We all know the setbacks and obstacles that COVID has caused- and one of the biggest industries affected was events. This industry is still recovering as COVID is still present and impacting live events, even with vaccines and safety measures that are available. The question is, what will the short term and long term future look like for events?
Much research has been conducted and analyzed concerning the public’s comfortability regarding in person events. Research has shown that between 10% and 20% of people may have severe psychological problems because of the pandemic whereas on the other side, the other 80% of people will bounce back post COVID and attend large-scale live events. Researchers have said that people might have their concerns attending live events the first few times, but those concerns are likely to fade away quickly. Other surveys accumulated had slightly different results, claiming that 50% of people are ready now to attend live events, 21% of people would be ready in a month or two, and only 10% of people responded by needing 6 months or more. Regardless of the studies conducted, it is true that COVID is slowly but surely getting under control in light of the roll out of vaccines. What does that transition back into live events look like?
Many believe that live events will never look the same. The evolution of virtual events over this past year has formed a new way of holding events, blending in-person and virtual event experiences to form “hybrid” events. Most believe this will become the norm even after COVID is over, due to the reach virtual events allow, while also being able to have meaningful face to face interactions. Therefore, when we look at event trends forming in 2021 we have to recognize the advance of hybrid events being one of those top trends. However, hybrid events do still pose some challenges, such as figuring out how to create shared experiences between the virtual and in person audiences. Event planners will also have to create high quality production for the virtual audiences. They need to plan, prepare and execute a professional event for those joining virtually, while also making it just as meaningful to them compared to their in person peers. While easing back into events, another interesting concept was brought to light that is slightly different from hybrid events- satellite events. Satellite event format looks different, such as a main event in San Francisco that broadcasts the event to multiple smaller gatherings across the US. This event format brings businesses the opportunity to still have face to face interactions for the whole event, just in different places to eliminate people’s safety concerns. We will see satellite events become a trend in the near future because of these benefits.
Other event trends you will see as we ease back into live, in-person events will be a huge focus on safety, making everyone feel comfortable and secure with the environment at the events. This includes making sure people are not crowded in the main area, ensuring distance between attendees, highlighting the need for masks if you have not been vaccinated, limited contact regarding items everyone will be touching, and signs posted with safety plans stated, so expectations are communicated to everyone. For example, we recently assisted on a live event with Rocky Mountain Brew Runs in which everything discussed above was implemented in the event. Public Health was a driving factor in how Rocky Mountain Brew Runs managed and executed event logistics, and the race event was a raging success.
Multiple other event trends that have shaped the industry include upskilling. Upskilling is where many event planners are obtaining various certifications to become better equipped and prepared to plan and carry out events. Another emerging trend is heightened cyber security due to the enhanced use of virtual events. The FBI reported a 300% increase in reported cyber crimes. Technology also needs to support all in one events (virtual, hybrid, satellite), a crucial trend that requires event managers to be able to adapt to different situations while being able to deliver for their clients. Lastly, data driven event decisions is an evolving trend, due to the virtual component of events that allows for more robust reporting and event analytics. You are able to see metrics like how long someone watched, total registration, how many attendees per session, number of chats, etc. This is extremely beneficial for a company to see these hard numbers to report on ROI and optimize events in the future.
Overall, most are comfortable and confident in the idea that live in-person events will return mostly this year and be able to resemble pre-pandemic times later this year. Research suggests that nearly 70% of the public will be vaccinated by September, leaving the general public feeling reassured in attending in person events. However, even though in person events will return, we have to be aware that there are now many more options to execute business events, including virtual, hybrid and satellite event formats. These different avenues will benefit everyone but change the events industry forever.
Kayla Gentry is a recent graduate from the University of Northern Colorado with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. She is currently an intern at The Source Marketing Group, who is both eager and enthusiastic to absorb as much knowledge and gain as much experience as possible. Ideally, to figure out where her true passion lies in either marketing or events and start her career.