The future of events has changed forever in the last few years. The events industry is made up of highly creative problem solvers and innovators, and, despite the obvious setbacks our sector has witnessed over the last two years, the industry has risen to these challenges and looks entirely different than it did pre-Covid-19.
Today, event attendees want and expect choice – and now the events sector is offering it in abundance. 2022 looks set to be another challenging one for the industry as the emergence of new coronavirus variants lead to further lockdowns, venue restrictions and social distancing regulations.
Saroosh Gull, CEO, Eventcombo, looks at the top trends that will change and challenge the events industry in 2022 and beyond.
- More variants, more uncertainty
The Omicron variant has brought us back to the reality that we continue to navigate through unpredictable times, where event planners are continually challenged and need to consider all possibilities.
In 2022, organizers will need to keep looking to reshape their strategies to prepare for every possibility, especially as Omicron cases rise around the world. With yet more uncertainty in the air as new variants are discovered, and with so many people still unvaccinated, event trends show that physical events remain uncertain and event planning can change overnight.
- Data security must be prioritized
The sector is a goldmine for data and information and the shift to online events over the last 20 months has made the industry a prime target for hackers. Marketers and organizers who execute live events have a responsibility to properly manage and secure the data their attendees have entrusted them with.
The data revolution has changed the way consumers interact with companies and vice versa. Data plays a dominant role in all businesses and the threat of data security poses a serious problem for both businesses as well as their customers.
For events industry professionals, data is the key to the success of webinars, conferences, events and trade shows. The volume of personal information collected in the industry is staggering, thus, doing things that minimize the risk of data getting into the wrong hands and ensuring it is sufficiently protected and shielded from potential misuse is key.
- A return to digital: bigger, brighter, bolder, better
As we move into 2022, with Omicron variant cases on the rise, virtual events will remain commonplace in the industry for the foreseeable future. Undoubtedly, events have come a long way since the days of the PowerPoint-driven webinar, yet screen fatigue is all-encompassing.
As the pandemic shows no signs of stopping in 2022, organizers are having to find ways to ensure their audiences do not grow weary of online events. The digital events of next year will need to be bigger, brighter, bolder and better than ever before.
Your event will need to fight for attendees’ attention, and we are already seeing our most successful events moving away from having a content focus and instead ensuring an enthralling experience for their attendees.
The best digital events will be those that increase their production values. The introduction of high-tech virtual events with 3-D environments, digital avatars and virtual reality will make attendees feel immersed in the action. The home-made look of 2020 is now a thing of the past.
- The rise of Phygital Events
In 2022 we will see the rise of Phygital Events. Hybrid models will redefine the new industry landscape and will remain a mainstay of events and exhibitions for years to come.
Covid-19 has changed the way we live, work and attend events. We are now comfortable and confident in consuming content online, and while we know there is an appetite for getting back to in person events, digital needs to be part of the toolbox of the future planner.
Phygital events allow for the flexibility and reach of a virtual event, but the connection and engagement of an in-person option. The coming together of our pre-Covid-19 physical events combined with an immersive, creative and engaging online event to provide the best of both worlds for attendees, regardless of their location.
Phygital Events provide a massive opportunity in the form of a multi-audience, multiformat events landscape. They offer greater opportunities to stakeholders for engaging with one another and with the event agenda, compared to entirely physical or digital events separately.
- Sustainability: not just a nice to have
The events industry is traditionally incredibly wasteful: endless single-use plastic, catering waste, single-use signage, free merchandise that has a first-class ticket to landfills, the list goes on and on. However, in 2022 planners must reignite their desire to create more sustainable events.
Around the world, conversations surrounding sustainability have been ramping up. The pandemic has driven us to think of the world in a more collective way. As quickly as audiences feel safe attending events, there will be a return to the ‘greening’ of the events industry.
We must take responsibility for the world and how the events industry affects it. Our concerns around climate change have increased over the last decade and virtual events have given us the opportunity to help. While going green is nothing new, the latest trend in sustainability promises to push the boundaries of both imagination and resourcefulness.
- Post-Event Communities
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. In 2022, planners will need to strive to continue to create connections and community.
In 2022, more businesses will need to leverage virtual event technology to create engaging ‘two-way’ gatherings. Eventcombo recently launched Community™ by Eventcombo, the ground-breaking platform allows organizers to interact with their audience like never before; ensuring they keep in touch, and continually engage with stakeholders including event managers, organizers, attendees, employees, students, speakers and sponsors – even once the event is over.
A recent survey by Kaltura – a video cloud platform – found that 55% of people surveyed felt virtual events “feel less personal”, 44% said that they present “fewer opportunities to socialize” and 35% found networking challenging in a virtual environment. The desire to build communities with shared values and robust continued engagement has become a clear trend for our clients and we believe that an event’s community – before and after an event – should be the drive for hosting events going forward.
- Health and safety: no longer an afterthought
Putting in place a well thought-out health and safety plan for every event is not just an expectation, but a moral imperative in 2022 and beyond. Events in 2022 and beyond will focus much more on health and safety measures, operational requirements for venues and spatial and infrastructural requirements.
Ensuring health and safety at in-person events during a pandemic requires a lot of attention to detail, transparency and open communication with attendees, and adherence to health regulations that are constantly changing as the pandemic. While nothing can fully mitigate the risk of attending events, there are many steps we can take to prevent spread. It will be up to event organizers to do their best to provide an environment safe to gather in.
Many event planners and hosts say they will require proof of Covid vaccination and/or proof of Covid negative testing to attend events. Creators of live events are going to play a pivotal role in controlling the spread of the virus through adopting safety measures and using tools such as our Eventcombo’s Vaccine Checker at their events will prove to your audience that their health and safety is no longer an afterthought.
- The importance of technology platforms
The events industry is set for a technologically powered future. In 2022, in order to deliver a high-quality experience, event planners will need to make sure they have a robust technology platform to deliver true event value.
Thanks to the growing importance of technology in the creation and handling of events, there are several platforms, such as Eventcombo, that have the tools to redefine the events of tomorrow.
As marketers hurried to put together virtual and hybrid events, many scrambled to find the right virtual event platform. Some 40% of event planners say they aren’t happy with the tech options they found. The maxim of the survival of the fittest still applies. Ultimately, marketers and event planners must scale their events programs and be agile enough to switch to different event formats quickly.
Today, this can be executed efficiently by integrating all your event formats into a single events management platform. This will not only help deliver consistent engagement levels and capture all activity uniformly but will also allow you to share that wealth of data with your sales team in a format they understand.
2022 and beyond
If 2021 has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen. The global pandemic called for rapid changes in the event industry. Since March of 2020, the industry has worked so hard to find its footing again and create new and innovative solutions to an ever changing industry.
There’s no denying that there might be complexities in event journeys moving forward. The pandemic necessitated rapid changes in the event industry, which is finding its footing again by creating new value virtually and organizations will now be expected to juggle multiple event formats and audiences as the preferences of attendees, hosts, and planners evolve.
Like all of us, event planners are navigating this new normal and the year of 2022 will be a year of trial, error, exploration, and growth. Whether your event happens online, offline, or in a hybrid model, remaining flexible, prioritizing safety, and staying optimistic will ensure you a new year of wonderfully engaging and unique event experiences!
As we enter 2022, there are challenges ahead as wave after wave of new variants loom on the horizon and best laid plans are required to pivot overnight but there are also very bright lights of opportunity.