where it is quite common. This can lead to events in wide open spaces, where it is easier to provide a safe and comfortable distance between participants.

NEW LAYOUTS

Social distance will also be indispensable. It means large venues available to a smaller number of participants, and new layouts optimizing the spaces.

GUIDELINES FOR CATERING

Prepackaged meals or snacks will replace self-service buffets. Disposable cutlery will minimize the chances of people sharing food containers. In addition to the usual checks when hiring catering companies, now it is also necessary to verify the application of sanitation guidelines in food preparation. Employees must always be equipped with face shields and gloves.

3. Adaptation of technologies

The artificial intelligence market is expected to reach US $ 190.61 billion in 2025, at a CAGR of 36.62%. The main drivers of the AI ​​market are the growth of big data, the growing adoption of cloud-based applications and services and an increase in demand for intelligent virtual assistants. Source: Markets and Markets .

Event planners were already incorporating the use of new technologies year after year, providing participants with an increasingly innovative experience.

Recently, many of the innovations created by the technology industry are being adapted for new uses and could gain even greater prominence in face-to-face events, contributing to the safety and comfort of the participants.

What you need to do about it

WEARABLE BLUETOOTH DEVICES

Bluetooth tracking bracelets used to notify you when a potential customer or potential collaborator is nearby have gained popularity for networking, exhibitor marketing and even guidance at major trade shows.

Now, they also help with physical distance between participants and sound to warn when someone is too close. Some security technology providers already manufacture devices that not only vibrate when users get too close, but also keep records of interactions – ideal for contact tracking if someone is positive for COVID-19 after the event.

3D

3-D LiDar technology, developed to measure pedestrian traffic and the flow of audiences at events, can be used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in locations such as airports and stadiums. Renamed as a Safe Space, the technology currently monitors pedestrian traffic for the purpose of hygiene notifications, to ensure physical distance and compliance with occupancy limits.

The cutting edge solution actually measures people’s vapor trails using a black light tracking mechanism – instantly identifying which areas need to be cleaned. The technology also shows when the steam tracks were erased. Hygiene status, real-time occupancy numbers, and physical distance measurements will be available to consumers through an app.

ELECTROSTATIC SPRAYING

No matter how often an area is cleaned manually, hard-to-reach corners and cracks can be lost. To complement the disinfection of the place, a night treatment with electrostatic spray can be a good option.

An electrostatic spray system is a powerful, efficient, and reliable method to ensure that all surfaces (front, rear, and side) can be properly disinfected and sanitized. The wraparound coverage provides better protection against the spread of disease-causing germs and will help you go further to ensure that your participants feel as safe as possible.

4. Strategies for monetizing virtual events

► [70% of consumers who broadcast live do so at least once a day.] Source: IAB survey

► [The size of the global video streaming market is expected to reach $ 184.27 billion by 2027.] Source: Grand View Research

Virtual events are an expanding market. However, even if the events sector with live broadcasts is in a favourable moment, generating revenue in this format can still be a challenge for some time.

The good news is that, with the demand for live broadcasts growing, more and more people are watching, meaning the likelihood of finding your audience is greater than ever. More and more people are broadcasting daily programs, which means an increase in opportunities for doing business.

Now is the time to design a business model and evaluate what type of product or service can actually profit.

What you need to do about it

PAY-PER-VIEW

The pay-per-view model has been known on the television system for decades, meaning many people are already used to using it. Now it’s also part of the event trends for 2021. It was created so that only payers could watch a certain type of program that was not included in the grid of channels available by TV operators. Today, this ‘payment for entry or access’ model is a great option for transmitting a virtual event to the public of interest. To experience what it has to offer, participants pay a price and have immediate access to the live event.

SALES OF PRODUCTS OR SERVICES

This is a more profitable option, especially if you offer a digital product: it can be a subscription to access exclusive content for paying customers, through a members area. Content can range from live video and recorded content to articles, podcasts, and more. It can be an e-book with valuable information that your audience is looking for, aligned with the themes of the live event; or an online course with high-value certification for your audience.

SPONSORSHIP AND PARTNERSHIPS

Many companies offer products and services to the same audience profile as your event. Allowing sponsors to create sessions with content aligned with their messages can be extremely effective. Find those that are aligned with the theme of your event and are interested in investing. Produce excellent promotional material to talk to your potential partners and sponsors, prepare yourself with your best portfolio, in addition to emphasizing concrete data about the public profile, goals and expected results at the event. This will ensure that the sponsored session is beneficial to all stakeholders.

