Navigating through the unpredictable: Our expectations for events in 2021.
For many event professionals, creating an event strategy for 2021 is like asking someone to smell the number 9? An endless game of Jenga where we think we have a plan in place, only to see it topple with your next move.
We have put together our expectations for 2021 based on what we have learned across 2020 and from what we are currently working on with clients.
Right here, right now...
No surprises...virtual,. Most businesses have adapted and put a virtual strategy of some kind in place. Let's face it, who wouldn't go back right now a year and buy some shares in a particular video meeting platform given the chance?
Whether you are a fan or not of virtual, for events of all types across at least the first half of the year, this is your main option. We all miss live and there is something to be said regards so called "zoom fatigue".
Virtual events certainly do provide new challenges for event professionals. We have found out how much we thrive on being able to control all aspects of a live event. Virtual provides a few unknowns such as technology which can be unpredictable. As an external planner it could be that you are not on the event itself, which again throws up it's own anxieties!
However, there are increasingly more options and opportunities within this market. New software is becoming available seemingly on a weekly basis. This enables hosts and delegates to present and interact in a seemingly more familiar manner and environment although still in the virtual world. Analytics are becoming more detailed which we hugely endorse as part of your virtual event. It's not just about now having am potential global audience. What use is that if you have no information on them to follow up with or monitor engagement? In fact some software platforms are becoming so sophisticated you can even effectively build your own venue for all sorts of event possibilities!
Suppliers are also making huge strides in terms of quality and engagement for virtual incentives. In the past month we have successfully delivered three virtual incentives for our clients. Each with different objectives and goals. It can be a minefield of choice, so make sure you research thoroughly and call on any recommendations through your networking channels.
Let's face it...if you want to run events right now, like it or not this is what we have to work with. So why not learn, embrace and adapt to the opportunity?
Mid Term Plans
Some may already be looking at Hybrid events. But we expect by July that natural evolution from virtual to hybrid should be a major part of the event landscape.
Vaccinations and restrictions will still undoubtedly be frustrating us all. But we will be a little further out of the tunnel and it should allow us an opportunity to start to incorporate live with our virtual world. For small meetings and events such as forums and panels. It may mean a return to live but we expect that it will be for groups up to 50. Cautious yes, but we have too many risks and unknowns to go gung-ho back into live.
For example, we really need more guidance in terms of what the rules are for moving back into live.
Do we have to ensure both staff and delegates have had both vaccinations?
Do you need both and a covid test to attend?
How will the track and trace be in its efficiency by then?
What proof will delegates have to show they have been vaccinated / tested?
These are just a few, there are plenty more uncertainties that we feel mean we have to wait that little bit longer to have live events back in full effect. The benefit of hybrid will mean we can connect our event with colleagues, clients, audiences in offices across a variety of locations both domestic and internationally.
It should certainly now begin to feel more like it used to. But we must remain sensible in our approach to planning our events at this point.
If we are talking about a return to live events as we know it, then realistically for most this will be Q4. Even then we expect there to be a few restrictions in place meaning planners will have to limit travel and numbers.
The impact this past year has had on all businesses means we expect virtual incentives to still be a key option for end of year festivities and rewards. However, opportunities will be there for certain live events.
Expos and large conferences will likely have to wait until 2022. But it is likely we can look at events now up to 1000 potentially, depending on venue capability. With some travel now being possible, we could see some small international events. But again at this stage too many unknowns mean that planners should err on the side of caution. The impact globally in destination will mean limiting choices available along with likely less availability than normal with flights to begin with.
As much as we welcome a return to international events. We expect focus will likely be on domestic for 2021 with the odd exception. With a view to returning in 2022 after hopefully calmer waters from both pandemic and Brexit.