Leaders will need to use their ingenuity to blend digital and live experiences as the world slowly returns to normal.
The events industry’s ability to shift online after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated its resilience. You likely adapted and created engaging, multifaceted events beyond simple Zoom meetings or webinars — despite having little to no experience. You might have even worked closely with the technology industry to evolve platforms and bring your vision to life.
As the world recovers from the events of 2020, you have the unique challenge and opportunity to reinvent your strategies for the new landscape. With more people receiving COVID vaccines, it will be important to blend digital and live experiences to meet the needs of both audiences.
About 94% of people miss live conferences and trade shows. However, 84% of visitors and exhibitors have tried at least one new digital service since the lockdown, so virtual events won’t become obsolete when it’s safe to gather in person. The key will be finding solutions that cater to the post-pandemic world. Here are four event trends you can expect to see in 2021 and beyond:
- Hybrid Events
Hybrid events allow you to capitalize on both in-person and digital aspects to engage your audience. At Inspira Marketing Group, for example, we hosted a virtual launch for the pharmaceutical company argenx’s new platform for people struggling with myasthenia gravis. In addition to digital features like a virtual art gallery, we incorporated real-world elements to engage our audience holistically. During the event finale, we illuminated landmarks across the country in the community’s signature teal color.As with any event, it’s important to base your tactical execution on a solid strategy. When planning your event, make sure you and your team are aligned on its purpose. Pinpoint your audience, and determine which platform makes the most sense for you to use. Then, work with your team to determine the ideal outcome of the event and how you can create an unforgettable experience that engages attendees.
- Increased Safety and Sanitation
Before the pandemic, event attendees might have seen the occasional hand sanitizer bottle here or there. As the world reopens, it’ll be important for you to explicitly talk about your safety measures (e.g., wiping down tables and sanitizing screens after every booth visitor or leaving more room between attendees in lines).The CDC released a number of best practices that you should follow before, during, and after experiences to help ensure everyone’s safety. Already, organizations like the Milken Institute are announcing plans to return to in-person and hybrid events, so keep an eye on how organizers handle safety measures.
- Experiential Elements
Having experiential elements is important, but it’s especially necessary for virtual events. About 75% of Americans admit that digital notifications distract them, which means your events compete against every screen in their space. The trick is tying digital events to physical experiences. For example, you could mail kits with champagne for attendees to pop at a specific time or plan digital networking opportunities with speakers or other event participants.Your goal should be to leverage attendees’ homes as part of your conference “space.” For instance, we created an evergreen platform for Diageo and the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild to bring their yearly bartender competition to life online. Attendees could use their own bars, ingredients, and alcohol to create cocktails during live workshops amid tuning in for expert panels and demonstrations.
- Small, Regional Events
Small events are less of a risk, which helps attendees feel safer and more confident. It’s easier to stay 6 feet apart when there aren’t as many people in a room. Plus, having fewer attendees means there’s a statistically smaller chance of anyone being sick.Microweddings are already trending as a result of mid-pandemic venue restrictions. People tend to enjoy the intimate feeling of these smaller gatherings. As planner and designer Trish Jones put it, microweddings have a way of “narrowing the focus on what the day is all about: celebrating love and cherishing the present.” You can apply this same train of thought to the events you organize.
The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t eliminated the need for in-person events; it has just shown the benefits and potential of digital experiences. Virtual touchpoints give participants the chance to deepen their engagement and interact directly, which is critical to engagement. You can now cater to even more people’s preferences — and that’s a good thing.
Written by Jeff Snyder.
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