It’s no secret that the events industry was hit hard by the pandemic. Worth £39.1 billion to the UK economy and a landscape that thrives on human interaction, making it a sizeable loss to businesses bottom line. Some tech-savvy and forward-thinking companies leapt at the opportunity to save costs and increase event registrations by going virtual. This worked well for some while others struggled with new technologies. Phrases like ‘you’re on mute’ even made it to the 2020 New Years Eve drone show above London’s 02 arena. (How great was that by the way?!)
One thing we know for certain is that the pandemic accelerated events industry and technology changes that would have taken a long time for many businesses to become accustomed to. Virtual events became a buzzword in 2020, with 52,000 of them happening on just one platform.
But now as we draw towards the end of 2021, what have we learnt about the events industry and what can we expect from 2022+?
Virtual events are here to stay.
Whether you love them or loathe them, the benefits of virtual events are vast. Depending on the scale, they can be pulled together fairly quickly with the right platform and partners. Live events require everyone to be in the same place, whereas many more people have the opportunity to be part of a virtual event. Your annual event held in a conference room at a London hotel now has the opportunity to go global. Take one of the biggest technology companies on the planet. Microsoft. In 2019 their ‘ignite’ conference attracted 6,000 attendees, each paying $2,395 dollars per person. In 2020 the event was virtual and free. They attracted 197,000 people. There is a revenue question here, but many companies have adjusted their sponsorship packages and opportunities to recoup these losses. Businesses can now afford to run several events rather than just one, also offering greater incentives to their sponsors who could gain greater, more regular exposure.
But what about hybrid?
Hybrid events allow for the flexibility and reach of a virtual event, but the connection and engagement of an in-person option. We will see many events organisers create opportunities for both virtual and in-person experiences for those that want them. Ensuring that face to face networking opportunities are also on offer. Virtual is great, it gets the job done. But there is nothing quite like sharing an experience, reading body language, making eye contact and laughing over how addictive the canapes are this year. Showing up in person also demonstrates your dedication to a particular event or topic. It shows you’re serious about your job and your industry. Not everybody is ready to mix in a room full of people, and that’s why hybrid events will become both popular and petitioned for by events attendees.
Live events will be driven by experience
We now know that an event can work very well as virtual or hybrid. But what about a solely live event. Will events organisers struggle to persuade attendees to leave the comfort of the home laptops? In one sense a live event will be an easy sell, as humans we crave interaction with other people, it is one of our most basic needs and for the best part of 2 years, we’ve kept our circles small. But on the other side, if we can avoid public transport be around to meet family and personal requirements and still get all we want from the event, be it professional upskilling, CPD points or more details about a new and emerging industry trend, why not do it from home?
We predict events organisers are going to have to pull out all the stops in some cases to bring back the delegates. Making it truly worth the journey, a memorable experience that goes beyond great content. That may mean increasing budgets and scrapping formats that have worked perfectly well, pre-pandemic.
Safety and Sustainability
But it isn’t only the experience organisers are going to need to consider. What about safety? Keeping delegates re-assured that you are doing everything humanly possible to make the event a safe one, will be imperative in its reputation. There will also be a renewed emphasis on sustainability. Organisers will need to be able to demonstrate how they are trying to reduce their carbon footprint. On a smaller scale it will be through things such as signage, delegate badges, events collateral and gifts but on a bigger scale – where are speakers coming from? Are they flying across the globe to be present? Events organisers will need to be answerable to their attendees, their sponsors and anybody else with a stake in the business.
The events industry is worth trillions worldwide and it isn’t expected to return fully normal until at least 2023, though we might not know when events will feel familiar again, we do know that the changes brought on by the Coronavarius, will have lasting effects.
If you’re considering setting the date on your events calendar, but aren’t sure where to start, why not reach out to one of our friendly team. Whether it’s a virtual event or a live show, our team can help with strategy, event planning and execution as well as post-event analysis. Contact Marketing Director Michelle Wheeler on firstname.lastname@example.org