The global pandemic has had a resounding impact on the $1.5 trillion worldwide event industry, which is far from restored to normal for the immediate future.
And yet experts are already divided in their opinion when it comes to predicting what the future holds for events. Though nothing more than speculation right now, trends and forecasts for the coming few months speak of the events industry’s impressive adaptability and resilience.
The year 2020 saw an unprecedented boost to virtual events, with more and more organizations embracing virtual benefits in the face of social distancing and lockdown norms within cities, countries, and regions. Where few companies were already striving towards digitisation and remote working, the pandemic necessitated a swifter and heavier dependence on technology like never before.
Now, with the second wave receding and the population steadily advancing towards immunisation against the deadly virus, questions arise as to how the industry will shape up. What will event trends be in 2022? The answer? Virtual events are here to stay, whether on their own or as hybrid combinations. But other significant trends are waiting to emerge. Let’s take a look.
Event Trends 2022 – Recognizing the Power and Agility of Virtual Events
Studies show that the year 2020 witnessed a 290% rise in the number of virtual events hosted all over the world compared to 2019. This paradigm shift was fuelled as much by the constraints of the pandemic as by the technological developments that organisations were already steering towards
Come 2022, and this trend will continue in place, adding power and flexibility to the events industry. Virtual events have brought people closer, enabling them to join together for discussions, celebrations, or agendas from across continents, without taking away comfort and convenience.
Management companies had already been trying hard to expand their reach regionally as well as globally through live streaming and interactive modulations. Now that the pandemic has offered proof of concept for the remote structure, virtual events are all set to be an inseparable part of corporate lives.
Redefining Accessibility with Hybrid Events
A hybrid event can be understood as the combination of in-person (physical) and virtual (digital) experiences, one complementing the other. Hybrid events facilitate participation, and not merely spectatorship. They offer greater opportunities to stakeholders for engaging with one another and with the event agenda, compared to entirely physical or digital events separately.
Travel restrictions have been lifted in most countries, and even on international travel in several regions. More and more governments are considering further opening up of their economies with the receding pandemic. Yet, with many constraints still poised to be in place, organisations would be looking at hosting limited capacities in-person, while setting up options for virtual participation to maintain wider participation from all fronts. A hybrid event would, thus, enable the combination of two otherwise separate events, therefore driving multiple narratives in a single picture.
The same study as above highlights that seven in ten companies had already been hosting hybrid events before the pandemic, meaning that the concept is not entirely new for organisations to adapt to. The pandemic has only augmented interest in these events, which are not just safer in the wake of COVID-19, but also far more sustainable, cost-effective, and flexible compared to entirely physical or entirely digital experiences.
A New Approach to In-Person Events
The year 2022 will not entirely be based on virtual or hybrid events, leaving sufficient room for in-person gatherings as well. The difference is that in-person events will never be quite the same as before.
Technology, as was evident throughout 2020, has given individuals, companies, and governments the power of choice. Stakeholders at various levels of the hierarchy are waiting to get back to “reality”, with 67% of companies expecting the events industry to restore to normal by 2022. The steep learning curve that marketers, event planners, and participants have been subject to in the last 18-20 months has also changed their outlook on conventional in-person events.
So, what will change? Priorities for sure. Compared to pre-2020 in-person events, the ones in 2022 and beyond will focus much more on health and safety measures, operational requirements for venues, spatial and infrastructural requirements, disaster recovery, food preparation practices, staff training, and so on.
While networking will continue to be as important as ever, in-person events are likely to see a cap on the maximum participation, thus also reducing the costs needed for organizing such events. Vaccinations will play an important role, as event planners might feel inclined to welcome attendees based on their vaccination status, especially for international meets.
Event Trends 2022 and Event Technology to Shape the Future
If there’s anything the pandemic has taught organisations, it has to be the value of data. The same data will play a vital role in shaping events of the future, enabling planners to delve into actionable insights on logistics, sales, and marketing, besides interaction levels in the case of virtual and hybrid events.
Thanks to the growing importance of technology in the creation and handling of events, there are several platforms and tools available today that will redefine the events of tomorrow. Interestingly, these platforms and tools are witnessing constant developments, some that have not even entered the mainstream so far.
Registration and attendance procedures will be handled much more fluidly through automated databases. There would be unprecedented synergy among speakers, presenters, organizers, and attendees irrespective of the scale of the event, and the benefits of lag-free streaming, uninterrupted connectivity, and advanced developments such as AR and VR would rule the stage.
The focus would not just be on aesthetics, but also on compatibility, connectivity, consistency, and flow. Tech setups would be handled by dedicated professionals, offering technology integrations at multiple touchpoints.
As various industries recover from the ill effects of the pandemic, the events industry seems set for a technologically powered future. While speculations about the fate of events by 2022 still remain enshrouded in doubt and uncertainty, what is easy to surmise is that both in-person meetings and virtual events will have evolved to a considerable extent, paving the way for hybridization. What companies must look at, therefore, is to invest in robust technologies, tools, training, and platforms to stay ahead of the game.
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