As we kick off 2022, the third year into a global pandemic, many
of us in meetings and events are on the edges of our seats, wondering if this
is the comeback year that we’ve been waiting for. While we’ll have to wait and
see how COVID plays out from here, we can’t wait for the day when we can get
back to normal and have all options available to us as event professionals. Has
that day arrived yet? Not quite yet. Even so, there are real green shoots of positive
momentum across our industry.
CES welcomed more than 40,000 in-person attendees in Las Vegas in
early January. The latest Pulse Survey results from Northstar Meetings Group found
only 15 percent of meeting planners now say their primary focus is rebooking
and only 9 percent report they aren’t focused on in-person events at this time,
both new lows.
Over the last two years, the people that make our industry run—event
planners, marketers, hoteliers, travel managers, suppliers—have proven their
resiliency and determination to get people together despite the obstacles. I
believe our industry is poised to come back even bigger and stronger than ever.
Let’s not forget, the meetings and events industry generated more than $1 trillion1
for the global economy annually prior to the pandemic, and the industry has
rebounded every time new challenges arose over the last two decades.
Ready to Innovate
An aggressive digital transformation spanned most of 2020 and all
of 2021. It was forced transformation, but it prepared our industry to adapt to
changes, reach and engage larger audiences, and deliver more dynamic content than
ever. “Hybrid” configurations have pushed planners and marketers to think
differently about how they host events and engage with attendees. In fact, this
hybrid way of thinking can be just the ticket to facilitate deeper, more
personalized, year-round engagement. We’ll see more companies leverage these
benefits in 2022, as the industry stabilizes, and organizers leverage newfound
skills and tools.
Hybrid events combine the best of in-person and virtual formats:
They offer engaging face-to-face connections and immersive online experiences that
can engage previously untapped audiences. When done right, hybrid allows event
organizers to squeeze every drop out of all the hard work that goes into
planning events. Hosts interact in-person with their most engaged customers or
prospects while simultaneously introducing their brand and messaging to an
online audience that likely would not have attended in-person.
Beyond adopting hybrid as a model, the willingness to try new
things or explore new event formats will allow organizers to create more
durable event impacts that can persist over time.
As opposed to a one-time, face-to-face interaction, a digital
event environment delivers content to both live and on-demand audiences,
allowing organizers to harness the concept of the “continuous event”
to deliver ongoing engagement with a core audience even after the live event
ends. Taking the concept a step further, event organizers will begin to apply
the same engagement tactic before the event, getting key audiences together to
network, provide feedback on your agenda and map out how best to maximize the
value of the event itself.
More engagement, for longer periods of time, allows event hosts to
learn more about registrants and attendees—how they think, what they want and
how your organization can help them. These deeper, more actionable insights should
inform sales and marketing teams and produce more personalized, impactful
client conversations that drive better business outcomes in 2022.