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Three predictions about the future of virtual & hybrid events

This article originally appeared in ClickZ

30-second summary:

As we head toward the last quarter of the year, it’s become the norm to start making predictions about what the following year will bring. Although no one knows for sure how long it will take for COVID-19 to move from a dominant worldwide force to a footnote in history, it’s clear it’s already changed the makeup of events forever. With this in mind, here are three predictions about the future of virtual and hybrid events.

1. Technology will continue to evolve at a breakneck pace

Even when in-person events resume, virtual and hybrid formats will remain a go-to. Attendees may be given the choice between attending in-person or virtually, making every event experience and community a hybrid.

As a result, the demands on event technology will continue to grow and the best vendors will accelerate years of innovation into the next few quarters. Event technology will become the connective tissue between in-person and virtual attendees, serving a critical and strategic purpose for every event.

The nice-to-have event technology solutions of the past, like mobile event apps and web-based engagement tools, will become critical infrastructure that powers participation and community.

The stakes are being raised and attendees – and speakers – will expect a consumer-grade experience when it comes to mobile, virtual, polling, Q&A, messaging, networking, video delivery and all the other dynamic features that are essential to creating a digital experience that feels like an event.

2. Relationship-building will take center stage

Events offer the unique opportunity to be among your peers, to immerse yourself in content that you’re passionate about, interface with speakers you admire and connect with sponsors for meaningful, face-to-face conversations.

So as hybrid and virtual events become even more popular, we need to make sure we fulfill these needs. It won’t look the same as it does at in-person events, and that’s ok. What matters is that it still is happening.

Here are a few ways that technology can be used to reinforce relationship-building at virtual and hybrid events:

3. As supply increases, quality is more necessary than ever

Since the prevalence – and frequency – of virtual and hybrid events rises the competition for attendees will heat up.

How can your event stand out and draw in high registration numbers? The only way to differentiate is by raising the bar for the quality of your content, networking experience and every other facet of your event.

If you bring in relevant, influential speakers, you will naturally up your event’s image and get access to those speakers’ own followers, but this in and of itself isn’t enough.

The industry has buzzed about the value of attendee engagement data for years, but nobody has made a compelling case for what to actually do with all the incredible data generated at events.

Today we have an opportunity to transform how events are experienced and the impact they have as a marketing channel by leaning into the data opportunity.

To succeed in the post-COVID-19 event industry you’ll need to offer personalized content and a unique experience in order to get attendees to your event – and come back again.

Achieving that objective starts with the ability to capture intent data, and start putting it to work to identify what really drives your audience.

The event technology platforms of the future will surface your attendees’ intent and goals for attending your event, while intelligently helping you give them more of what they want with real-time personalization.

The implications of capturing more data than ever before through virtual and hybrid events are also immense for sponsors and exhibitors.

Today, events are scrambling to prove value to sponsors for virtual experiences. So as technology catches up, we’re likely to see incredible growth in event sponsorship.

Events are a unique marketing channel and there’s no reason why the personal touch that makes them so powerful can’t also go hand-in-hand with a more data-driven and measurable approach that drives better leads with higher intent. Data is the missing ingredient that’s missing no more.

When your back is against a wall, you have to adapt, and no one knows this better than those of us in the events industry. This year, and the global pandemic, has fundamentally disrupted business as usual, forcing us to evolve and improve in ways we never imagined we could.

But now, we know what to do. We can use what we’ve learned through this experience to elevate the experiences our attendees have at our events, whether virtual or hybrid, now and for many years into the future.

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