2020 forever changed the way we plan events. As we welcome the new year, there is still much uncertainty ahead. However, a few things are for sure; virtual events are here to stay, and the future is hybrid. We’ve identified 26 emerging event trends that will propel our industry forward into the new hybrid events era.
Event Trend: The Rise of Hybrid Events
97% of event professionals believe we will see more hybrid events in 2021. Attendees and planners alike are missing in-person connections, but they also see the benefits of virtual. That’s why hybrid events will become the new normal, combining the best of digital and live experiences.
What will this look like? It’s hard to predict but here are some ways hybrid events could emerge in 2021.
Shared Experiences Between IRL and Virtual Audiences
Technology will drive the evolution of hybrid events. Events will utilize tech to create opportunities for attendees to share experiences no matter where in the world they are tuning in from. At our recent event (Almost) HYBRID, CEO and Co-Founder at Bizzabo, Eran Ben-Shushan spoke directly to this idea:
“Hybrid events will need to bridge the gap between virtual and in-person audiences. They will need to create opportunities for attendees to take part in shared experiences.”
Eran Ben-Shushan CEO and Co-Founder at Bizzabo
Be sure to watch his full keynote at (Almost) HYBRID.
Mirco-events with Virtual Components
Micro-events are smaller events that are usually part of a larger hybrid model. These types of events provide many benefits beyond safety alone. Smaller and more intimate events allow attendees to network and make strong connections. Having fewer people means there are opportunities for your guests to network on a more personal level. Attendees feel like part of the event, not just a number. Micro-events are a great way for planners to meet their attendees where they are and provide more flexibility for people to attend the event. Your guests can attend in-person one day and virtually the next day, creating their own event experiences based on their personal needs and comfort level.
IACC Americas announced they will hold their event in a hybrid format this year with micro-events or “MultiPOD locations”. Each pod will hold unique experiences but the main elements will be broadcast together offering a shared experience.
Broadcast Quality Production
Moving into the era of the hybrid event, it’s time to raise the bar on virtual event production, and this event trend does exactly that. We can’t go back to before virtual events. Your virtual audience won’t accept one camera streamed from the back of house. Your attendees will expect to experience a higher production value moving forward. However you deliver your content, it needs to be engaging to both audiences. This is why professional broadcasting will become much more prominent in 2021.
Recently at Convening Leaders 2021, PCMA partnered with the Singapore Tourism Board and Marina Sands Bay to create a dynamic broadcasting experience. Because this was a hybrid event, the broadcast was designed to resonate with both the IRL and virtual audiences. Using LED walls and floors, the studio could quickly transform backgrounds and bring in panelists from remote locations, allowing attendees across the globe to engage in a high-quality broadcast experience.
Source: Convening Leaders 2021
Event Trend: A Focus on Safety
Safety will be a top concern for the foreseeable future of events. It will also be a major factor in your audience’s decision as to whether or not they feel comfortable attending your event. This is an event trend, but it needs to be taken very seriously. 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 the event organizers to do their best to provide an environment safe to gather in.
On-Site Rapid Testing
Rapid testing before event entry will create a bubble and help to eliminate the spread of COVID-19 at your event. Companies like EventScan are leading the charge to re-open the events industry by offering PCR and rapid testing for large gatherings that can be processed on-site in as little as 10-minutes.
Pre-Entry Health Screenings
Before entering events, expect to go through a health screening. This is likely to include a temperature check and filling out a health survey form.
It’s best to have some form of digital health screening before attendees even step foot on site. HealthShield is an SMS based COVID-19 pre-event health screening application that will send attendees automated daily screenings straight to them via text message. This is an easy way to track important health data and keep in-person events safe. In the case of an outbreak, organizers can also track the community, send out alerts, and share results with necessary parties as needed.
Wearable tech will be a must for a safe return to in-person events. It’s doubtful we’ll see touchscreen registration return to in-person events. Instead, we will see technology that helps attendees stay contactless. Smart Badges and wristbands using RFID technology can provide a way for contactless payment, digital lead retrieval. Wearable tech can also be used to mitigate risks by controlling crowds and providing contact tracing.
Klik offers a smart badge solution with built-in RFID technology that can help make your event safer. The smart badge can aid in crowd management, monitoring crowd density, and even controlling access when needed. If an attendee tests positive for COVID-19, the technology can provide a list of attendees who are at-risk due to close proximity and inform them to stop the spread as quickly as possible. Klik’s technology also allows attendees to have touchless interactions; with a click of the badge, attendees and exhibitors can exchange contact information.
