What Does The Future Of Meetings Look Like?
Virtual and hybrid events will become more commonplace in the next few years as businesses strive to find new and innovative ways to reach their target audiences.
Event planners are already beginning to experiment with these platforms, and industry thought-leaders are starting to weigh in on their thoughts about the future of virtual and hybrid events.
In this blog post, we'll take a look at what some of these leaders have to say about the future of virtual and hybrid events. We'll also explore some of the benefits that businesses can expect from using these platforms in the years ahead.
Let’s take a look at what eight of the top industry's leaders predict the future of virtual events and hybrid events look like!
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Transformation Leader | Event Strategist | Thought Partner
According to Bob, organizations need to create a comprehensive strategy to make the most of virtual and hybrid events in the coming years.
2022 Will Require A Content marketing strategy
2020 was about putting the tourniquet on. 2021 was about trial and error and “let’s hope for the best.” There was a lot of uncertainty, a lot of back and forth. I think many folks still didn’t quite understand what their event strategy was. 2022 is going to be the year of choice. It’s going to be the most challenging year yet.
It’s not going to be just the typical default to virtual. Events are content and need to be utilized within the context of your overall content strategy and a part of the B2B customer journey.
Sometimes events have been siloed. It’s not about just translating your large annual physical event onto an online platform.Maybe your content strategy shifts - you do one large hybrid event with global reach, two small VIP in-person regionals, monthly asynchronous webcasts, a monthly podcast, a quarterly e-newsletter, white paper and videos for the web.
Improve The Quality Of Your Meetings
You should up the production level for this online content, create a membership campaign, have a paywall, or start a subscription model. It’s about repurposing your content, monetizing, and leveraging it into our OnDemand world. A lot of content has a long shelf life and should be repurposed.
We will have a lot of legacy players holding onto the institutions of physical real estate, brick & mortar trade shows. But that is being challenged by Gen Z and Millennials who many no longer see a clear value proposition at least it currently exists to invest in time and money as information is generally available online and B2B sales have accelerated to digital. That meet and greet needs now to be mych more intentional and can be accomplished in smaller meeting settings. It’s no longer about putting your business card in the fishbowl and hoping for the best. As B2B marketers innovate and want to align all their channels, digital will be driving KPIs across the MarTech stack.
The world is talking about Web3, Metaverse, NFTs, Clubhouse, and other virtual and digital experiences and you still have many in the traditional events and trade show community still very focused on hotel ballroom seating charts, name tags and assembling cardboard booth standees.
Unbundling is going to occur between content, sales, and networking. Those have traditionally been glued together for conferences, expos, etc. Hospitality, destination, logistics, and butts in seats have always been at the forefront of event planning, and the content has not been given much attention. That is all starting to change.
Understand How To Deliver High Quality Production For Your Audience
There is confusion in the event space right now about an event producer’s role. They are pointing and shooting a camera, taking care of logistics and technical aspects different from a virtual and hybrid world where we talk about produced content. There’s a huge difference between logistics and operations - traditional event planning - and creating high-impact content. The event industry needs to “bring in the TV people” for greater high-touch production and storytelling with their digital content.
I think in 2022, we will see major shifts in the role of events and where they sit strategically in companies and organizations. We will see them more integrated in a holistic way driven by content.
Event Industry Advocate and VP Senior Corporate Relations
According to Chloe, hybrid events will be an essential part of the meeting ecosystem moving forward.
Hybrid Events Will Become Common
The landscape is changing so quickly, and I think hybrid events will become a staple of our event diet, though we won’t keep calling it hybrid. I Imagine the industry will eventually get into the habit of calling it a “360° Event Experience”, a broadcasted event, or something similar - vocabulary that captures an experience that truly demonstrates how you can be in the event however, whenever and wherever you like - and something that demonstrates the inclusivity of these events.
