According to a 2018 report, the global event industry generated $1.5 trillion to economies around the world. Although corporate and professional and trade associations are returning to in-person events, the industry is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels before 2023, and some experts predict that attendance at business-related events will lag beyond that.
Nine emerging trends for events from 2022 through 2024 were identified by Josh Howarth, an author at Exploding Topics.
- Hybrid events continue to grow. Over 70% of event planners said they would continue to employ a digital strategy even after live events return.
- Events become important PR tool. The ability to add an unlimited number of people virtually has led some companies and associations to offer free or greatly discounted tickets to conferences. As revenues from registration fees may decrease, organizations recoup losses through robust sponsorship programs and a longer-term ROI.
- Micro events become an event staple. Health concerns have led to scaled back events to address safety and liability risks for event planners. Smaller events have become more feasible and pose a smaller financial risk.
- Events enter a year-round cycle. While an annual conference has been the norm for associations, smaller virtual or hybrid events are becoming more common and will be put on more often.
- Professionals use events to help them upskill. When surveyed, 71% of event planning professionals said they wanted to develop their skills in designing live experiences in post-COVID environments.
- Emphasis on transformational experiences. Event planners are strategically evaluating events to determine the need for and benefit of specific events. Because in-person events provide networking opportunities that are difficult in a virtual environment, corporate event planners are focusing on meaningful connection, entertainment, and content – in that order.
- Renewed emphasis on physical and virtual safety. Socially-distanced layouts, protective personal equipment, specialized cleaning crews, hand sanitizing stations and advanced air-filtration systems will become commonplace. Two-factor authentication, using VPNs and using a password manager will also help event managers protect participants from cybercrime.
- More data collection during and after events. Technology that tracks what sessions participants attend and how long they stay in the session will be valuable as event planners plan for future events.
- Increasing investments in event technology. Event technology platforms are lagging behind demand due to the almost-overnight transition during the pandemic. Startup technology companies in this space are emerging to provide the flexibility, ease-of-use, and capabilities that event planners want for the future.