2020 = the year of virtual
2021 = the year of hybrid
2022 = the year of ___ ?
We hear you event organisers. 2021 wasn’t the year we had all hoped for. And even though we’re starting to experience a lot more freedom, the pandemic is still affecting how we’re able to plan events.
So where does that leave us for 2022? We asked a load of marketing and event experts not just what event trends they predict this year, but what they actually want to see happen with events. We unearthed some interesting common themes…
1. Hybrid 2.0
Unsurprisingly, hybrid is still the word on everyone’s lips.
2021 was all about dipping our toes into the possibilities of what hybrid could be. In 2022, events will continue to evolve to cater for different types of hybrid audiences as we navigate through the pandemic.
“Nevertheless, physical events get more important as we all want to learn, network and meet in person.”
The benefits event organisers have already experienced with virtual and hybrid events are huge. Larger audience sizes, higher engagement, better ROI… But now physical events are becoming possible again, should the focus be shifted back to in-person elements?
“I think hybrid makes the most sense but I’m interested to see how events are tailored to everyone’s needs. Virtual events have risen in popularity out of necessity. One problem with staying virtual-only is standing out and combatting screen fatigue, so maybe hybrid events are a good compromise that can reach a larger audience.”
To tackle fatigue and allow hybrid to flourish event organisers are going to need to create smarter ways of blending both audiences. These event experiences need to benefit both audience types mutually; not just one exclusively.
Creating that blend is easier said than done.
On episode 4 of our video series Unmuted, Areej shares her experiences of navigating through virtual and physical events, and how she plans to make the transition to hybrid.
With so much focus on in-person and hybrid events, does that mean virtual only events could be taking a back seat in 2022? Absolutely not, according to Chiara Grigolini, Global Digital Content Manager at Affinity Petcare.
“I think 2022 events must have at least the possibility of following events online. In 2021 that really gave us the opportunity to access events, information and speakers that would have been impossible to reach otherwise. I hope and I believe that this trend is here to stay.”
It looks like there’s room for all types of events in 2022, but the benefits of keeping virtual elements are too good to ignore. If you are planning on running a hybrid event this year, take a look at our short guide here >>
2. Virtual-First Interactivity
Historically, event organisers have focused more on in-person attendees when it comes to audience participation. This is something that can actually be a huge mistake. Why?
Time has proven that virtual attendees want to be just as vocal and involved.
And guess what. You could end up seeing a much bigger return on your events if you focused a little more time on your online participants.
But let’s not get lazy with this. Like everything, finding new ways to connect people will be key to making your events a success in 2022.
That means stretching beyond the typical Q&A and roundtable sessions we’ve all become used to. Harness the digital tools available in things like event platforms to create fully immersive experiences, like real, authentic-feeling workshops.
This is the type of interactivity your audience are longing for in 2022.
“In-person is easier to do this, but virtual has struggled,” continues RaShea.
“I’m hoping we’ll see more interactive events that go beyond ‘send us your questions in the QA’ to where it’s workshopping or engaging in real time.”
And we’re not just talking about during the event. Think about ways you can engage your audience before and after. This is still such an untapped area of event marketing. Yet it has a huge impact on attendees when done right. Another big event trend to look out for.
“I recently attended a hybrid event in person and I got a tonne of value from the networking and conversations before and after the official presentation. When an online viewer asked a question, I raised my hand and was called on to provide my POV.
“To bring this kind of engagement and value to online attendees, I’d propose adding moderated discussion groups post webinar for networking and inter attendee Q&A.”
And how can you create a buzz in 2022 long before your event has even started? Dean Seddon, CEO of Maverrik describes how he’ll be using virtual events as a precursor to in-person events to generate excitement:
3. Networking-Focussed Events
This is one of the biggest event trends we expect this year. Your audience are craving authentic connections at events now more than ever. So better networking opportunities should be one of your top priorities for 2022.
And we really mean better.
Things like matchmaking apps and dedicated networking sessions should 100% be on your event agendas. These types of activities hand-hold attendees through the networking process and create a natural networking environment for your attendees to connect.
The more your audience connects with one another, the more they’ll hear and learn from new voices and opinions. Something that will be a significant bonus to your audience, as emphasised by Tracie Varvir, Digital Marketing Professional:
“I hope 2022 turns into the year of connecting with others. Others who you might not normally have spoken to, might not share the exact word for word same views with, but most of all others who you can learn from and grow from!”
Once you start building a trusted community within your events you’ll see those attendees coming back time and time again.
4. 'Binge-Worthy' Event Content
Which leads us nicely onto this; create something binge-worthy in 2022.
We all binge. The latest Netflix series, The US Office for the 7th time. Why should your events be any different?
The magic of running events is that you’ve got so much content at your finger tips. tribetactrics Co-Founder, Kareem Mostafa thinks event organisers should look at the biggest players in the streaming world for event inspiration in 2022:
“I think people are going to continue taking from the playbook of the Netflixs and the Hulus of the world to see how you could fundamentally create content that is binge-worthy, both during as well as after.”
This means producing a continuous flow of content following your event. Think a mini-series, blog posts, social content. If you keep that content going long after your event, you can start to see what Kareem coins as a ‘ripple effect’ with your audience:
“It’s not just one point in time, but it’s the start of a series of conversations,” continues Kareem. “This will continue on in video, image and written form, all the way until your next event that’s scheduled.”
5. Speaker-First Experiences
News flash; your events aren’t just about your audience. Your speakers need to be just as invested.
The more they’re invested, the better they’ll perform.
The better they are, the more your audience will enjoy them.
That’s how you get your audience coming back for more in 2022.
So stop the guesswork and collect some real feedback from your attendees this year. This helps you understand what gets them excited when it comes to event speakers and provides added value to your presenters.
6. Humanising Brands
“You will see more and more companies doing this,” says Portia.
“Life at Google, YouTube’s Creators for Change, and HubSpot with everything they do… Brands that aren’t humanising are getting left behind, but there has to be authenticity to it.”
And really, that’s what it all boils down to. If you’re taking anything into 2022 with your events, create something authentic that truly puts your audience first.
That means less selling behind a screen or on stage, and creating more meaningful experiences where your audience can connect, learn and grow. These are the encounters people will remember about your events.