Event Industry KeyTakeaways from 2021

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Posted on 12/10/2021

Key Takeaways from Virtual & Hybrid Events in 2022

Learn the critical lessons that event professionals have learned in 2021. Takeaways from virtual and hybrid events in the past year have been exemplary. In fact, it gives us a lot to look forward to in 2022.

Event industry wrapped

As we come to the end of 2021, it’s time to reflect on the event industry. Also, the trends that have emerged over the past year. What has the industry of event professionals learned? What have been the main challenges and the strategies to overcome them? How has the industry evolved from 2020?

In this post, we’ll dive into the key takeaways for event professionals. Also we will draw on specific examples from the field and the latest industry-wide survey undertaken by Event MB.

Virtual events are not going anywhere.

In 2020, virtual events were the only alternative for event organizers to engage their audience. In 2021, while in-person events become a more realistic option, virtual events reinforced their position. Event planners have continued to tap on the value of virtual events, transitioning to a fully digital strategy. In sum, this year has served to strengthen virtual events´ benefits that first became apparent in 2020.

What are the benefits of virtual events? 

A core benefit most frequently cited by event organizers is the reach they achieve. Indeed, thanks to virtual events´ convenience and accessibility, event organizers have attracted bigger, more diverse, and more global audiences.

Other significant benefits include lower costs, better data analytics, lead generation, customization, and sustainability.

What are the challenges of virtual events? 

When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, there was a certain lack of technical knowledge and a learning curve to pivot virtual events successfully. More than a year on, most event planners, marketers, and A/V professionals have improved their knowledge and mastered the digital tools required for virtual events.

Yet, event professionals have come up against substantial challenges. Virtual audiences and event attendees now expect far more than a Zoom meeting. Event MB´s State of the Industry Report found that engagement and networking are the biggest challenges facing event organizers. 

Next, we examine how professionals overcome these challenges and the prevalent strategies used in 2021.

What are the best strategies for virtual events? 

Event and video professionals are increasingly going beyond Zoom and turning to specialized platforms. Indeed, the best platforms include cutting-edge features and solutions. This directly addresses the most significant pain points, enabling professionals to deliver more interactive experiences.  

For instance, the virtual event Game On, hosted by InEvent, incetli, and engamio was a gamified and participatory experience including activities such as an interactive map, a jigsaw puzzle, word search, and a selfie contest. Distinctively, the event offered a networking roulette, where attendees could meet peers in speed-dating style video calls and arrange business meetings.

Hybrid events are the future

As per EventMB´s latest survey, 42 percent of event professionals have already started to host in-person events. However, given the benefits of virtual events and the persisting demand from attendees, event organizers are not ready to discard them.

Aiming to capture the best out of both worlds, organizers are taking up hybrid events, combining virtual and in-person components. According to EventMB´s research, 63 percent of event professionals see their events becoming hybrid in the future.

In sum, while the event industry discussed the progressive transition to hybrid events as a theoretical possibility in 2020, it is becoming a reality. This industry development has brought its own set of learnings for organizers, laying the foundations upon which professionals can improve hybrid events in the future.

Subsequently, we outline the key takeaways that this new hybrid era has laid bare.

Need for Robust Event Management Suite 

As professionals have been managing elements of virtual and in-person events simultaneously, the need to invest in powerful event management software has become palpable.

In that context, hybrid platforms and all-in-one solutions are on the rise. Hybrid event software encompasses event registration and check-in for both attendees, budgeting, live polling and Q&A, premium video streaming, data analytics, and lead tracking.

In a similar line, event apps have been adopted by organizers and attendees alike, as the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of the industry and the normalization of virtual tools.

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Event mobile apps allow attendees to seamlessly access their digital pass, the event schedule, speakers, and venue directions and interact with live questions polls. And, apps bridge the gap between virtual and in-person attendees, who can engage in a shared experience and community.

Community Marketing

With the shift to the hybrid model, event organizers have been challenged to build a cohesive community, including in-person and virtual attendees. Although attendees have two distinct experiences, event professionals have strived to create a shared sense of belonging and emotional connection. 

In that light, community marketing initiatives have become more and more relevant to foster loyalty and long-term sustainability. Events are no longer once-a-year occasions, as organizers host them more frequently to bring their community of attendees together, encourage networking and reinforce a feeling of companionship. 

Moreover, event organizers are gradually moving from the traditional top-down approach to a strategy that promotes co-creation and collaboration with attendees. Event professionals are thus asking for content guidance before gatherings, inviting attendees to create their own customized agendas and set up breakout rooms according to their interests. 

 Investment in A/V and Video-driven events 

In the context of hybrid events, A/V quality has become a priority. The industry´s drive to continuously improve audio and video quality is not new. Still, it has become more relevant as professionals are urged to relay a pixel-perfect video streaming for their virtual attendees.

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This increased emphasis on A/V quality has come hand in hand with leveraging video in all aspects of an event´s marketing strategy. Professionals have utilized video to ramp up pre-event excitement, improve networking, and monetize an event. And, they have taken up live studios to deliver more premium broadcasts and customize streams aligned with a brand’s identity. 

Adapting Venue Selection Criteria 

The venue selection criteria for hybrid events have differed significantly from the traditional approach since event professionals have aimed to optimize the viewing experience for their virtual audience.  

The prevailing mindset in the industry has become that of a TV broadcaster. So, spaces that accommodate multiple cameras and a visually appealing stage have been prioritized. LED walls and projection mapping installations have become differentials, as event planners look for ways of delivering truly immersive experiences.

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Unsurprisingly, health & safety have been influential factors in event venue selection. Event professionals have looked for venues committed to local health guidelines, specific accreditation and equipment (e.g., air filtration systems), and a track record of hosting COVID-safe events.

Crucially, safety has not only acquired particular importance in the venue selection process but across the entire event planning spectrum.

Safety is still a priority

While the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been advancing considerably, a vital concern for attendee safety has not disappeared. However, this commitment is expressing itself differently, as safety protocols and measures have become more geared towards mandating vaccination or negative tests rather than social distancing.

Safety has also been pivotal in choosing the host destination for events. Indeed, as travel restrictions have eased, organizers have favored states and cities with lower rates of COVID-19 cases.

However, given the perceived risks and the ever-changing restrictions on international travel, most organizers have preferred to host smaller and more local in-person gatherings. Notwithstanding, we have seen notable exceptions this year, such as IMEX America or WEC Vegas, with mass gatherings attracting numerous attendees and media attention.

Uncertainty is the norm

Finally, we can point to the uncertainty that has undoubtedly characterized 2021 and influenced the state of the events industry.

New variants such as Delta and Omicron have cropped up, forcing event planners to constantly deal with changing environments and closely monitor local health and regulatory circumstances.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has suffered some hurdles, such as vaccine hesitancy and supply issues. Event organizers have pondered over the often divisive vaccination passports, balancing inclusion with safety. 

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Check out our blog resources and sign up for our newsletter to keep updated on the latest trends, features, and more regarding virtual events across the world:

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