The Honest Answers on What’s Next for Events

When COVID hit in January of 2020, it tore through the landscape of B2B + Cloud events, canceling all events that thousands of companies rely on for pipeline and revenue. No one was truly prepared for the disastrous tsunami we call COVID, however, it is remarkable just how quickly businesses were specifically able to adapt and overcome this new challenge. The use of cloud technology skyrocketed, and in the blink of an eye, we entered a new completely virtual era for events. So where do we go from here?

What can we expect for the future of events?

What can we expect for the future of events?

First, let’s take a look at the state of events in 2020:

  • SaaStr annual postponed
  • Techcrunch going virtual for Disrupt
  • No IRL Coachella, EDC, or Dreamforce
  • Yet, Cloud is on fire
  • Virtual events have boomed
  • Internal events go virtual

I’m sure everyone reading this can agree, this is NOT in any way how we pictured events would take place in 2020. Yet, somehow events were able to smoothly transition online.

The million-dollar question:

WHEN will events return?

Well, according to a survey… 82% of event and marketing professionals plan to wait until 2021 or later to return to in person events. However, that doesn’t mean companies aren’t tentatively planning.

Really, it breaks down to these factors:

#1 Comfortability

It’s clear people want to go back to in-person events relatively soon according to the survey, but how does comfortability play a role in this?

According to Alon Alroy, there will certainly be a population of possible attendees who will not be comfortable going back to in person events in 2021 until there is a vaccine readily available, or more regulation in events.

Organizers recognize this, and have been actively developing ways to make events safer. Including contactless check-in and smaller local events with a larger remote audience.

b2b events in 2021

#2 Health & Safety Standards

Companies have to work to come up with health and safety standards that will make all attendees comfortable. Ideally, you want your plan to be so overkill that it appeals to even the highest level of germaphobe.

People will be extremely appreciative of the small things, such as hand sanitizers and complimentary masks. Some things to consider even further include plexiglass barriers, outdoor events, or on sight pre testing.

Overall, you want every single attendee of the event to feel comfortable and safe. Your definition of safety and clean may be very different from others. For many folks, it’s a big step to go from sitting on your couch watching an event to a conference with thousands of people.

#3 Hybrid is King

Hybrid is going to be big for upcoming events. It could even be a bonus for companies as you can expand your reach and have a larger attending audience. Remote audiences can be up to 5 or 10 times bigger than in person audiences.

According to a Bizzabo survey, 97% of event and marketing professionals expect to see more hybrid events. 72% are planning hybrid events for 2020 and 2021.

We have sadly exited the in-person era, we’re currently in the virtual era, and we are excitedly entering the hybrid event era.

b2b events 2021

When everyone goes digital:

There are several positives to going digital, but also a few implications companies should watch out for.

Pros:

  • Virtual can absolutely drive leads and pipeline
  • Reach more of your audience
  • Long-tail content
  • Less commitment for speakers, audience
  • More leads than IRL

Implications:

  • Events competition tenfold
  • You are not a media company
  • Have to repurpose almost instantaneously
  • Less commitment for speakers, audience
  • More commitment for team
  • Format
  • Make it easy
  • More investing in networking, entertainment

A great way to succeed at planning a hybrid event is to treat them as separate events. However, also look at a holistic manner to not divide the group. Provide remote attendees with ways to engage and network, the same way they could if they were in person.

Top Takeaways from SaaStr:

  • Lots of budget and funding going to events
  • Make it easy for attendees
  • Events will come back stronger
  • Global Community

Top Takeaways from Bizzabo:

  • Events are still the most meaningful marketing channel in driving engagement.
  • Virtual can definitely be effective in driving leads, pipeline, and other outcomes
  • Differentiation and attendee experience is key in a crowded market
  • In-person is coming back but virtual isn’t going anywhere
  • Hybrid= 1+1=3
Published on October 6, 2020

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