If you’ve been anywhere in 2020 you have likely seen social distancing signage. Event organizers will use this signage to remind attendees to protect themselves with reminders that encourage social distancing, wear masks, and wash their hands, as well as advice on when to stay home.
The Atlantis Bahamas recently hosted the SEARCH Foundation’s Hybrid Retreat. The resort had signage out for all their guests to encourage social distancing, and safety. The resort also made their policies and how they are keeping guests safe available on their website so guests knew what to expect on arrival, you can read more on how they are keeping guests safe here.
Source: Thuy Diep
Looking for more information on how to plan events safely during the pandemic? Check out our Comprehensive Guide to Coronavirus for Events here.
Event Trend: Upskilling
Event professionals will need to evolve to keep up with the changing landscape of events. Our new normal is nothing like our past, and with the world just becoming comfortable with the idea of virtual events, there is a new type of event on the rise. Planners in a post-pandemic world will need to understand how to move into the new era of hybrid events. Many event professions are doing this by future-proofing their careers and obtaining event planning certifications.
Certifications like a DES (Digital Event Strategist) are gaining popularity as a direct result of virtual events. DES lets organizers stay relevant in the digital world, teaching them to plan, produce, and measure digital events from start to finish, including monetizing virtual events and learning how to choose the best tech solutions.
Event Leadership Institute also offers professional development certificate courses for event professionals looking to level up in subjects like Pandemic Meeting & Event Design, and Technical Meeting & Event Production Online.
Source: Event Leadership Institute
Event Trend: Virtual is Here to Stay
While most event professionals are eager to return to in-person events, the virtual component of events is here to stay. 93% of event professionals plan to invest in virtual events moving forward according to our Event Outlook Report. Because of this, we’ll see large improvements in virtual conferences and events such as enhancements in cybersecurity, virtual networking, and event entertainment moving forward.
Interactive Event Entertainment
At the beginning of virtual events, planners weren’t worried about mastering virtual. Anything was better than just canceling your event, so planners around the world did their best to take their events online. Now that we are settling into our new normal, attendees will expect more from their virtual event experience. Because of this, we believe there will be an emphasis on interactive event entertainment moving forward. Event organizers will begin to think outside the box and push the boundaries of what is possible for virtual event ideas and entertainment. Hands-on cocktail making classes, mind reading, and games like Family Feud are all opportunities to provide interaction.
At our recent virtual summit, (Almost) HYBRID. We brought in North Coast, NYC’s premier hip-hop improv team for a live interactive performance. To make it interactive, North Coast asked the audience questions about their favorite parts of events in our chat. Before the show, even started attendees were interacting and swapping stories about past events.
When it was time to perform North Coast delivered personalized improv hip-hop and pulled stories from the chats into their performance. This allowed attendees to interact and be part of the entertainment.
Source: (Almost) HYBRID
Improvements in Virtual Networking and Creating Community
Networking continues to be a challenge surrounding virtual events. When we surveyed event organizers for the Evolution of Events report over half (68.8%) of event marketers believe it is more difficult to provide networking opportunities in the virtual world. It’s a safe bet that event professionals will place a large emphasis on this event trend.
Communities offer a way for attendees to build meaningful connections. Traditional networking events are often hurried and don’t create an environment for attendees to connect on a deeper, more impactful level. At Bizzabo we recognized this issue and came up with a networking community that integrates with LinkedIn, and allows one-on-one messaging to make it easy for attendees to engage with each other before, during, and after the event.
Event Trend: Heightened Cyber Security
Since the pandemic began in 2020, the FBI reported a 300% increase in reported cyber crimes. (IMC Grupo). With virtual events becoming an event staple, there is a huge need for improved cybersecurity. Event technology solutions must provide adequate data protection for attendees and they should make the security and compliance procedures easy to access. A virtual platform holds loads of private information, from payment information and personal addresses to flight numbers and more. Event technology providers must do their due diligence to protect attendees’ information.
Event planners and event technology solutions will regularly conduct audits to maintain security. At Bizzabo we regularly conduct certified third-parties to maintain our best-in-class security.
Creating both a level of simplicity and added security, passwordless logins could be a glimpse into the future of events. This gives attendees a seamless experience and eliminates the use of easy to guess passwords. At Bizzabo, we’ve created a magic link that users click to be automatically logged into any Bizzabo web or mobile solutions they are looking to access.
