Preparing for the Return of Live Events: The Latest Trends in Event Planning for 2022

January 25, 2022

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The latest trends in event planning show us that the overwhelming majority of event organizers and sponsors are ready to get back to in-person events. 78% of marketers surveyed by LinkedIn want in-person events to return to a primary role, even if they continue to leverage virtual or hybrid technology to improve the overall attendee experience.

Defining The Best Path Forward for Your Live Event

While some of the central elements of their event marketing plans will remain the same, event organizers also need to answer new questions and concerns brought on by the pandemic, like:

  • How do we approach business travel in 2022?
  • Do we still need to include virtual elements in our live events?
  • What tools can we use to improve attendee and exhibitor safety at in-person events?

As the event industry prepares to return to live events, they’re using the latest trends in event planning along with lessons they learned about engagement, virtual content, and attendee analytics to fuel their in-person event planning strategies.

1. Consider the Attendee Experience First

At the onset of COVID, event organizers and sponsors leaned into emerging virtual trends with the primary goal of boosting event attendance. They began offering free attendance to webinars, virtual conferences, and similar events to draw in registrants and attendees.

While this approach did increase attendance rates, event organizers noticed that it had a varied impact on actual attendee engagement. They realized that focusing on attendance alone wasn’t enough to deliver a positive return on their investments in virtual event technology.

[Stat callout:] Forty-nine percent of marketers say audience engagement is the biggest contributing factor to event success.

As virtual events grew in popularity and complexity, organizations began to focus more heavily on creating an engaging experience that matched attendee preferences and motivations. And as we look forward to live events in 2022, the attendee experience must remain at the forefront of planning and execution.

The best way to develop an engaging, attendee-centric experience is to learn more about your target audience, asking questions like:

  • What are your attendees’ motivations for coming to your event? What challenges do they want to overcome or goals do they want to achieve?
  • How do you want them to experience your event and interact with your content?
  • What do you want them to walk away with after the event concludes?

Many attendees changed their expectations during the pandemic. They enjoyed more flexibility and control over their individual event experiences thanks to event technology that allowed them to interact with content and event sponsors on their terms.

To bring these attendees back to in-person events, organizations need to align their audiences’ expectations with the type of event they’re hosting. Popular examples include:

  • An educational event where attendees should walk away feeling competent in a particular subject.
  • A recognition event where attendees should feel adequately recognized and have opportunities to network with peers and executives.
  • A buying event, like a trade show, where attendees will meet with sellers and place orders for products.

Remember, the more you learn about the latest trends in event planning and audience expectations before the event, the easier it will be to determine the best delivery methods to use, content to present, and features to prioritize during planning and execution.

2. Keep Content and Content Delivery Top of Mind

While attendance rates soared early on in the pandemic, most corporate virtual events lacked when it came to providing value to sponsors and exhibitors. Event organizers quickly realized that content was the key to connecting sponsors with attendees and keeping those attendees engaged throughout each event.

Organizers, attendees, and sponsors have realized that engagement is the most crucial element of any event, especially during in-person events where attendees juggle live presentations, networking opportunities, interactive sessions, and more. Content lies at the center of a successful attendee engagement strategy. The more content an attendee consumes, the more likely they are to gain a clear understanding of each sponsor’s value and overall brand message.

So, how can event organizers ensure optimal content delivery at an in-person event?

First and foremost, event hosts should coordinate with sponsors, co-hosts, and any other presenters to create valuable, relevant content for attendees. This coordination could include anything from setting specific content requirements for sponsors to producing co-created content for lead generation.

Coordinators can also leverage pandemic-era technology to deliver content in a virtual setting following live sessions. The emergence of these ‘always-on’ environments allows event hosts and sponsors to leverage content for lead generation long after the in-person event ends.

[Stat callout:] According to Vimeo68% of event attendees rewatch content after an event concludes.

Virtual content delivery gives attendees a convenient way to interact with and absorb content how, when, and where they prefer, rather than overwhelming them during the live event itself. Plus, it sets your organization up for success should you need to offer a hybrid or remote option again in the future.

3. Give Attendees Confidence and Peace of Mind

The return to live events is reopening many doors for hosts and attendees alike, but there are still new concerns to consider.

Organizers must now determine how they’ll keep attendees safe in in-person settings. This consideration is top-of-mind for 62% of event planners surveyed by The Vendry, and it likely extends to sponsors and attendees deciding how and when they’ll re-enter the world of live events.

The good news is, there are several solutions available that support safety at live events, such as:

  • Digital event passes enable contactless check-in, attendance tracking, and content downloads through the “wallet” functionality on attendees’ mobile devices.
  • Kiosk-based access controls regulate and track attendee movement throughout the event to help hosts enforce capacity limits and enable contact tracing as needed.
  • Contactless lead retrieval allows exhibitors to collect lead information through mobile devices by scanning attendees’ event passes.

No matter your event’s specific requirements or considerations, it’s likely that your organization already has access to tools that can be repurposed or re-introduced for live events. From app-based surveys and live polls to seamless online registration tools that give attendees and sponsors access to relevant safety information and ensure they arrive at your event well-prepared for what to expect.

4. Don’t Leave Virtual Event Technology Out of the Equation

Event organizers are confident that 2022 will see more in-person events than 2021, but that doesn’t mean they’re turning away from virtual and hybrid offerings for their sponsors and attendees. In fact, over 50% of event marketers believe that their future events will still have a virtual component.

To say that we’ve learned a lot from pandemic-era virtual events is an understatement. Virtual hosting uncovered many valuable insights on both sides of the aisle: for organizers who found virtual engagement exciting and for those anxious to return to live events.

Virtual events helped organizers succeed in events they never thought could be held virtually. On the flip side, the emergence of virtual and hybrid event models also reinforced the value of in-person formats for certain events like trade shows where people want to see, touch, and interact with products and product experts.

So, what’s the best path forward for 2022?

When comparing virtual or in-person, we believe that one doesn’t necessarily play out over the other; it’s more about identifying the best tools to accomplish the goals of your specific event.

Every event is different, and the importance of a virtual component depends heavily on the type of event you’re planning. However, it’s critical that organizations don’t lose sight of the value virtual brings to their event planning arsenal and attendee engagement strategies.

At Stova, we believe the future of event planning will present new opportunities for organizations to connect with attendees on their terms. Leverage our COVID-safe in-person tools and dynamic digital solutions to give attendees exceptional experiences no matter how they choose to engage with your brand.

Rather than boxing your organization into one of two categories, consider how you can lean on both in-person and virtual tactics to engage with attendees, support your sponsors, and develop successful events in 2022 and beyond.

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