What The Future Of The Industry Looks Like
I think some more long-term industry-specific trends will start to emerge, in terms of what type of events they continue to deliver and engage with. Specific industries will see an increase in virtual and hybrid engagement: cybersecurity, fintech, CIO functions, even healthcare to an extent - industries that not only leverage tech in their day-to-day responsibilities, but those industries that tend to attract communities that are perhaps of a more introverted nature.
But on the flip side, you’ll see some industries revert to perhaps an 80/20 split favoring in-person: retail, entertainment, hospitality - those roles that really thrive, and are almost build on, human interaction. It’s about, as an events industry, understanding that people are different and that we all have different needs.
We cannot assume that one offering or product is suitable for every single type of person, every single type of function, or every single industry. We need to make sure to tailor our events accordingly to fit the requirements and expectations of our audience. That balance can be tricky.
Organizations Need To Change With The Needs Of Their Audience
I think now, in a sort of calm after the storm, event organizers are going to be able to move away from this sort of knee-jerk, panicked, any-tech-goes technology implementation to support their hybrid or virtual events.
When this necessary transition first happened at the start of the pandemic, people were grappling to just pull anything in that might enable an engaging experience for virtual attendees. I don’t think there was always a huge amount of thought that went into it, beyond purely the immediate need to have something, anything, in place.
In 2022, event leaders will be able to do more research, examine more case studies, and understand which tools are truly right for them. I think we’re going to start moving out of that knee-jerk reaction, using tools just for the sake of it, to using tools that tangibly enhance the event experience.
Now that we’re becoming more used to this environment, we can be more technologically savvy. And, from a provider side, the tech tool solution providers will start finessing tools that cater to the event industry’s long-term needs, now that we have more of an idea as to what these look like.
What The Future Could Hold
We’re certainly going to see more networking tools, more AI, and more creative ways to deliver content. We’re going to see more tech tools emerge that fill the gaps that some hybrid event audiences might currently be experiencing. We’re going to see the increased importance of customer engagement metrics, data and insights, to make sure as event leaders we continue to serve those communities that really matter.
You can compare our industry journey to that of a startup. We’ve just had our startup year, turbulent, difficult, trying to understand our strategic direction. And now we’re in our scale-up year. We have everything in place, the foundation is there, and we’ve just got to build on what we’ve learned over the past 20 months to present a tangible business model that’s productive and drives growth.
I am just so glad the last year and a half of teething are over. I am excited about a more productive and deliberate future!
Technical Producer, Consultant, and Educator for the Meeting and Events Industry
According to Brandt, many events that call themselves “hybrid” could be missing the mark.
Defining What A “Hybrid” Event Is
I’ve struggled a lot with how people define hybrid events. Sticking a camera in the back of the room and letting remote attendees ask questions via some kind of chat doesn’t make it hybrid- that’s more like “Live Streamed with limited feedback opportunities.”
In an actual hybrid event, both audiences have equally positive experiences (not the same experience, but equal), have opportunities to interact with each other, and at the end of it feel like they attended the event.
Creating A Great Hybrid Event For Your Audience
I expect to continue to see people calling things hybrid that isn’t, which unfortunately will hurt the “brand” of hybrid events. Those who “get it” will produce incredible hybrid events that open up new possibilities and markets.
And it’s not an either/or situation. There’s a place in most organizations’ event cycles for a whole spectrum of events. Entirely in-person, broadcast and live stream, hybrid, digital-first events, and fully online events.
Just like not every physical venue is suitable for every event, it’s essential to choose the right “venue” for virtual and hybrid!
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Social Media Connoisseur & Digital Marketing Strategist | Speaker | Content Marketing Evangelist
According to Marissa, hybrid events will be deeply integrated into how businesses operate and share information.
The Event Industry Will Continue To Evolve
According to AssociationsNow, the $1.5 trillion worldwide event industry isn’t expected to return to normal until 2023 fully. As we approach the end of 2021, we all know just how much the pandemic indeed accelerated the digitization of events, profoundly changing the live events industry as we knew it.
EventMB’s 2021 research showed that 71% of event planners said they would continue to employ a digital strategy even after live events return.
