2022, a new year for events? Is it safe to say that we are officially returning to in-person? With multiple cancellations, shifts to virtual platforms and the word ‘pivot’ overtaking our emails and meetings these last two years, we’ve now started to see organizers move full steam ahead with plans to return to in-person this year. This was kicked-off most recently with CES, which was held in Las Vegas in January and is continuing with SXSW being held in Austin, TX in March despite COVID spikes. However, although we might be going back to face-to-face events, the event landscape as we know it has been forever changed and the virtual components that we have become accustomed to won’t be going away. We thought it would be helpful to share some event trends, insights, and predictions for 2022 to help guide conversations with your clients, your marketing teams, or with event organizers when it comes to event strategy and the state of the industry.
Health & Safety of Attendees
With the return of in-person events, organizers will need to take an extreme approach to responsibility, ensuring safety of attendees and participating speakers. At SXSW, attendees are being required to either provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a recent negative test. The festival is also asking all in-person attendees to commit to a healthy pledge, which includes wearing their mask properly, washing hands frequently and staying home if they experience symptoms of Covid-19. It is safe to say that organizers have obstacles and uncertainty ahead of them, as new health and safety guidelines are changing regularly. BUT the big understanding is that if in-person is here to stay, attendees will want to feel safe and comfortable and organizers must incorporate this into planning from the start.
The key? To stick to strict guidelines and rules in processes, build health and safety into budget and overly communicate. This is also something to take into consideration when you are recommending events for clients or speakers to attend, as you’ll want to make sure that the event is taking all precautionary.
Virtual Is Here to Stay
Just because we are returning to in-person events does not mean that we can forget about the virtual components. Yes, people have “zoom fatigue” and are tired of sitting in front of their screens. They are missing the networking and peer meetups at events – but let’s not discount the wide reach that virtual events provide. There are going to be large groups of people who now, after seeing the benefits virtual platforms have provided, don’t feel the need or desire to travel for large events, have family that they are unable to leave, or are on the other side of the continent but still want to receive the same relevant and engaging content.
With everything happening around the future of the Metaverse and AR/VR, we know that we should not be solely relying on in-person strategy. Event organizers are investing in virtual tech platforms to further enhance the experience for attendees, which includes measurement of attendees and engagement that provides better insights, with almost 85% of event professionals saying that access to attendee engagement insights is vital to success. Verizon Business announced the launch of BlueJeans Studio, a new all-in-one event production platform that includes easy video feed mixing, custom branding and endless streaming capabilities that can help drive audience engagement and elevate virtual experiences. The future of events is hybrid, and we need to embrace this.
Emotional Authenticity & Engagement
With the reemergence of in-person events this year we need to rethink strategy around topics, themes and overall content. We will continue to see sustainability, diversity and social good be at the forefront, but authenticity will also remain an important aspect of events along with meaningful engagement. Stephanie Latham, Founder, Haute Companies has sited that “emotional authenticity will be a cornerstone of in-person events” moving forward. Attendees want to hear from speakers that inspire and drive emotions and shared values. During the pandemic people were missing that emotional connectivity and feeling of community. Audiences want honest conversations and tangible insights they can take back to their teams. Latham also cites that audiences want to feel hope. This is something that we are driving with our clients when it comes to the topics and narratives that they want to prioritize at upcoming events this year. Engagement is key – with hybrid event formats becoming our ‘new normal’, we need to ensure that we find new ways to connect and new ways to build community as it relates to the hybrid model. Whether that’s creating and continuing the smaller, intimate formats – and inviting attendees from across the world (a benefit from the virtual world).
When it comes to upcoming conversations and event planning meetings with teams, remember that in-person is back, but virtual is also here to stay. Health & safety will be top of mind for organizers, companies and attendees and hybrid formats will be the new norm so make sure you are thinking about every component when it comes to planning for event season. When it comes to content make sure to drive emotional authenticity. Hope to see some of you at in-person event this year!
If you’d like to get in touch regarding planning and strategizing for in-person or hybrid events, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.