The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a lot of changes in the world, and one of the most prominent changes has been our transition to virtual meeting platforms. Sure, video conferencing tools like Skype had been around for ages.
But it was really this pandemic and the need to stay connected even amongst lockdowns and quarantines that finally pushed us to truly embrace these technologies. Today, there are being used for everything, be it small online team building activities or larger corporate virtual events.
All this presents new challenges for event planning companies. That’s why they need to stay on top of these 8 virtual trends that are shaking conferences and meeting events in 2021.
1. Hybrid Events
While 2020 mainly revolved around strictly virtual events, 2021 will see the rise of hybrid events. As the vaccine starts rolling out everywhere, it will become possible to start hosting in-person events. However, not everyone will be comfortable attending physical events and conferences so soon.
This is where hybrid events come in. Event planners can host an event in one location with a limited number of physical attendees and, at the same time, provide an online hub too for virtual attendees to participate freely.
Event planning companies will have to work to find that sweet spot between the ideal number of physical and virtual attendees.
2. Facial Recognition
Again, this is not necessarily a new technology, but it is quickly becoming a popular trend for corporate virtual events and other online conferences. Whether it’s physical or virtual, one thing that hasn’t changed is people’s dislike for long and complicated check-ins.
With facial recognition, though, this process can be significantly expedited. Attendees can be quickly verified and checked in through facial recognition technology, which not only saves their time but also allows them to enjoy a smoother experience.
Furthermore, besides the checking-in process, facial recognition and other AI-powered technologies can also allow event planners to deliver more data-driven and personalized content and experiences.
3. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Another technology that will play a big role in online team building activities in 2021 is augmented reality or virtual reality. Many industries are hopping on this trend, but it is particularly crucial for event planning and management.
AR allows event planners to add another dimension to their plain virtual events. They can include computer-generated attractions to give attendees a more enjoyable and memorable experience.
Consequently, this can then further help with better engagement and reach as well, which is one of the leading challenges faced by event planners today.
4. Event Security
Event security will also be a big concern for conferences and meeting events in 2021. This has two aspects. For physical events, management will have to be extra conscious about safety and security by following all COVID-19 protocols and maintaining the utmost level of hygiene.
More importantly, and something that many event planners tend to ignore is online security. As attendees register and provide their personal information on virtual meeting platforms, it becomes a prime spot for hackers to attack and steal this information.
Therefore, another important trend this year will be cybersecurity. Encrypting data, using 2-factor authentication methods, and many other security protocols will become more common.
5. Live Interpreters
Live translations and real-time interpretations will also become a fundamental feature of hybrid or even strictly virtual events.
As these virtual meetings and conferences are targeted towards a more global audience, event planners must invest in live interpreters and translators to allow foreign attendees to easily participate in the event and enjoy a more inclusive experience.
Language can be a major hurdle to accessibility, and featuring live translations along with audio and options for closed captions can help grab more interest from foreign audiences.
We had started seeing a shift towards more inclusion in physical events prior to the whole pandemic, with event planners focusing on more diverse speaker panels and even catering to a more inclusive food menu.
Fortunately, this has continued to gain momentum in online events in 2021 as well. Event planners need to focus on more representation and diversity in their conferences. This is not just limited to inviting more people of colour or people of different ethnicities.
Rather it also includes catering to other diverse sets of groups such as introverts through friendlier networking options or better digital accessibility for other people.
7. Wellness and Responsibility
2021 has also brought about increased stress on wellness, mindfulness, and responsibility within conferences and meeting events.
The whole onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing changes in everyone’s lifestyles has slowed down everyone’s pace and forced them to think about their mental well-being. Event planners haven’t missed this shift and consequently have started including wellness breaks in their events and meetings to prevent fatigue and practice more mindfulness.
Similarly, another extension of the whole concept has been to allocate more efforts towards business’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.
Unlike physical events, which always have a physical limitation due to space issues and lack of resources, online events and meetings have no limit whatsoever. You can broadcast your event to millions and millions of people all over the world.
However, 2021 is all about micro-experiences instead. Rather than hosting 1000 people and connecting with only 100 of them, event planners are focusing on inviting just 100 or even fewer attendees and establishing stronger connections with at least 50 of them.
These smaller events allow better communication, engagement, and networking within the group, thereby effectively meeting the event objectives. These small events will come with smaller complications and risks as well, allowing event planners to conduct the sessions more successfully.
Similar to all other sectors, the events industry is also rapidly evolving within the changing times. If event planners and management companies want to stay relevant in the market, they need to evolve as well, and these 8 trends are the perfect starting point.
Sarah Hill is a content writer at Seven Events Ltd, leading event planning companies offering conference management and venue finding services in the UK. She started her career in the events industry almost a decade ago as time progressed she became an avid event blogger sharing her insight on corporate event planning.