For the past two years, the events industry has faced incredible uncertainty. Even as unpredictability reigns supreme as we enter 2022, we have some predictions for trends in the events industry.
We’ve come a long way from March 2020, but the events industry is still experiencing a powerful transformation from heavy-hitting events with explosive parties and mind-boggling budgets to virtual and hybrid experiences that require some creative thinking.
Although this isn’t an exhaustive list of event industry trends — we’ve left out trends in high-tech event wearables and event marketing, for instance — these four trends in the event management industry are key to succeeding in 2022.
1. An Increase in Hybrid Events
In 2020, we surveyed event organizers about the future of hybrid events and 97% said there would be more hybrid events in 2021 than ever before. As we enter 2022, hybrid events show no sign of slowing down — for a variety of reasons.
Hybrid events not only offer increased opportunities for reach and attendance, but they also make it easier to prove ROI and ROE (Return on Event) because behavioral data collection is easier with virtual audiences. The more attendee data you have on hand, the more prepared you are to plan effective and successful future events too.
The biggest challenge in 2022 for event organizers and marketers will be delivering comparable personalized event experiences for both in-person and virtual attendees.
Bizzabo researchers found that 52.9% of event marketers feel it’s harder to create unique and memorable experiences for virtual event attendees in comparison to in-person events.
Here are some proven strategies to master hybrid events:
- Build a hybrid-ready team by hiring an event experience manager.
- Choose hybrid event management software that offers TV-quality video production capabilities.
- Offer engagement and interaction opportunities to connect in-person and remote attendees.
- Make sure your event software integrates seamlessly with your techstack.
- Use data to deliver personalized journeys by attendee type.
2. A Greater Focus on COVID Vaccination Status
As vaccines rolled out in 2021, event planners and organizers grew increasingly hopeful about resurrecting in-person events — even as the delta variant surged.
It’s no surprise then that 55% of event planners still cite safety concerns as the biggest obstacle to hosting live events, according to an EventMB study. A separate study by PCMA found that 39% of event planners plan to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to attend an event they’re planning.
As we enter 2022 with the Omicron variant spreading rapidly around the world, we predict that event organizers will be doing more to ensure the health and safety of attendees, sponsors, and staff members.
In addition to an increase in hybrid and virtual events that can more easily guarantee attendee safety, we anticipate that an increasing number of event organizers will start requiring proof of vaccination at the door or as a prerequisite for registering for in-person or hybrid events. It’s also possible that more event organizers will offer on-site rapid testing and other COVID-19 screening services.
If you’re worried about remaining HIPAA compliant when requesting or collecting vaccination information from event attendees, according to the CDC, “HIPAA applies only to covered entities (healthcare providers, healthcare plans) that conduct or engage in certain electronic transactions.”
Thus, HIPAA doesn’t apply to most event organizers wanting to verify an attendee’s COVID-19 vaccination status. If you do have a question about HIPAA and any other privacy laws related to vaccination verification, we recommend reaching out to legal counsel or checking with any applicable local, state, tribal, or territorial agencies.
3. An Emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The events industry has made significant strides in prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), but there is still room for improvement. The great thing about the rise of virtual and hybrid events is that it allows for more inclusive event strategies and the ability to cast a wider net for speakers and attendees.
In 2022, we predict that diversity will play a greater role than ever before in event strategy, with event organizers looking for new ways to build diverse speaker rosters and deliver more inclusive opportunities, such as letting attendees set a name pronunciation or share their pronouns.
We also predict that more companies will prioritize hiring diverse event staff and ensuring their event teams are trained in DEI. The Event Leadership Institute offers an Event DEI Strategist Certificate in partnership with MPI, and we anticipate this certificate becoming a prerequisite for event planners in the coming year.
4. The Rise of Micro Events
As virtual and hybrid events continue to grow in popularity — by attendees and event organizers alike — the big question has been how to create meaningful event experiences. We predict the answer lies in micro events that are catered to a specific geography, attendee type, or something else entirely.
In 2019, according to a Statista survey, the average number of event attendees at the largest conventions and exhibitions was nearly 5,000 people. But the days of in-person events with thousands or tens of thousands of attendees jockeying for seats or VIP events are gone — at least for now. Even the exhibitor and attendee list for CES 2022 is shrinking rapidly because of the Omicron variant.
Although the CDC doesn’t offer specific minimums or maximums of event attendees, the agency does offer the following guidance:
“… the more people who interact, the more closely they interact, and the longer those interactions occur, the greater the risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.” (Emphasis by the CDC.)
On top of the health and safety concerns that come with event size, there are also concerns about making events more accessible to people of differing abilities, who may be unvaccinated and immunocompromised, and who prefer to attend events remotely or on their own time.
We predict a rise in smaller, in-person events that use hybrid strategies to reach a wider audience. Micro events — like hybrid events — often cost less and pose fewer health and safety risks.
The best part? With micro events, you can offer more events throughout the year and close the attendee experience gap that arises over the year between annual events. Event content can be parlayed into on-demand resource centers that keep attendees coming back throughout the year to continue learning, connecting, and more.
Leverage These Event Industry Trends to Succeed in 2022
It’s impossible to know what 2022 holds for event professionals, but we think these predictions are good indicators of where the industry is heading. As the pandemic persists, event professionals have to embrace hybrid and virtual ecosystems, champion diversity, prioritize health and safety, and create event experiences that keep attendees engaged and coming back for more.
Learn more about what the future of the events industry looks like by watching The Rumors Are False: Hybrid Events Are Here To Stay — now available on demand.