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Event leadership | 8 November 2021

The State of the Event Industry: 7 Predictions for the Next 5 years

Rachel Rappaport

What will the event industry look like in five years? How can event leaders adapt to be successful in 2022 and beyond? We interviewed industry veteran, Marco Giberti, to find out.

For the past two years, Event Experience Leaders have been toeing the line, trying to solve for the events in front of them while setting themselves up for a hybrid future. 

None of us has a crystal ball telling us what the future holds, but we do have trusted industry experts who can make educated predictions based on overall trends, their own data, and diverse personal experiences.

We recently had the chance to interview Marco Giberti, the founder and CEO of Vesuvio Ventures. Giberti has decades of experience both as an event organizer and an investor in noteworthy event companies (including Bizzabo!). He recently released a book, Reinventing Live, that unpacks the change, innovation, and disruption of the event industry to provide practical insights.

Giberti is intimately familiar with the event space and was excited to share his predictions for the next five years with us. Here’s what we learned about the future of events and what Event Experience Leaders should keep top-of-mind for 2022 and beyond.

1. Event Technology Innovations Will Provide Opportunities To Differentiate

Technology can power every aspect of events, from data gathering to production to engagement. So it’s no secret technology is a great way to stay at the forefront of the industry, but let’s drill down into some tactical examples of the opportunities it provides for event organizers.

Giberti shared how he used to think event technology might be too niche or that in a matter of years, it would grow to be boring, but says he’s learned that the opposite is true: “Every year there are new problems for us to solve and new areas that are exciting. Right now, we’re investing a lot of time into music festivals and sports events, for example.”

Retail technology particularly intrigues Giberti because “it’s a buyer-seller experience, and, in many ways, very similar to B2B trade shows and events.” Looking at areas such as gaming and esports is another way Giberti aims to bring more exciting technologies to the B2B event space.

He’s also looking at Educational Technology for inspiration to help event organizers learn about innovative tools for their events. For many professional events, education is the main goal delivering relevant content in a memorable and unique way. EdTech focuses on the same outcome, so it’s a great opportunity to see how that industry leverages new tools to amplify content.

2. Hybrid Is Here to Stay and It Isn’t Just About Events

In our recent article about bridging the Event Impact Gap™, we discussed how we truly live in a hybrid world. Everywhere we look, the physical and digital worlds are blending to help improve our lives and our experiences.

According to Giberti, “we need to stop talking about hybrid events and start talking about hybrid more broadly.”

Giberti pointed to remote work and the challenge many corporations are grappling with as they look to retain top talent. He noted that event organizers are facing the same problem. 

“We have our physical HQ like a convention center but we need to build a digital HQ to serve our remote audience,” he said.

There are many areas and industries we can look to for inspiration on how to master hybrid and engage both audiences. Some industries have been solving this problem for years and others naturally lend themselves to a hybrid world, such as gaming. There is inspiration everywhere, and, if you can identify parallels, you’ll find great solutions to bring to your own experiences.

3. Organizers Will Need To Monetize Virtual and In-Person Events

There are a handful of tried and tested ways to generate revenue at events, and ticket sales are one of the most common. But, amid the rise of digital events, event revenue has declined. The biggest reason, according to Giberti, is that “people are realizing they can capture 70% or 80% of the content without being physically present.”

Without offering a physical experience — food, a decorated venue, natural opportunities to network — virtual tickets haven’t been able to demand the same price as an in-person ticket would. 

“The most common rate of a paid virtual event is 20% of the in-person ticket price,” Giberti said. “If tickets were $1,000 for in-person, they are now going for $200 virtually.”

Bizzabo’s own research supports Giberti’s findings. Only 9% of virtual events in 2021 were paid events, according to our Virtual Events Benchmark Report. With the majority of virtual experiences being free to attend, it may be time to expand past the old models of ticket sales and test new ways to incentivize attendees. Technology offers a huge opportunity for differentiating your virtual experiences.

Of course, another option is to simply raise the ticket prices, which may be the more likely option for most virtual event planners. Given that the average virtual ticket price jumped 15% from $443 in 2020 to $508 in Q1 of 2021, there is certainly some room to up your ticket prices to help generate more revenue.

4. Event Sponsors Expect More

From attendees to sponsors, everyone has higher and higher expectations from events. Giberti is concerned that these expectations might even be unrealistic. 

“Exhibitors and sponsors are telling organizers they want to invest more toward the digital aspect and less into the physical, but they want to measure the ROI of both,” Giberti said. 

Sponsors are asking for less space and less investment, but still want a better understanding of their ROI, which poses a challenge for any event, especially those that are meant to be revenue generators. According to Giberti, “event organizers will need to be able to explain ROI so exhibitors don’t keep cutting their budgets and moving their money elsewhere.” To help keep sponsors excited about your event, be clear about how your virtual and physical experiences will bring them value. 

