So here we are in 2022! We are nearly 2 years in to a world pandemic that turned events upside down.
So what does this year have in store for us and what will events look like as COVID-19 hopefully migrates from pandemic to endemic?
Once again, we start the year in a similar fashion to 2021 with the vast majority of events switching to virtual. Whilst there is no lockdown in place, the work from home guidance and infections on the rise have led to reduced confidence in bringing together a live in-person audience. The great news is that we are all well rehearsed at this now with everyone understanding how virtual events work and how they can be delivered successfully. But is this here to stay and what will the rest of 2022 look like?
For some, switching to a virtual event format has opened doors that simply were not possible with an in-person event. Increased audience sizes and a global audience reach are compelling reasons to stick with virtual for the long term. With tools such as our virtual audience platform, AllTogether.live, it is now even possible for virtual presenters to see their virtual audience, which is a huge benefit over blindly staring into a camera lens, hoping those at home have not switched off. When you consider the cost and environmental benefits, virtual events have certainly opened the eyes of many to this format of delivery and it’s likely to be a popular choice for 2022 and beyond.
So if virtual events are so popular, will live “in-person” events return?
The answer is simply YES. Virtual events can hit many event objectives but not all. A good example of this is a gala dinner with entertainment. Unfortunately, the Deliveroo vouchers and virtual dance floor can only go so far on a virtual event to enhance the “at home” experience and popping open the malbec, whilst sat in the home office chair feels somewhat lonely. Live in-person events touch all the senses to deliver inspiring experiences. Virtual events, unfortunately, are a little more limited in this area.
It is also worth reflecting on 2021 and which event types came back first and why. September onwards saw a huge boom with a somewhat decimated industry pulling out all the stops to get shows on the road. Exhibitions in particular were very quick to return. This highlights another advantage of an in-person audience vs. a virtual audience….networking! Hats off to the clever IT bods out there who have worked hard at finding digital solutions to narrow the gap here but nothing beats the chat over a coffee or something stronger whilst stood on an exhibition stand or in the bar post-event. For some, this is where events provide the most value and is a compelling reason to get back to live and in-person as soon as possible.
As we hopefully come out the other side of this latest wave, live events are likely to return, possibly with even more momentum than we saw in 2021. We are obviously hoping for this to be as soon as possible and current enquiries suggest confidence beginning to return in March with events being planned right the way through to Christmas 2022.
We believe this is the year hybrid events will really take off
We’ve all heard the term ‘hybrid’ and if you’re like us, you will be super excited about what this means. However, a well executed hybrid event is not just sticking a camera at the back of a room with the virtual audience watching on Vimeo or YouTube! The content, event activities and event production need to be created with both the in-room and virtual audiences in mind. This includes how presenters engage with each audience and not forgetting about those joining from the other side of the country or globe. AllTogether.Live provides a great virtual audience solution to allow a presenter to see both their in-room and virtual audiences at the same time which goes a long way to ensuring everyone feels part of the show, no matter where they are sat.
If there is one positive to take away from COVID-19, it is that the event rule book has been torn up and all of a sudden, we can reimagine the possible.