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After the initial blow of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is little doubt that 2021 continued to disrupt the world of meetings and events. But what is likely to happen in 2022? What trends are industry experts expecting? And what should you, as an event professional, be considering for your plans next year?
We spoke to a few people that work in this area day in day out. Here are their thoughts:
Miguel Neves – Editor in Chief at EventMB, a Skift Brand
I think we are in for a shock. I hope we can all have the opportunity to meet in person, but I don’t think we will, at least not as much as we have in the past. The thing is we’ve changed. Work patterns have shifted, home life has changed, and we now know we can consume most content online just as well as we can in person. So, unless we are personally invested in an event as a sponsor, exhibitor, or speaker, we’re just not flying, staying at hotels, and investing any more time than we need to in most events.
There are exceptions, some of the larger events that are all about networking and serendipity will continue to get people to travel. But for any event that doesn’t have a “must be there” feeling, we’ll be there online, possibly while multitasking and getting some work done.
This means that events will be forced to change. Some may opt to be in-person only to try and force attendees to travel. Some will be hybrid and find ways to engage attendees regardless of their location. Ultimately Hybrid events need to have a great monetization strategy that can cope with a mainly online audience. Welcome to the new world of the hybrid attendee.
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Brandt Krueger – Technical Producer, Consultant & Educator for the Meetings and Events Industry
It makes me truly sad to say that my advice for 2022 is basically the same as it was for 2021. With uncertainty in the air as new variants are discovered, and with so many still unvaccinated, online and hybrid remain the best solution for many meetings and events around the globe. While smaller, tightly controlled events have been safely executed, not every organization can mandate vaccinations, masks, and other safety protocols for their staff and attendees.
Those that saw online events as a stopgap are now well and truly behind the game, as other organizations have been innovating and fine-tuning for 20 months. Many others are facing decisions to cancel their in-person events for the third year in a row, when they could have been using this time to expand their audience and experiment with this new digital venue. In-person events will return, but digital needs to be part of the toolbox of the future planner.
The good news is that it’s not too late and you can now benefit from others’ experiences. There are countless blogs, articles, books, and courses on online and hybrid events, with detailed descriptions of what does (and more importantly what doesn’t) work. Take a deep breath, take a moment to reflect on the goals and objectives of your event and its stakeholders, and focus on what you can do to create amazing experiences now instead of wringing your hands about where we might be in six months!
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Kaaren Hamilton – VP Global Sales Sonesta International
The buzz fresh off the exhibit floor at IMEX America, held in Las Vegas in early November, is that our industry is overwhelmingly optimistic about 2022. With RFP’s being discussed and business awarded, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief and shared a moment of joy celebrating the return of face-to-face events.
However, with the news of a new COVID variant now we are being brought back to the reality that we continue to navigate through unpredictable times, where planners continue to be challenged and must continue to consider all possibilities.
We will continue the trend of the last two years seeing an evolution of event components that include working for and with organizations that have a sense of corporate responsibility. That means increasingly, sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are a required expectation along with duty of care expanding to include providing a space for both physical and mental wellbeing.
Regardless of the evolving components of meetings in the new world, the world agrees in-person meetings are vital. The shared experience of travel and being in the same room with customers and colleagues cannot be satisfied by the virtual environment indefinitely.
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Tahira Endean – Head of Events, SITE global – Writer, Speaker, Connector, Collaborator
Events must be conscious…transformative…worthwhile. It is incumbent upon us to create sustainable, intentionally designed experiences for those joining us live, or virtually.
Collaboration. We need to create the most meaningful experiences with a diverse team. More importantly we need collaboration to solve the real problems facing us including those that will fundamentally halt travel and live events. Think pandemic, or climate change as key examples.
Equity and vulnerability. It is not having a code of conduct for our events or organizations, it is a fundamental respect for and empathy with all the humans we work with, invite to our events, and interact with to create environments where everyone is safe.
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Paul Cook – Virtual Events Specialist, Content Writer
My view is that the events sector will experience similar fortunes to those in 2021. I believe local or regional events will dominate more so than international ones. And this will last until the point at which Covid-19 has been shown the door and left the building. But that isn’t the case at present or for the foreseeable future. The impact of the global pandemic is still very present.
What that means is that virtual events will be in demand, and the best ones will be those that increase their production values. In other words, the home-made look (think of some productions in 2020) will quickly become a thing of the past, if the organisation is to keep its brand reputation in good shape.
What I do see as a trend which will become a permanent feature, is the increased need for translation services. Whether it is live or post event translation, the requirement will be there. Event planners will be asked for interpreters more often as clients understand that to achieve their aims of diversity and inclusion, the access to what’s happening in the organisation must be open to all their staff and stakeholders.
On a positive note, the events sector offering in-person, virtual and hybrid formats is in good shape to enable their clients to achieve their goals. Choice is always good and in events there is bags of it.
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Conclusion – More Choice for Clients means more decisions for planners
We thank our contributors for their insights and predictions for what is likely to happen in events in 2022. It’s a tough job to see the future. The only constant is change. It’s around everyone, everywhere and it’s constantly chipping away at what we understand as being normal. Sometimes change is good and sometimes not so much. The impact of change can be good and bad.
In one example of changing consumer behaviour, just think of the camera shops that were effectively put out of business because of mobile phone companies. In the days before smart phones, people needed a camera and a phone. Did the camera shops see mobile providers as a threat? Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. It doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that event professionals do not go the same way as camera shops. And there is no reason for planners to go out of business. It is clear from the views of our experts that regardless of whether you prefer in-person or virtual events or hybrids, there is room for each to play their part. You just need to decide what your focus is going to be.
Clients and attendees want and need choice – and in the events sector, we can offer it in abundance. As we enter 2022, whilst there are challenges ahead, there are also very bright lights of opportunity.
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