The events industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic – while we worked around the situation and found ways to present events digitally, there’s no getting around the fact that, for event organizers, the world was turned upside-down. As we move into Q3 of 2021, we wanted to get an overview of the entire industry and the challenges and views of those on the ground, so we partnered with BizBash to survey industry professionals and produce a white paper about the current state of the industry, and what professionals are doing to move forward.
You can (and should!) download the white paper for yourself here, but here are some of the key takeaways you need to know about the future of events.
A Look at the Event Industry One Year Later
The event landscape has been dramatically reshaped since the beginning of 2020. While events started to make a comeback in Q2 of 2021, they look—and will continue to look—very different from how events looked in 2019. We’ve moved from cancellation to digital, to tentatively planning in-person events for late 2021 and 2022.
To get a better picture of the health of the event industry and the current mindset of event professionals, we reached out to almost 400 industry professionals (all organizers and planners) from around the world to ask them what they thought the industry would look like moving forward, as well as their biggest challenges.
A large percentage of these professionals are based in the US, while others are from South and Central America, Europe, and elsewhere. This provided us with a wide swath of viewpoints and situations. The largest representation was of event professionals in California, which accounted for over 15% of respondents.
The Road Back May Be Long, but We'll Get There… Eventually
Fortunately, we’re in a very different place to where we were even 12 months ago. In July 2020, we had our fingers crossed for a vaccine and there was little hope for in-person events returning. Today, huge percentages of the global population have received at least one dose of a vaccine – 27.1% as of the time of writing.
First-world countries, of course, have it best. Canada has now risen to lead in vaccinations, with 70% of people being at least partially vaccinated, the UK follows with 68%, the US is at 56%. Many countries are now getting close to having everyone who wants to be vaccinated having received a dose. Countries that saw early success due to strict lockdowns but did not act quickly to vaccinate, such as Australia (30%) and Japan (35%) are experiencing some issues, and so returning to live events may be a slightly bleaker outlook there and elsewhere for the time being.
While this means we still need to be cautious, people are optimistic. The combination of these largely positive statistics married with advancement in software and tools makes a return to live events in our new normal more likely by the day. While a pessimistic 5% of respondents believe the landscape of live events has changed forever, nearly 4 in 5 respondents are optimistic and believe their area will be back to normal by Q1 of 2022, though some believe it could come as soon as this quarter (Q3, 2021). 15% of people believed it wouldn’t be until Q2 of next year, so the majority of people are steadfast in their belief that a return to normal events is in the not-too-distant future.
The Biggest Pain Points and Areas of Need
Of course, the pandemic has introduced a whole range of challenges, and that’s one of the most important points we wanted to learn about from the professionals we reached out to.
Personal safety concerns came out on top as the biggest challenge industry professionals faced, with 40% saying that the biggest challenge would be convincing potential attendees that they have taken sufficient precautions to make face-to-face meetings safe. The next biggest concern was venue capacity restrictions and compliance to social distancing.
Both of these viewpoints suggest that organizations will need to invest in digital or hybrid meeting tools for the foreseeable future.
Other primary pain points were a lack of access or available resources for event technology, equipment, and staffing, as well as communication with venues and challenges they face in getting venues to meet their safety protocol needs. Liability concerns were also a factor, as were enforcing their safety protocol, and questions around attendees and vaccinations. Download the white paper for a full breakdown and details.
What’s Motivating You to Return to In-Person Events
It’s not all challenges, doom, and gloom, however. There are strong signals that the desire to return to live events and all the benefits they offer outweigh the challenges – or at least, they soon will with the right knowledge and tools.
The interaction, community, and connection a live event incubates can simply not be replicated elsewhere, and 40% of respondents stated this as their primary motivation for getting back to live events as soon as possible.
Revenue opportunities followed, with 31% stating that revenue generation was their primary motivation – more than reasonable when you consider the drought the industry has experienced over the past year.
Fortunately, both can be achieved in some form through digital events and hybrid event formats, but only if the event organizers have the right technology to make it possible. A surprisingly high 26% said they’d had a negative experience with a digital-only offering, so a hybrid model may be more appealing.
The (Much-Needed) Emergence of Hybrid Events
Since it’s unlikely we’ll see a return to restriction-free live events for some time, and like working from home, some people will desire the new normal option of attending remotely, developing a digital strategy will be essential.
In the early days of the pandemic, we didn’t necessarily have time to get the right—or best—solutions in place before a digital event. That meant most industry professionals were practically duct-taping solutions together. They chose a live streaming platform here, found a forum there, and a store or customer portal somewhere else entirely. Getting all the different pieces to play together nicely was exhausting, so it’s no wonder event professionals are eager for a return to the norm and better, more sophisticated technology.
Poor hybrid execution is stressful for all involved, making it almost impossible for organizers to meet their targets and benchmarks. Hybrid events must be approached as a strategy, not just as an add-on for delivering content to remote attendees. For sophisticated interaction between online and in-person attendees, better tools are necessary.
Our suite of easy-to-use software integrates with other tools to offer contactless registration and check-in, as well as digital badging and location data for in-person attendees, all of which make monitoring your safety protocol and making attendees feel comfortable a breeze. Add to that our on-demand streaming and virtual lobby, and you can make everyone involved feel connected.
Planning for the Future Means We Need to Prepare Now
It’s clear that the event industry will remain in flux for some time to come, especially on a global scale. The list of requirements for event organizers is growing and involves seamlessly connecting remote attendees with the live event, as well as contact-tracing and monitoring safety protocol at the venue, all while reaping the benefits of networking and revenue.
Working with a top hybrid events management platform will be essential to success, providing the infrastructure for safety and success. Make sure you download the white paper for all the insights by clicking here, and you can click here to see how our solution can get your events back on track and better than ever before.