2020 was an impossible year to predict, as events and venues swiftly shut their doors to mass gatherings and events. In-person events pivoted to virtual, and this trend continued throughout 2021 as snap lockdowns and border closures were still a reality. But as 2022 nears, a gleaming ray of hope shines down on us. Venues are starting to reopen, and events and performances are beginning to fill next year’s booking calendars. Here are our five crystal ball predictions on what events will look like in 2022.
1. Hybrid events are here to stay, for now.
Face-to-face events will be back in full swing come 2022, but there will still be a virtual element playing a part. In-person events will always reign supreme over virtual. However, to stay connected with one another and our customers, we had no choice but to adapt to virtual when in-person wasn’t an option.
By going virtual, attendee numbers increased substantially due to events being more accessible to attendees. Instead of attendees having to travel and being away from the office for longer periods of time, live content could be delivered virtually.
Until now, the cost to attend a virtual event was nominal, if not free. Moving forward, a fee will be introduced to help cover the additional AV and streaming costs, and also to entice people to attend in person when possible.
2. Networking will be in high demand.
Some people haven’t been able to gather in person for two years. The ability to connect face-to-face, to share experiences and learning, discuss how their companies are coping, and their future predictions, and other hot discussion points is important to event professionals. In a recent poll, 42% of event professionals said that the biggest driving factor to attending an event in 2022 is being able to network.
Make sure social opportunities are at the top of your event plan. Extend your event to provide further social opportunities or have areas where, if an attendee isn’t in session, they can go to a ‘networking café’ to talk to other attendees.
3. Event and venue safety is here to stay.
Prior to the pandemic, attendees would freely greet one another by shaking hands, pouring from the same jug of water, diving into the same bowl of mints at their shared table, and reuse the pen they found on a desk to write notes. This was all normal event behaviour. But what COVID-19 has taught us is that the health and safety of both attendees and staff is top priority. For attendees to feel safe, there needs to be transparency around the safety measures being taken at the event and the venue.
Event safety measures aren’t just about spot cleaning and hand sanitiser stations. Pre-event preparation needs to cover what protocols are in place before and during the event, any restrictions around being vaccinated, attendee interactions and physical contact comfort, limiting or reducing registrant/attendee numbers, and what pre-emptive measures are in place should a different plan need to occur. There is no such thing as over communication when it comes to attendee safety, so make sure attendees are kept well informed ahead of the event.
4. Agenda is paramount.
Take the mystery out of what to expect at your event. Before most people even register, they need to know how it benefits them and their organisation. Once you have an outline of the session content, or even just a preliminary plan, share it with your potential audience. Customers who have never attended your event in-person will now have an idea of what your event is like and be more inclined to attend since they know what to expect.
Understand who your event attendees are and create session content based on what you know about them, i.e., tailoring content to job descriptions. Release the event agenda as early as possible, outlining clear descriptions for each session. Announce who is going to deliver that killer keynote and bring in guest panellists and speakers from the industry. Don’t be afraid to ask attendees what they want to get out of your event.
With workplace cost cutting and reduced expenditure, it is going to be harder than ever for employees to justify attending an event. Arm them with the information they need to make an informed decision about attending, while fast tracking the budget approval process sign-off with their manager.
5. Time to serve yourself.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to find ways to reduce touch points. That means for 2022, attendees need to be given the power to look after themselves. Self-service not only reduces person-to-person touch points (from a health and safety point of view), but it also reduces lines and increases use of digital services (less printing is better for the environment).
Allow attendees to check themselves in via the registration kiosk, print out and grab their own badge and lanyard, and scan a QR code to check into sessions. Provide an event app so attendees can access event information, personalise their agenda, partake in session polls, and share contact information with other attendees and exhibitors.
Here’s to the new year ahead, and some amazing and memorable event experiences!
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