Hybrid Events Are Here To Stay
The most significant trend I expect to see as we enter 2022 is the realization that hybrid will be deeply integrated into the future of events. Hybrid events allow for the flexibility and reach of a virtual event but the onsite connection and engagement as an option.
The event space has accelerated platforms and tools to enable an optimized hybrid event experience. Over the next year, I look forward to seeing how the trends and experiences evolve both digitally and in person.
Communications Expert at TellPeople.ca | Co-Leading Curation & Coaching at TEDxToronto | Storyteller-in-Residence
According to Chris, more organizations will use virtual and hybrid events throughout 2022.
The Future Is Virtual + Live = Hybrid Events
In 2022 I expect a steady increase in the number of events that include a live audience. Currently, about 20% of inbound requests for my company are for in-person events (up from 0% a few months ago).
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Award-Winning Journalist for Trade Shows | Content Creator | Omnichannel Media Professional
According to Danica, the production value of virtual and hybrid events will matter more than ever before.
High Expectations For All Attendees/Sponsors
I predict higher expectations from all sides in the virtual and hybrid event world - exhibitors, sponsors, and attendees will have expectations of higher production value. We will see better-produced events, not just zoom in with someone talking to an audience.
I expect live events and experiences to ramp up again. It will be tougher to get and keep people on virtual because it’s all a competition for time.
I also expect to see some consolidation of technology as well. I think we will see some M&A activity on the tech side.
Meetings Technology Speaker | Consultant and Writer | Helping Clients Use Technology to Improve Events and Trade Shows
According to Corbin, the production quality of virtual and hybrid events will matter much more for the audience.
Expect Improved Production Value For Hybrid Events
In 2022, I am predicting better production values for the virtual components of our events (think talk-show TV quality). Several software developments in this space will assist in this:
More use of AI for matchmaking and networking
More networking and audience engagement options
Continued learning of best practices
Co-Creator of Emerging Stronger | Continually Curious About Learning Innovation and Business Impact
According to Laura, meeting professionals will need to learn and adopt new technologies to keep their events relevant in the coming years.
The Future Of Virtual & Hybrid Events Are Expanding
I think the future of virtual and hybrid events in 2022, about the world of eLearning, training & development, continuing education, and certificates, can go two ways.
When we embrace the new, the possibility of what technology allows us to do, it could open opportunities for the richness of the experience, application, and practice and could be spaced over time. We don’t have to all be in one place simultaneously. We can tap into the ways we learn as adults.
Meeting Professionals Need To Adopt New Technology
The other way it can go is that we don’t overcome our fear and downward spiral. Having worked in this industry for decades, embracing new technology is not exactly what we signed up for as learning professionals.
We could miss out by not believing the technology could help us. It could go either way, and that’s what worries me.
I spent 15 years researching how to add technology into this industry, and what I found is that some, not all, are receptive to change. We are all human and get into habits.
Our thinking habits are based on repeated, respected, and recognized in the past. What has worked has created ingrained habits. I don’t think the Learning & Development industry is more resistant to changing habits than anyone else.
Virtual Events & Hybrid Events Are Here To Stay
Virtual and hybrid aren't going to go away. For some, this will transform how they think about the industry. It will make the environment richer.
For others, it could be a detriment. If everything goes online, with unengaging video recordings and people just talking at you - that’s not rich learning. It doesn’t change the practice. That is a significant danger. The trend will see people going back to in-person gatherings.
I predict that learning access will be increased, that diversity and inclusion will be increased, richness in skill and confidence will be increased.
Grow Your Online Reach With A Virtual Event Or Hybrid Event
The current generation of workers are digital natives, and they’ve grown up in a world that is hyper-connected.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that the trend of hybrid work environments will continue—and with it, more hybrid events. Companies would be wise to adapt their event strategies too by taking advantage of opportunities for both virtual experiences and in-person gatherings.
Contact our team of virtual event and hybrid event experts to help get your organization ready for the future of online meetings!
Learn how BeaconLive can amplify your virtual events & hybrid events today!