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Event Trends 2021 – We Will Event Again

What a year it has been: A year full of forced changes, uncertainties, and unexpected plot twists. However, 2020 has also shown how well-connected the event industry is, and how flexible, agile and strong event professionals are. For 2021, the message is clear: We will event again.

As we look ahead, there are numerous event trends that we will deal with in 2021.

More Hybrid Events

Going back to an increased number of live events will be possible as soon as vaccinations are likely to further ease the situation. However, many events will still happen in a virtual environment that will often take place to complement onsite conferences as part of hybrid concepts.

Hybrid events will continue to be important for numerous reasons:

  • The current crisis affecting travel budgets
  • The ease of delivering training and classes through online meetings
  • Time savings, as event attendees do not need to consider travelling
  • The extended audience reach facilitated by technology and online content deliveries

However, we have only just begun this journey down the hybrid route. As an industry, we are still at an early stage as we rethink, develop, and shape these new event formats. With experience comes excellence, so the quality of hybrid events is expected to significantly increase in 2021.

Contactless interactions

2020 accelerated the overall digitization of events. Contactless payments, online registration, visitor check in apps, digital ticketing, automated door systems, touchless hand sanitizers, and other forms of non-physical interactions will become even more prominent as event organizers and venues look for ways to reduce high touch points in events.

Be prepared to take a big step forward in the world of the Internet of Things and rely on digital applications in more and more situations.

The rise of micro-experiences

We are already observing a tendency towards smaller regional in-person event, so-called glocalized and delocalized event concepts, that are spread around various destinations. For example, this year’s ICCA Congress was organized as a Glocalized Congress, with different regional hubs and one main in-person congress location in addition to a broad online conference program.

These concepts allow for more flexibility and offer attendees the possibility to switch from in-person to virtual events when needed. Smaller regional events can also ease interaction between event attendees, which may result in increased networking quality.

Finally, more attendees from the same organization may get the chance to attend the event, some of them online and some of them onsite. Events that were previously limited to a handful of selected people in the company are now accessible to a large majority, empowering more individuals.

Personalization & Engagement

Micro-experiences will add high value to attendees’ experience as a part of the overall event engagement. The idea is to engage all attendees, both virtually and physically, to make them part of the experience. Ideally, you create an engaged event community throughout the year, beyond any in-person event and online meetings.

If virtual events allow for more attendees to join, one of the biggest challenges faced by event planners when hosting virtual events remains to keep remote attendees engaged during the event. This has become even more crucial as we are transitioning towards more hybrid event concepts.

The key to an engaged audience is to create content that resonates with them, that addresses their challenges, and that provides answers to their questions, but most of all, finding the right speaker to deliver that content.

Presenting live and on camera are two very different things that require different presentation skill sets and event organizers will need to source those talents who can engage with audiences both on stage and online to elevate their hybrid events.

Health Checks & Risk Management

COVID-19 is adding a new dimension to event health and safety management. Event registration will now include more questions about registrants’ current state of health and recent travel history. The data captured will help determine if attendees represent a threat to the health of others prior to attending the event. Additional health checks are already being implemented at venue entrances to take visitors temperature and prevent the risk of an outbreak.

However, truth is that, even if venues and event organizers are implementing strong protocols to meet government regulations and ensure the safety of their patrons, compliance remains an issue. When people attend an event, they expect to see safety protocols that protect them, and they expect those protocols to be enforced. But how can you ensure that social distancing is respected at all time, that people are washing their hands on a regular basis, that they are scanning contact tracing QR codes to notify their presence in the premises? Venues and event organizers will have to implement strict procedures and think of ways to enforce them to avoid health and safety breaches

Event Analytics

Like everything in the online world, virtual events open new horizons to event performance analytics. With the data gathered, there will be new insights and possibilities for event professionals to cater events to the audience’s needs. It will also allow for them to provide insights to exhibitors, speakers and sponsors:

  • Which presentation performed best?
  • Which virtual booth had the most visitors?
  • Which resource did attendees download the most?
  • Which speaker profile was the most visited?
  • Which exhibitor had the most scheduled appointments?

Event planners will be able to make more informed decisions based on the data collected and improve future event delivery accordingly.

Content & Presentation Delivery Reimagined

With more virtual events being offered, expectations from event attendees towards online experiences and content are changing. It has become even more important to deliver the right content for the right audience with interactive concepts, engaging experiences and relevant topics. Putting an idea on a slide and sharing it within a webinar will no longer convince an online audience to pay money for a virtual event. Marketers must become more creative than ever as they become moderators, event hosts, entertainers, and conversation openers within online events.

For in-person events that are likely to host less attendees in the next months or even year, smaller groups of people can be beneficial for hands-on workshops and in-depth conversations that go far beyond superficial tradeshow small talks.

Big Tech: Technology at the forefront

Technology will play a bigger role than ever in 2021. However, there is a certain risk of applying too much of a good thing when it comes to excessive technology usage in events. Event organizers must try not to overwhelm event participants with technology and ensure the experience comes first.

At the same time, event professionals’ roles are evolving. They need to become more tech savvy and entertaining in their jobs, and they need to be flexible and creative in ways they haven’t been before.

Conclusion

2021 will be the year of curated event presentations and personalized experiences. The line between the real world and the digital space will become almost nonexistent. Attendees will be immersed in online experiences that will prompt them to comment, rate, vote, ask questions and share feedback. Speakers and moderators will play a crucial part in delivering memorable presentations and creating that connection with audiences that will prompt them to further engage with your event.

Event professionals will be re-inventing their job profiles while the entire event industry will adjust to new revenue streams, monetization models and event formats because of the “Covid 19” situation that ultimately served as an accelerator for many new technology developments and the rise of digital adoption.

In 2020, the event industry has shown how strong it is and how resilient event professionals are. In 2021, face-to-face and in-person events will come back with a higher significance than ever.

We will exhibit again, we will conference again, we will cheer again, WE WILL EVENT AGAIN.