After a long wait and an immensely challenging 19 months, the events industry is starting to roar back to life. But, the landscape has changed drastically. The teams responsible for architecting, designing, and running these events are finding themselves tackling increasingly complex challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Event trends are changing rapidly and event professionals are working hard to keep up.
The Vendry surveyed over 400 event professionals to understand more about what their work looks like today, what their major challenges and triumphs are, and what they see on the 2022 horizon. Find event trends for 2022 and much more in our Industry Trend Report.
Every time the event industry, and the world in general, thinks they’ve figured out the algorithm to navigate the pandemic, something seems to change. Delta winds down; Omicron makes its debut. Vaccine restrictions and regulations shift depending on your geographic area. Where are we with social distancing? The world is changing in other ways too. For example, are NFTs going to be a thing for the events industry? Many trends and happenings of the past few years were born of necessity with a crisis-response mentality. However, some of these trends are clearly here to stay–pandemic or no pandemic. Herewith, a look at what you can expect to see more of in 2022, and beyond.
Regardless of how this pandemic pans out, the hybrid model is here to stay. The mix of virtual and IRL elements has proven effective, and actually increased brand awareness with a bigger reach than ever before. ROE and ROI is more easily provable, and the analytics you get with a digital event are a gold mine. There’s also a–stay tuned for later in the article–sustainable angle by reducing your event carbon footprint. While hybrid events aren't going anywhere, it seems like in-person events are truly back on the rise. The demand for in-person events has seen an uptick and people have communicated that there's just nothing like that in-person event connection.
The last two years have included a watershed moment which has changed the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion conversation top to bottom in this country, and beyond. The events industry has made huge strides to meet this moment, but there is still room for improvement for incorporating DEI into overall event strategy. The momentum for positive change and representation will continue, especially for corporate events. At the end of the day remember to practice what you preach as a company when it comes to values, and make sure your events reflect this priority.
This one is, obviously, a big one. The most important focus above all else is the health and safety of organizers, sponsors, attendees, and workers, full stop. The reality is that Covid may be something we need to learn to live with for a long time, and deal with waves and variants as they come. So, what does that mean? You can expect events to continue to:
Follow local mandates about gatherings to the letter. This includes proof of vaccination for entry in many places.
Have multiple hand-sanitizing stations.
Have clear instructions on mask protocol before you even enter.
Some events may require you to sign off on a virtual health checklist before attending in-person.
Depending on the size and location of the event, some events will likely continue to have a temperature test upon entry.
Covid aside (easier said than done), as a society we’re now more hyper-aware of how germs travel than ever before. While we continue to aspire and work towards a pandemic-free existence, hand sanitizing areas is likely an event must-have for the indefinite future, even though sooner rather than later masks will, fingers crossed, become obsolete.
Force majeure used to be one of those boxes on event insurance paperwork you contemplated even checking. Sure, things did happen. In addition to its catastrophic East Coast damage, Hurricane Sandy canceled a huge amount of weddings in peak fall wedding season in 2012. Wildfires have been in the back of event planners’ minds in parts of California for years. That said, backup plans are no longer just “we’ll move inside if it rains” level consideration. No matter the size or scale of your event, there will now forever be an emphasis on a robust plan B, or even C.
Rather than holding one large event or exhibition per year, you can expect the shift to smaller, more frequent gatherings to continue. What mainly started as a response to pandemic restrictions and logistics–it’s admittedly easier to reschedule these smaller, non-travel dependent events than ones on a grander scale–actually revealed quite a few benefits in the process. Smaller, more frequent events:
There’s an organic feel to these types of events, which is helpful for pop ups and networking opportunities. The lead time with planning these smaller events is drastically cut down as well.
The previously oft-quoted adage “the show must go on” no longer holds the weight it used to, because the reality is that sometimes the right and safe thing to do is in fact press pause. In that vein, industry professionals now need to ensure flexible cancellation plans and refund policies. It’s not just the right thing to do; a lasting effect of the pandemic is that people are less likely to commit to an event that locks you in without an exit ramp.
People have a more educated and discerning eye when it comes to sustainability than ever before, and your event guests are likely hip to this conversation. It doesn’t mean you have to only offer vegan food on biodegradable plates with transportation provided in a vintage bus run on cooking oil. (Although if that’s your thing, go for it!) The goal is not trying to avoid a “gotcha” moment from eagle-eyed attendees, but rather to make your event sustainability conversation a more meaningful priority and shift to more long term change. It is admittedly more work, but two questions to really start considering, if you haven’t already:
All in all, you can expect events to increasingly have a hyper-focus on this aspect of event planning. In fact, at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, various event-related businesses and organizations signed a pledge to commit to a net zero carbon footprint for events by 2050. After all, earth is the ultimate venue.
Make sure you download the report above to read more about how event pros are tackling budgeting, health & safety, contingency planning, building community, mental health and wellness, localized events, immersive technology, and more!