Is the pandemic the shake-up the events industry desperately needed?

Event Trends

March 16, 2021

Julia Sousa

The Must Implement Analytics For Your Event Website: Part 2

5 trends that are transforming events in a pandemic world

We have now reached the one-year anniversary of the global COVID-19 pandemic: one year since the world and the events industry has turned upside down. During this time, we have seen the entire industry pivot from in-person to virtual events while event professionals scrambled to find footing on unstable grounds. 

The industry got hit with massive layoffs, budget restrictions, and event cancellations. Meanwhile, virtual programs expanded,  leaving event professionals overwhelmed as they figured out a new way to manage events and how to do more with less. 

But with crisis rises opportunities. We can see a shift in event management processes that may persevere longer than the pandemic itself. And that may not all be bad news. 

Here are 5 trends that are transforming – and enhancing – meetings and events.

1- Embracing innovation

As we change the way we host events, out of necessity, we have learned new ways to innovate. Being creative with how we put our events together and how we use our resources is an essential skill as we continue to navigate this new era for events. 

Some would argue it’s about time. Event strategist Liz King nails it when she said in a recent panel that “Thinking outside the box is going to be critical, because the events industry has, sadly, very much lacked a level of creativity that we’re known for. We’re a creative industry. And yet, if you look at a lot of what existed in the industry, pre-2020, it wasn’t that innovative and creative. So I think we got to rev that creativity up.”. 

Liz King Caruso Quote on Hybrid Events

That includes going back to the basics – event design – and thinking of your audience first. “The events that have been the most successful are the ones that have made it more about design over platform,” said event expert Tahira Endean in a recent interview. We couldn’t agree more. 

In terms of technology, there’s a temptation among planners (like almost every industry) to adopt the latest tech without determining if that’s what they really need. Can you manage all event types (virtual and in-person) from that platform? Being creative and innovative doesn’t always need to involve a shiny new technology. It’s more about how you can put the best experience to your attendees, supported by the right technology. 

2- Learning versatility

Virtual events are not going anywhere. While planners continue to explore solutions to host virtual events, they also need to be ready for the future of events. And the future is hybrid. That large meeting scheduled for next November might be in person; more likely, it will be a combination of face-to-face and virtual. 

We’ve discovered many advantages to meeting virtually (cost savings being a key benefit). It makes no sense to go back to “business as usual”. At the same time, committing to virtual event platforms now can look like a mistake in a few months, once events start to shift once again. Planning for versatility will be key to future-proof your event technology for what’s yet to come.

Onboarding a team to learn new technology takes time, and the process alone to shop for a tech provider is already a ride on its own. Choosing a versatile event management solution will be a smart decision to support event planners in managing a portfolio of varied events. That means finding technology that can support all your event types, whether virtual, in-person, or hybrid.  

3- Creative partnerships

Chances are, your events team is smaller than it was a year ago. With the wave of layoffs caused by the pandemic, having strategic partners working with you has never been so crucial. With smaller event teams managing more complex events, we need to learn how to leverage all the resources at hand.

Event technology companies may have a team available to help you put your event together, whether by actually setting up the event for you, or just providing you with the resources you need to get up and running faster. Easy-to-use solutions will also save you time in the long run.

Another place to look for help is at schools and associations. With the pandemic, a number of recent grads found themselves with no place to go. This could be a good opportunity to provide internship opportunities, offer contract work, or hire entry-level planners that can help you as required.

4- Focus on engagement

We used to think about engagement at events in terms of live discussions, networking opportunities, and informal hallway conversations. That all disappeared when events went virtual. Event planners were challenged with how to get people to feel involved, join a conversation, and share their thoughts. 

Experimentation started with real-time polls and virtual breakout rooms. Teams and groups started to engage in remote events such as online cooking classes and games. Events incorporated virtual concerts and performances. We started to have fun in ways we didn’t imagine prior to 2020. This focus on engagement was important in reinforcing the value of events.

5- Streamlining systems & processes

Working smarter has become part of your job description. With fewer people to support your event efforts, any systems and processes that can be implemented and help to save time will generate a huge impact for the entire organization. Take stock: think of the daily tasks that you perform and how they could be streamlined.

For example, going leaner with your technology stack could actually save you time (and money). With fewer tools to manage, you can better control all moving parts of your event without being overwhelmed by switching from one platform to another. Finding technology that integrates with your stack can also support this effort since the data will flow more easily from one tool to another.

Creating processes can also be a time saver. Try to batch tasks that are similar and do them together. Write several versions of marketing content at the same time. Set aside time to update your agenda and manage speakers so your attention isn’t bouncing between individual emails.The goal is to focus on the tasks less often, and for longer, so you can save time, prevent distraction, and work more efficiently. Similarly, working with a single tech platform can save you time and money. 

Moving forward with optimism and creativity 

While we weren’t looking for a cataclysmic industry shake-up, it’s not hard to see the silver lining from the past year. This is a good time to identify lessons learned. Events planners are more diligent about creativity in event design. We’re using meeting technology in interesting and different ways. We’ve discovered new ways to engage virtually. 

There are great meeting moments ahead if we make room for innovation and creative thinking.

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