BANNERS SALE AND SPACE FOR ADS

Live streams also invaded event trends for 2021. They can be monetized through ad slots sold to event sponsors. The platform must have this function to allow banner and pop-up ads. Both are good ways to incorporate branding opportunities for sponsors.

5. Enhancing virtual experiences

► [93% of event marketers plan to invest in virtual events going forward.]  Source: Event Outlook Report

Since the face-to-face events needed to be canceled and activities were converted to the virtual model, many things have changed.

However, even though production logistics have improved immensely, much of the event’s team and sponsors rarely receive adequate support and training. For some people, it is still a little scary to enter this new environment.

This is one of the issues that should be treated more carefully this year.

In addition, the use of a single tool for virtual meetings, such as Zoom, for example, was more than enough to hold meetings and conferences in the first moment of crisis.

Event trends for 2021 point to a more competitive market. The sector is evolving, more sophistication is expected. Exceeding the expectations of the participants becomes a differential.

What you need to do about it

BUILDING THE JOURNEY

Event organizers need to provide good training. Build a journey focused on the participant’s experience, emphasizing engagement in activities such as chats, surveys, video meetings, exhibitions.

To make the virtual event a different experience, it is necessary to think like a participant. Then, design their journey, predict their expectations, and provide a unique and special experience. Pay close attention to all details: testing the event from a participant’s point of view; test the user experience on different browsers and devices; take the time to fix all the little things and make the necessary improvements.

THINK LIKE A PRODUCER

Participants in digital events can be easily distracted by things that are happening in their environment: work, e-mails, family obligations, etc. It is not like being at a live event, without any major distractions.

Event organizers must therefore ensure that event content and activities are relevant and engaging. Sessions should also be short and should start on time, so that participants don’t leave their seats. We can think that a virtual event is similar to a TV broadcast and therefore requires a producer mindset to succeed.

GENERATE EXPECTATION

Generally, the bigger the live event, the greater the expectations of the interested parties: speakers, sponsors, and everyone else. But with the reduction of live events and the increase of virtual events, maintaining the motivation of the participants throughout the event’s dissemination and promotion phases require special attention.

Ideally, this should be done at least a month in advance. Also, it needs a detailed planning of the channels to be used: websites, e-mail, social networks, etc. The process is similar to the way studios promote their films. They start sharing teasers with audiences up to a year before the film’s release date.

And as film production continues, studios continue to share more teasers and details to generate buzz. Events that manage to promote themselves in a similar way will leave the audience excited about what will be offered, making them not want to miss any details.

360 DEGREES

360-degree live video technology can be used to connect remote audiences and recreate the feeling of experiencing an event first hand. The competition to create better and increasingly sophisticated virtual event platforms will grow. After months of sensory deprivation, participants are likely to demand some entertainment. Holograms can be used as a differentiator to attract participants’ attention.

6. Rethinking engagement

► [Nearly 50% of planners say their biggest frustration when acquiring virtual event technology is their inability to respond to live engagement.] Source: Event Manager Blog

Engaging participants in an event requires effort and creativity. Finding competent and engaging speakers, developing activities that generate enthusiasm in the public, creating relevant content, all of these points remain extremely relevant.

Event trends for 2021 related to engagement are one of the biggest challenges to be faced. To keep audiences stimulated and involved, event planners will need to create different engagement strategies. And it’s valid both for live, online and hybrid formats.

What you need to do about it

ANALYTICS AS A DRIVER

Proper use of these study and analysis tools can provide event planners with powerful insights into participants’ levels and engagement preferences. Learning to read data about the behavior of online audiences should become part of the skill set of event planners. The results analyzed will be very useful to guide and optimize marketing and engagement strategies, increasing participants’ satisfaction.

THE POWER OF INTERACTIONS

There are many different ways to provide valuable interactions with participants to improve engagement in virtual events: Voting, before and during the event; sweepstakes and contests; competitions; Notifications; live question and answer session; research distribution, etc.

In general, a vote taken before the event improves engagement because it gives the audience the idea that the content of the virtual event will meet their needs. People love to give their opinion on what the virtual event should or should not contain. Knowing this, they will likely feel that the planner has considered your suggestions. Live voting is also great for creating interaction and attracting public attention during the event.

Another very effective way of getting public attention is through competition. This can be done on the event’s social media and, of course, with a good prize included.

A live question and answer session engages participants, allowing them to speak and be heard. Distributing surveys during a virtual event can keep participants focused on content. The survey can ask questions about the participants’ opinions on different aspects of the event.