Event planners will also need to get more creative with sponsor opportunities. Giberti advises event planners to find a virtual platform and partner that will help capture as much money as possible from the sponsorship investment. Choose a partner with a robust data and analytics platform to ensure you can prove ROI to your exhibitors, and be specific in the opportunities you generated for them. A virtual platform can also offer unique engagement tools and brand visibility to drive value for virtual and hybrid sponsors.

5. Event Experience Leaders Are Looking for Simple, Yet Innovative Event Tech Solutions

Event planners are a uniquely effective dichotomy of pragmatic and efficient while creative and forward-thinking — and they expect event technology to keep up over the next five years. Organizers will be looking for a future-proof platform that can be innovative and help keep their audience’s attention while being easy to use and understand.

“Whether it’s the messaging or the product itself, event technology should be clean and simple,” Giberti said. With thousands of players in the event technology space, Giberti cautions that event organizers are intimidated because the products look difficult and the language is overwhelming. 

“This disconnect between event organizers and the very tools they depend on creates a massive opportunity for event technology providers to simplify the product messaging and marketing,” he said.

Giberti added that, although many platforms won’t have a turnkey solution for everything, those gaps are a great opportunity for these companies to leverage apps and partners to meet those needs. 

So what event technology companies are best positioned to stand out? Those who have legacy experience paired with an innovative mindset. 

“Companies that have been around before COVID know the complexities of face-to-face events, and therefore they are prepared to have sophisticated and professional reactions to the return of in-person,” Giberti said.

Complementing this experience with a forward-thinking mindset will be a massive advantage. Giberti looks to his decades of experience and passion for business innovation, adding, “I never want to lose the innovation. I want to be reinventing my business on a regular basis. I want to be paranoid in a healthy way.”

6. Year-Round Engagement Will Be the Ultimate Opportunity

Marketing teams have been leveraging a year-round strategy for some time, but event teams have remained relatively stagnant in that regard, often hosting large annual events with little audience engagement the rest of the year.

​”Putting a ‘See You Next Year’ banner on your event is kind of an insult,” Giberti said. “It’s telling your community, ‘good luck,’ and that’s one reason NPS is so low in our industry.” 

In addition, connecting with your audience for just a few days of the year can dramatically lower the quality of your data and paint an inaccurate picture. This presents a huge opportunity for event companies and large corporations. For event organizations, leaning into the year-round engagement model will help build community and amplify brand awareness. For larger companies, aligning marketing efforts with events can significantly strengthen brand awareness and audience sentiment.

“A lot of organizers are rethinking the way they do virtual events and building 365-day activations that include hundreds of virtual touchpoints on a regular basis,” Giberti said. 

He predicts that, over the next five years, many organizers are going to keep doing events, but will be making them smaller. 

“Instead of a large event in Vegas, they’ll do Vegas, Chicago, and NYC, but bring those communities together on a smaller scale,” he said. “And instead of three days, they’ll be one day.”

Associations are one particular area that is starting to build year-round interactions because they depend on membership fees, which subsequently depend on member engagement. They’re putting this model into action, creating “showrooms” that allow members to interact.

Many organizers are already mobilizing around this trend because they realize that to have quality data and brand relevance, event leaders need to engage their audiences from different angles throughout the year.

7. Data Ownership Matters

Keeping personal information private continues to be a hot topic across industries, particularly making sure attendee data is secure. 

As virtual experiences become more popular — and event technology more prominent — there’s an exponential increase in the amount of data event planners and platforms are able to collect and store. Alongside data collection, however, comes higher expectations by attendees that their information is secure.  

Many event organizers share this sentiment, looking more closely at their event platform’s policy to ensure that attendees have data ownership. Giberti is especially passionate about data protection and transparency. 

“It’s pretty simple: The data should belong to the owner of the data, the end user — not even an organizer and especially not the software company.”

To meet audience expectations for data protection, Event Experience Leaders will be looking for secure platforms that are nothing more than custodians of data. For companies that do allow organizers — or even the platform itself — to own the data, Giberti expresses how important it is to be upfront with that information. 

“Let’s be clear and transparent with our communities,” Giberti said, “because our audience should be aware that their data is not owned by them.”

Keys to Event Management Success in the Next 5 Years

Giberti’s seven guiding principles boil down to two main categories: a thoughtful event strategy and future-proof event technology. To succeed in the era of Event Experience, organizers must build their strategy on year-round engagement, data protection, hybrid experiences, and monetization. But the most effective way to stay ahead is by investing in innovative event technology with infrastructure that is built for the long term.

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