Secure your events and prevent bots from logging in with the latest version of reCAPTCHA. If you’ve ever filled out a submission form online you’ve probably taken a reCAPTCHA test. You may have seen this before; some common examples are checking specific boxes in a picture, and spelling words from the distorted text to prove you are human. It’s a frictionless way to detect and stop automated attacks and only allow attendees to get in. Be sure to check with your platform provider to make sure this can be enabled or disabled per event.
Event Trend: All-In-One Event Solutions
We’re talking about a single platform for in-person, hybrid, and virtual events. Platforms that bridge the gap between the in-person and virtual experiences will play a pivotal role when moving into the hybrid event era. An all-in-one solution should encompass all of the following aspects:
Future-Proofing Your Event
You need event solutions that can evolve with the ever changing event landscape. Choose a solution that can adapt and change with your event strategy. Technology that can support both in-person and virtual audiences will be critical. Look for technology that is investing in the future of events.
Saving Time with All-in-One Solutions
Having an all-in-one solution can save you time, instead of needing to set up multiple solutions you can make one edit and save to all places such as your event website, platform and even event app.
“When things connect to each other the way they do [at Bizzabo] – for example, the agenda populates the app which connects to the website – it reduces administrative tasks and allows me to focus on the event strategy.”
Denise Hibbard, Senior Marketing Manager, DJI
Holistically Approach to Events
Give your team all the tools they need under one platform. Make sure your all-in-one event solution encompasses everything including tools needed to create events, streamline operations, unify branding, engage communities, and amplify your revenue streams.
Event Trend: Data-Driven Event Decisions
Event survey questions are a tried and true method for gathering event insights, but they never really told the full story. Virtual event technology has made it easier than ever to gather data and insights from your event. You can now track almost any KPI to measure event success; total registrations, how many attendees per session, how long they watched, the number of chats, how many views each sponsorship page had, and so much more. Organizers are using this new data to design better event experiences and help prove event ROI.
You can even make changes in real-time based on your data. For example, if you have a session that attendees keep leaving you could post a survey question or start a Q&A to try to re-engage the audience.
Another way to leverage data is to see which speakers had the highest engagement rates and session views, and alternatively which had the least. You can take this information to see what types of speakers resonated best and look for similar speakers for your next event to improve event engagement. Be sure to look at average session ratings, and the average view duration while going through data.
Event Trend: Personalization is Key
Personalization will play a key role in preventing webinar and “zoom fatigue” in 2021. According to our 2021 Virtual Events Benchmark Report, attendees are engaged for 53% of virtual sessions. One way to keep attendees engaged even longer is to add elements of personalization.
Tailor the event experience and allow attendees to personalize their event journey through session tracks. Session tracks are suggested content themes that help attendees navigate what session might be most valuable to them.
INBOUND is well known for engaging content. Each year they have suggested tracks for different specialties including marketing, sales, and their own HubSpot Academy. Attendees can focus on one track, or choose their own adventure. This allows attendees to curate their experience.
Curated outreach will have the most impact when engaging with attendees. Being able to segment your email campaigns by attendee persona, or create other personalization tokens can increase your open and click through rates.
Below is an example of how Bizzabo users can schedule email campaigns for different segments of their contacts when promoting events for personalization that captures attention.
Event Trend: A Continued Effort in Sustainability
Events produce a lot of waste and have a major impact on our environment. Virtual events have a much smaller carbon footprint than in-person events. At a virtual event there is no need for air travel, food waste is eliminated, and hotel stays are not needed.
MeetGreen’s sustainability team captured data using their UnCarbon calculator from events that went virtual and compared it to the same event’s in-person carbon footprint. The results were staggering.
As we return to hybrid events, there will be a continued effort to create more sustainable events and reduce our industry’s carbon footprint. According to Terrapass, conferences can produce up to 2000 lbs of CO2 or more per attendee, with the bulk of the carbon footprint coming from flights. Many hybrid models include localized micro or multi-hub events, which will minimize travel and reduce the need for air travel. Additionally, organizers will continue to focus on reducing food waste, using sustainable materials, and adopt more green approaches to create a more sustainable event.
2021 Event Trends Bring Experimentation and Testing
There you have it, our predictions for 2021 event trends. There is no doubt this will be a year of testing and experimenting. We are entering a new territory. While we blaze the path forward there will be a lot of trial and error, using data to measure the success of our experiments and guiding us through this uncertain but exciting time. As an industry we will share what works, and what falls short. We are stronger together!