Over the past several years, virtual and hybrid events have become a regular part of everyday life in nearly every industry. Demand for virtual attendance options has made them less of a nice to have and more of a necessity for event planning.
Not only do digital events fill the gap when in-person events aren’t an option, they also add a variety of benefits, from gathering valuable data to boosting revenue and expanding audience reach.
Today, we’ll cover some virtual and hybrid event trends to be on the lookout for in 2022.
Hybrid & Virtual Event Trends 2022
By now it’s beyond cliche to say it, but COVID changed everything. Here’s what virtual event experts expect to stick in 2022 and beyond, virus or no virus:
1. Rapid growth
2. More personalization
3. Increased data collection
4. Emphasis on physical and virtual safety
5. More immersive experiences
6. All-in-one virtual event platforms
7. Smaller, year-round events
1. Hybrid Events Will Continue to Grow
The results are in, and most event planning professionals agree that hybrid events will not only stick around, they’ll also continue to grow.
According to EventMB’s 2021 research, 71% of event planners said they would continue to employ a digital strategy, even as life transitions to the “new” normal.
This isn’t surprising when you look at all the benefits of hybrid events, including the flexibility and audience reach of a virtual event, coupled with the connection and engagement of a physical event. Hybrid events enable you to reach in-person attendees, in addition to those who wouldn’t have attended unless a virtual option was available.
So what will this look like?
Most hybrid events will take place online, with upgrades or a slightly different experience that is more appropriate for the in-person attendee.
Others may hold events primarily in-person with content capture available at the conclusion. While we do not consider this as a hybrid model, some groups have shifted their definition to include engaging a live and on-demand audience.
2. More Personalization
From tailored Facebook ads to show recommendations on Hulu, personalization is everywhere. Virtual and hybrid events are no exception.
One example of personalization in action is the use of session tracks that tailor content to each attendee’s interests. This boosts engagement and provides the attendee with more value.
Before the event, you can get attendees involved by encouraging them to suggest event speakers, topics, or questions. You can even increase attendance by sending out personalized invitations and reminders, including the event registration link and full event URL.
Hybrid events allow for even more personalization, allowing attendees to attend in the location of their choice, on the device of their choice.
3. Increased Data Collection
One major benefit of virtual and hybrid events is the amount of data you can easily gather and organize. Data provides you with a deeper understanding of your audience, helping you tailor future events to them.
You can easily collect data throughout the entire virtual event, including:
• Attendee demographics
• Audience engagement with live polling and Q&A sessions
• Content downloads
• Social media shares
• Click-throughs to sponsorship or exhibitor pages.
This data is even more valuable with the increase in “virtual fatigue” during COVID. Audiences will continue to need targeted, engaging content to stay interested. Real-time data will be vital in bridging the gap between where events are, and where they should be.
4. Emphasis on Physical and Virtual Safety
In a 2021 Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) survey, 39% of event planners said they will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to attend their events.
Other common health precautions at hybrid events may include:
• Pre-screening requirements
• Socially distanced seating
• Specialized cleaning crews
• Air filtration systems.
In addition to physical safety, event planners also have to look at increased risks in cybersecurity.
Since the start of the pandemic, the FBI reported a 300% increase in cybercrimes.
It’s becoming increasingly vital that event planners work within a virtual event platform that provides security features such as encryption, cross-site scripting, stronger authentication mechanisms and strict process controls.
5. More Immersive Virtual Experiences
As virtual and hybrid events progress, so do the palates of those attending. Event planners must continue finding ways to create engaging, immersive experiences for attendees who may otherwise be distracted by co-workers or at home distractions.
This can include a variety of virtual components:
• Live streaming
• Q&A sessions and polls
• Live chat
• Networking sessions
• Sponsorship promotional areas
6. Smaller, Year-Round Events
Before the pandemic, many companies traditionally held one yearly conference or event. In an effort to reduce costs and need for in-person resources, businesses began to hold events more often, spread throughout the year.
Organizations are beginning to realize the value of engaging their members throughout the year and digital events give them the perfect opportunity to do so.
7. All-In-One Virtual Event Platforms
Event planners will continue to look towards efficient and comprehensive solutions.
Instead of relying on multiple third-party solutions, they’ll turn to all-in-one virtual event platforms that provide all the tools needed to create and customize virtual and hybrid events, including:
• Event production
• Video and editing
• Call center support
• Post-event recordings
• On-demand archiving
Though in-person events have been making a comeback, the benefits of virtual and hybrid events are here to stay as companies look for cost-effective, efficient ways to connect with their audiences.
Event planners will have to continue to adapt, whether it’s through more engaging event content or switching to an all-in-one platform to handle planning, production, and post-production.