The landscape is changing – here’s what you need to know
The exhilaration of reveling with a crowd at a concert, the high degree of collaboration between delegates at a conference, the sharing of ideas at a meeting or forum. People are social creatures and we all miss the opportunities to connect, talk, interact and celebrate. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of that.
Alongside the travel and hospitality sector, the meetings and events industry has been hard hit. Live shows have been postponed, and events, conferences and meetings, and even sports events, have been thrust into the virtual space. The events landscape is shifting. Change is calling. Innovation is burgeoning. However, while events may look different they are by no means unexciting.
Let’s look at some of the trends and features of the transforming events landscape that we can harness as opportunities in the coming years.
Virtual events are here to stay
Virtual events are here to stay, even once the health crisis is over. Predictions from Grand View Research indicate that virtual events will increase ten-fold over the next decade. Let’s face it, many people are still going to be hesitant to travel and be in a big crowd. The growing emphasis on environmental sustainability is also likely to keep driving events and conferences online, as companies and individuals seek to reduce their carbon footprint. Furthermore, the economic reality is that cost control is high on the agenda. It is more cost effective to host more attendees in a virtual event than it is to set up a physical space. And while both have their merits, this is a big consideration for brands that are in the recovery phase.
A survey conducted by PCMA showed that 7 out of 10 businesses have already moved their events to a virtual platform, with many indicating that they don’t see it as a short-term fix in the era of social distancing – but rather as a complement to in-person events into the future.
Investment in virtual events is set to grow
More companies and event planners than ever before are planning to invest in virtual events. A recent report on the outlook for events after COVID-19 shows that 90% of event marketers plan to invest in virtual events going forward, while less than a quarter of them had invested in virtual events in the past. Investment in marketing, staging, technology and assessing virtual events is set to grow. According to a survey by Markletic, 55% of virtual event organizers plan to invest more money in virtual events in 2021.
Hybrid events are the way of the future
Virtual is a focus. There is no doubt about that. However, we don’t believe for a minute that in-person, face-to-face and live-and-loud events won’t be back. They will. Looking ahead, we believe that people will enthusiastically go to events that they see value in attending. Others will be wary of the health risks, costs and time limitations associated with travelling to and attending events. In the spirit of inclusion and to maximise reach, cost efficiency and sustainability, hybrid events – which fuse virtual solutions with in-person events and exhibitions – will be the way of the future.
Hybrid events combine in-person elements with digital components, making them a perfect blend of technology, content and engagement features to give both live and virtual attendees an immersive experience. Combining the best of in-person and virtual features, hybrid events have big benefits.
You can break down the barriers of time, space and distance to accommodate people who previously could not attend your live events. In reaching a larger audience, you can potentially achieve a higher return on investment than with a strictly in-person event. Best of all, you have unprecedented access to data on marketing analytics, attendees, session interactions and more.
Hybrid events have been around for a few years already but they’re really coming into their own in the wake of the pandemic. Big brands and companies of all types are embracing and honing the opportunities a hybrid approach provides. Namely to extend the reach, level of engagement and return on investment of their events, product launches and conferences. The key to a successful hybrid event is to make the experience engaging, immersive, captivating and interactive to both live and virtual audiences. Looking for inspiration? Read about Riot Games’ League of Legends, Twitchcon and Tomorrowland Around The World — The Digital Festival.
Increased emphasis on engagement
With a digital component to your live events, you have almost limitless possibilities at your fingertips. Now you can expose your brand, share content and engage with attendees from virtually anywhere in the world. Think broadcasts, videos, audio, live streaming, chat bots, social media, voice translations during panel discussions, an event app to encourage attendee interaction, gamification, virtual reality, augmented reality and more.
Hybrid events open-up opportunities for more engagement with and between attendees because they are actively participating from their device or computer and are able to immediately comment, like and share. This isn’t always possible in large, in-person events, without considerable thought and planning.
There are numerous virtual event platforms and software suites to create a seamless, interactive and engaging occasion. Some of the most popular virtual event software and programme options include vFairs, ON24, and Big Marker. Another fantastic advantage is that many of these platforms allow you to capture valuable data that can help you enhance future dos and calculate your ROI.
Technology is reshaping the landscape
Technology has empowered millions around the world to work, collaborate and attend events without leaving their homes. Digital transformation has been bolstered during the pandemic and will continue to be integrated into remote working, meeting and event staging models well into the future. Innovation in technologies is growing and evolving at a rapid pace. When we talk about event tech, we are referring to the array of digital tools that enable planners and companies to stage launches, conferences and ceremonies from start to completion. We are talking about event management software, marketing tools, registration solutions, mobile apps, social media, virtual platforms, virtual reality, chat functions, augmented reality, videos, webcasts, you name it.
A simple web stream is no longer enough. Attendees expect a more captivating and interactive virtual experience. The experience defines the entire journey, from the time they register until the time they leave or submit their feedback via an app. Technology will drive each step in this journey. Innovation is happening – embrace it or be left behind.
Specialised skills are in demand
Specialised skills to plan and execute engaging virtual and hybrid events are in demand. Event planners need to have a design mindset, a deep understanding of the psychology of their audiences and their finger on the pulse of new trends and technologies, to get their jobs done and bring virtual events to life. With the fast advancements in enabling event technologies and the rapid move to virtual and hybrid events in the past year, gaps in the skills and resources to stage them are emerging.
At The Event Production Company, we eat, sleep and breathe this. Since 1993, we have been producing in-person events with a quick move to virtual and hybrid events that deliver cohesive and enticing experiences. We can help you to make any occasion a mesmerizing, memorable and measurable affair. Talk to us to find out how.