2021 has been a year full of uncertainty and disruption for event planners. But as lockdowns forced event planners to move their events online, an overwhelming majority of event planners and attendees have adopted new digital services and tools to better accommodate this.
Online events have never been so popular, with 73% of event planners looking to offer hybrid or online events in 2022 according to a recent Interprefy report. But the increased standards for online events means audiences are less tolerant of mistakes, adding pressure for event managers to create slick, professional events.
2022 will bring with it new challenges, new trends, and new innovations. For event planners, embracing five key changes will be crucial to creating successful, memorable events in the new year.
1. The future is hybrid
While a significant number of people are keen to return to on-site events, EventMB reports that 71% of event planners will continue offering virtual access to their events. Offering a best of both worlds approach, hybrid events allow organizations to reach audiences virtually and at scale while providing an on-site component with space for intimacy and informal networking. Organizers have realized that there is a huge difference between hosting high-quality hybrid events and merely streaming your event online. For example, 81% of event planners see that offering networking opportunities is crucial to creating satisfying hybrid events according to research by Markletic.
To deliver these next-level hybrid events, planners are unlocking event features by integrating different tools and platforms. But connecting them together will be important in providing these benefits, as these tools need to work together to create seamless and enjoyable event experiences.
2. Online and offline safety
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the potential emergence of new variants, more than three quarters (78%) of event planners see alleviating participant concerns over COVID safety as crucial for hybrid events, according to an Interprefy study. Even if online events give attendees the chance to attend from the safety of their homes, organizers are responsible for safeguarding a huge amount of attendee and speaker data, making cybersecurity another top concern.
Every device, software program or user account is a potential entry point into your virtual event. To minimize the risk of being hacked, train your staff on cybersecurity best practices, adopt two-factor authentication, and learn how to spot dubious online activities like suspicious emails. The next step is to only use reliable platforms and digital tools that have the appropriate cybersecurity protocols and accreditations. For example, companies that are ISO 27001 compliant follow strict and secure frameworks when dealing with data and are far more trustworthy than those that aren’t.
3. Audiences will demand better event experiences
84% of event planners agree that the attendee experience remains a crucial factor in creating successful events and that technology remains key in enabling new event experiences.
Tools like online ticketing, remote registration, seating and real-time interpretation have all added to the overall experience. The more event managers cater to the needs of attendees and provide them with ways to better engage, the more valuable and memorable the event will be. Because the success of an event isn’t measured just by how many people attend, but also the quality of their experiences and whether those people felt involved.
Attendees want to be able to communicate with each other, ask questions and engage with speakers. They want to get answers to their questions, actively participate (rather than just listen) and make new connections.Providing features such as real-time chat can help improve audience engagement while giving event managers crucial insight and feedback. Gamification techniques, such as challenges, point systems, or completion bars, can also turn events into interactive experiences through game-like mechanics.
4. Event audiences are an ocean, not a pool
Increased access to virtual events means that attendees can be drawn from a huge multinational audience. But to attract a greater audience, you need to be able to speak their language — literally. Removing language barriers is the most impactful factor in reaching global audiences. If your event is primarily in English but tentative speakers from Germany, France and Spain want to attend, event managers need to provide real-time translation services to increase participation.
Any concerns about budget allocation and hiring multiple interpreters for events dissolves when event managers realize global attendees are much more likely to register if they see that content will be offered in their native language. Plus, there are many easy-to-use interpretation solutions available, and one of the reasons why 80% of event managers are planning multilingual events in 2022.
5. Increasing inclusivity and diversity
According to our latest research on event trends, 65% of event managers agree that increasing event diversity and inclusion is becoming imperative for hosting successful events. For event planners, this is an opportunity to add depth to your event by celebrating diverse perspectives. But what can planners do to craft inclusive and accessible events?
To ensure diversity, try to avoid unconscious bias in the speaker selection process as people may be more likely to attend if they see a varied speaker panel. Consider forming a selection committee from a diverse group of people or selecting expert speakers based on their different backgrounds. Language and accessibility are also crucial in fostering a better event atmosphere. Aim to use non-discriminatory language in all of your communications, such as using gender-neutral words instead of less-inclusive words. Choose a space with elevators and wheelchair ramps for people with walking impairments, while for virtual events, aim to use platforms that facilitate access for attendees with visual or hearing impairments.
Looking to the future
Knowing the trends that are defining the event management industry will enable event managers to utilize them and create experiences that resonate more with their audiences, but it’s impossible to implement all these changes at once.
Event managers need to take a measured approach to how they change and enhance their events. Of the trends outlined above, there are a few which can be actioned in the short term to make events more enjoyable, immersive and accessible.
Firstly ensure that your technology is fit for purpose (and that it operates seamlessly with your other digital tools) and plan your events to maximize audience experiences and engagement. And make sure to focus on creating safe and comfortable event spaces while using interpretation technology to diversify your audience, remove barriers to entry, and increase engagement.
Annett Polaszewski-Plath, CEO at Interprefy, shares 5 event management trends to watch out for in 2022.