Since the arrival of COVID-19, thousands of events have been postponed, cancelled, or moved to virtual platforms. While the vaccine has allowed many businesses to resume events and meetings as usual, breakthrough cases and the Omicron variant have continued to stall the ability for face-to-face encounters. So, what does all of this mean for the future of in-person meetings?

In early December 2021, Encore surveyed a number of meeting and event planners to gain insight into what trends they are seeing and what they predict for meetings going forward. Keep reading to learn more or check out our Winter 2021-2 Planner Pulse Report.

More planners are requiring vaccinations

Many organizations across the country, including the event planning industry, have implemented new protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help attendees feel comfortable attending in-person events. Last fall, event professionals noted that reduced interest for in-person gatherings was due to a perceived lack of safety precautions. From requiring masks to creating socially distant floorplans, event planners are taking additional measures to promote a healthy environment and build confidence about meeting in-person.

According to our survey, 48 percent of planning organizations now require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to attend in-person events. Meeting professionals have opted for enhanced protocols to create both a safer meeting environment and more peace of mind for attendees.

Planners continue to use hybrid platforms

It’s no secret that the rising number of COVID cases and the presence of the Omicron variant have led to some hesitancy to attend public events. That is why hybrid events have been one of the leading meeting formats over the past 18+ months.

Our survey indicated that 49 percent of meeting planners have executed hybrid events during the last six months – a 4 percent increase over the number of hybrid events conducted since conducting our survey in fall 2021. While the goal is to get more attendees to participate in-person, planners are starting to make virtual meeting components a permanent option.

One of biggest ways the pandemic has impacted the events industry is by how many resources businesses and organizations are willing to invest in their meetings and events. Thankfully, there is a lot of optimism going into 2022. According to our latest Planner Pulse survey, 11 percent of event professionals indicated that their meeting spend has already recovered to pre-COVID 2019 levels, while another 46 percent are expecting to do so this year.

Planners predict an increase of in-person events

While virtual events have taken the industry by storm since early in the pandemic, many attendees are eager to get back to face-to-face gatherings. As previously mentioned, the vaccine is allowing for in-person events to make a comeback… slowly. While there is no specific timeline on how quickly in-person meetings will start to be a more regular occurrence, meeting planners are confident that we will see a steady rise in the second quarter of 2022. Event professionals are suggesting to other planners that they use this time to learn how they can leverage some of the best practices from their virtual and hybrid events.

Meeting planners are optimistic that the number of in-person gatherings will continue to increase throughout 2022 – stateside and worldwide. Encore not only has the solutions you need to present your events through virtual and hybrid formats but is also dedicated to promoting how in-person meetings can happen safely. Share how and where you are showing up during your meetings and events.

‘Hybrid’ is defined as the combination of two different elements. In the context of hybrid events, it’s;

"a physical meeting in which an online audience also participates. Essentially, both the physical as well as the online audience come together and participate in the same experience or content at the same time, from different locations."

IMPACTPLUS

The benefits of a hybrid event for meeting and event planners lie in the benefits of hosting both the in-person experience as well as the virtual.

So why go hybrid now and not wait until restrictions ease so we can go back to ‘normal’?

The short answer is, the days of only in-person events may be long gone. Restrictions don’t appear to be easing anytime soon, and event planners are starting to capitalize on the benefits that hybrid events can bring. Another growing indicator for an adaptation to hybrid is the fact that participants are more engaged and are enjoying the new format.

According to IMPACT, in 2021, video (including web conferencing) is projected to account for 80% of all internet traffic.

The shift to hybrid events reflects changing attendee behavior and expectations. If you’re looking for reasons to add a digital or streaming component to your event – here are some key benefits of hybrid events. 

Why adding virtual to your event can create positive ROI

Event planners are well-versed in the benefits of an in-person experience, so let’s look at what adding in a virtual component can bring:

  • Increased Attendance

    While a venue has capacity limitations for in-person attendees, hybrid events provide an opportunity to reach audiences across the world. By removing the need to travel, you’re effectively able to increase your number of registrations and appeal to a broader audience.

  • Thought-leadership

    If cost-savings leave you with a larger budget, consider reaching out to presenters who may have previously been out of reach or who are new. This creates an opportunity to build new connections, give your attendees access to new and in-demand speakers and gives presenters exposure to new audiences.

  • Networking

    Interactive virtual platforms like Chime Live are designed to facilitate engagement and networking online. Whether
    via chat, live polling, virtual break-out rooms, video chat, or connecting via social feeds, the digital experience opens up new opportunities for presenters and attendees to engage on a more intimate level than in the past. The beauty of an event platform like Chime Live is the connection created between the in-person and virtual
    attendees. Rather than treating them as separate audiences, the platform is designed to be all-inclusive, giving each attendee the same experience no matter where they login from.

 
  • A New Revenue Stream

    Take advantage of the online environment and seek creative virtual event sponsorships that will bring in more revenue and ultimately increase your ROI. If you’re streaming your event live or offering it on-demand, it’s a great opportunity to drive revenue via banner ads, ticketed content, sponsored segments, digital swag bags and more.

  • Data to Report on

    The qualitative nature of in-person events make it a challenge to determine if you’ve successfully hit your goals and targets. The benefit of a hybrid event that introduces a virtual element, is in knowing who attended, when they attended, for how long, what they watched and so much more. This gives you the ability to provide sponsors with data to justify ROI, and importantly, it provides you invaluable insights for improvement.

  • On-Demand Viewing

    A key benefit to adding a virtual component to your events is being able to stream it live or on-demand. This eliminates any time-zone or scheduling conflicts and means your audiences can access the content at a convenient time. Similarly, allowing attendees to view on-demand extends the life of content investment beyond event day.

  • The Opportunity for Social Connection

    With travel and lifestyle restrictions impacting the way we connect, hybrid events provide the benefit of social connection with people around the world. Integrating social media into your virtual event platform is a great way to connect your participants and amplify the social reach of your event.

Why you need to keep the in-person experience

Humans are social by nature. We need to belong, to connect, and to share moments. We even communicate subconsciously through body language and pheromones, with powerful impact.

The benefits of a hybrid event lie in the elements of in-person interaction and the benefits of adding a virtual component. When executed well, hybrid events have the ability to create truly transformative experiences.

Level up your hybrid event game and earn CE credits!


 

Get the best hybrid event production with Encore

Encore are experts at planning and delivering successful hybrid events – the ones that stand out and keep your attendees coming back. With unparalleled creative, production and technology solutions, you can be confident in the end-to-end production of your hybrid event. We’ve also developed a set of industry-recognized MeetSAFE guidelines for the safe and responsible delivery of events. In response to the pandemic, our production and technical teams implemented these guidelines amidst changing restrictions to ensure room layout, traffic flow, hygiene and technology safeguards meet local requirements. Our teams are well-versed in adapting to the needs of any hybrid event. A successful event starts with a conversation. Let’s have one! Get in touch with our team!