GAMIFICATION

A good way to increase audience engagement is to gamify parts or aspects of the virtual event. For example, participants can earn and lose points through their activity during the virtual event.

You can set up a leaderboard with prizes for first place winners. This method is just a way to gamify the virtual event. Certainly, other approaches can be created even more exclusive to gamify the experience of its participants.

NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES

Networking is crucial to create audience engagement, even at virtual events. Thus, to help participants connect, opportunities should be created for them, providing them the opportunity to gather in 1:1’s or group chats according to their interests.

For this, the platform chosen for the event must include some type of chat or social feed function. Enabling chat rooms before the event so that attendees can start relating and introducing themselves. Also, after the event, they can have later conversations. It can be the starting point to form a community around the event and making people feel people feel more comfortable and motivated.

7. Accessibility and diversity

► [80% of event planners agree with the importance of diversity and inclusion and state that demonstrating an inclusion policy is an important aspect of selecting the venue for the event.] Source: Radisson Meetings 

The event market needs to work more and more so that the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is a central issue.

It may not be so easy at first to make events more inclusive, but ignoring accessibility limits who can participate in the event or have access to its content. 

The main thing is to ensure that everyone can benefit from the wealth, repertoires, knowledge and shared experiences. In doing so, it is necessary to consider the perspectives of all potential participants. Then, it’s necessary to design events that are welcoming, inclusive and accessible. Lastly, let’s encourage the full and dignified participation of all. It is not just the right thing to do. It is also good business sense to expand your audience, improve the quality of your events and strengthen your company’s reputation.

What you need to do about it

DIVERSITY

Currently, it is very strange to participate in any event where diversity was not considered relevant. Diversity should be noted mainly with the presence of speakers from different genders and ethnicities. Organizers who are not attentive to this issue, will probably be severely asked why the event is not representative, as there are no good reasons for this.

ACCESSIBILITY

To ensure that the event is accessible to everyone, a good alternative is to communicate with the participants to find out if they need any assistance. Firstly, in the registration form, ask what types of resources can help them the most: subtitles, translation, etc.

Therefore, planning is essential to make the event accessible and inclusive. In order to avoid last minute unforeseen events, the ideal is to select a virtual event platform with accessibility options to have the alternatives ready, even if there is no specific request.

8. Sustainability is a necessity

► [92% of event professionals said that it is important that sustainability is integrated with the sector’s recovery. 12% said their organizations have an advanced sustainability strategy. 49% said they were working on it.] Source: IMEX Group

In this “Corporate Event Trends for 2021” report, due to the importance of this topic, we’re repeating ourselves.

It is estimated that the carbon emission generated to carry out face-to-face events is quite fast. For example, a two-day conference with approximately 1,000 people. It can easily produce more CO2 than more than 200 average American households per year.

Thus, the drastic reduction in face-to-face events, which in many cases were replaced by the virtual model, ended up bringing very positive impacts from the point of view of environmental sustainability. That includes: reduction of air travel, land transport, energy and water consumption in hotels and event spaces, less disposable products etc.

What you need to do about it

RESPONSIBILITY

The decision to hold an event in the online model can occur for different reasons. It could be for promotion, environmental or health reasons. But it is important to note that climate change and other environmental problems. High-level event planners cannot overlook the importance of reducing environmental impacts. It is essential to present what are the impacts achieved with sustainable actions in the results report. In addition, make clear to participants about the measures adopted in this regard.

UNITED NATIONS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

There are 17 goals in total, which range from clean energy to gender equality and education to responsible consumption. The objectives provide a clear view of what is universally needed to make an impact and can be used as a guiding light for the meeting and event industry as to what needs to be done.

Wrapping up

The corporate event trends for 2021 show that the event market is being remodeled. It’s reinventing itself at a speed never seen before. Thus, the virtual format will still be a strong trend even after the pandemic period is over. Virtual events are much cheaper, in addition to being considered as an environmentally sustainable alternative.

Organizers will need to adapt and go further. They’ll need to explore this format without fear of being creative and experimenting to overcome obstacles such as difficulty with virtual engagement. At the same time, the offerings of new technologies and the creation of new procedures will inevitably improve to meet this wide demand.

It is very likely that we are only at the beginning of an era that will see much more of the potential of virtual events. Not only because face-to-face events still take time to resume at full power, but mainly because new concepts are constantly appearing. The virtual format is here to stay indeed.

Virtual Event Trends 2021

Check out our blog resources to keep updated on the latest trends:

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