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The Future of Events: A Look at 2021 and Beyond

February 11, 2021

 

The temporary shutdown of in-person events in 2020—and subsequent explosion of virtual events in their place—has left one question on everyone’s mind.  What will the future of events look like in 2021 and beyond?

With more than 75-years of experience in the U.S. B2B events industry, we at MEET get asked this question a lot—and we’re not afraid to share our opinion. But for some added perspective, we checked in with Allen Yesilevich, Head of Marketing & Growth at Accelevents, a market leader in the virtual events space, to learn more about what signals the industry is sending, and why.

future of eventsAccelevents, an all-in-one virtual and hybrid events platform, incorporates everything from multiple event stages, a lobby area, attendee engagement, virtual exhibitor spaces, and even gamification.  “Whether you want to do an online trade show or a summit—any type of virtual event, we can power it for you,” explains Allen.

Recognizing this past year as one of the unprecedented growth for virtual event platforms, we set the stage by asking:

What was 2020 like for the events industry?

“2020 started off as a very difficult year for in-person event companies,” shared Allen. “Everyone essentially had no choice but to pivot into this digital realm.” He went on to describe a time characterized by a sense of discovery—“a quest to figure out the most optimal way to pivot into virtual.”

“Digital was always this kind of enigma—everyone wanted to incorporate it within their live face-to-face experience but nobody really knew how. Then 2020 created this catalyst of innovation and buy-in acceptance, even though we were ‘forced’ into the situation”

Industry predictions for the future of events 2021

Allen wasn’t shy about his prediction for 2021: in-person events will be back. “I can say with 100% certainty that in-person events will be back because there is no doubt that humans love to connect and engage with one another in person.”

“You cannot replace the energy and enthusiasm that you feel on the trade show floor.”

What he was not 100% sure about is when—that part, he admits, is out of our hands. As such, Allen reframed the question: “it’s not when in-person events will return, but when they do, what will they look like?”

According to Allen, 2021 is where we’ll really start to see virtual platforms at their best. “If 2020 was the discovery phase, 2021 is going to be the optimization phase.” For event attendees and exhibitors, therein lies the opportunity for results.

“The conversation has shifted to how one can leverage Accelevents—or any other virtual event platform—to maximize ROI in 2021 and beyond.”

Allen believes that trade shows will never return to pre-COVID scale, mainly due to the success virtual components and hybrid event models have proven they can deliver. “Now that digital and virtual components can be infused within the in-person experience, it fundamentally changes the goals of what an event professional or a brand can achieve.”

What would a hybrid event model look like?

To some degree, that’s anyone’s game. “Event technology is the ‘wild west’ right now,” shares Allen. “Innovation is going to dictate exactly what a hybrid landscape looks like.”

The basic model, Allen explains, requires allowing in-person and virtual audiences to engage and interact with one another while also consuming content simultaneously.

“Imagine there’s a keynote session at a conference or even a demonstration at a booth, a hybrid model will allow you to live stream that digitally so the in-person audience gets that value but so does the virtual audience.”

How has the move to virtual changed the ROI calculation for exhibitors?

Allen believes the bar is now raised for event organizers and marketers who, through a virtual model, are held more accountable for spending money wisely.”

“Event marketers will be able to determine ROI in a physical exhibit and then calculate ROI in a virtual exhibit, and see how everything is interconnected.”

Striking the right balance

Allen predicts that marketers will feel it’s essential to hold a number of in-person experiences or exhibits throughout the year but the vast majority will remain virtual.

future of events“The volume of in-person experiences will probably decrease because they’re so expensive but the aggregate number of events that occur throughout the year will be greater because virtual events are relatively inexpensive. But you’ll still need those physical experiences to be the tent pole events throughout the year where you can shake someone’s hand (once we feel comfortable doing that again).”

Looking to determine the right mix of virtual and in-person events for your 2021 pipeline? Check out MEET’s Virtual Trade Show System to ensure you’re asking the right questions when developing an event marketing strategy.

Who will come out ahead in 2021?

“I do believe we’ll see some silver linings from this,” shares Allen. “The event space is going to be better for this disruption and I think that the savvy, smart event organizers who are able to adapt to the times [through virtual and hybrid platforms] are going to come out ahead.”

From our perspective at MEET, the same is true for event participants. We will be stronger from this, but those who are able to adapt quickly, will come out ahead.

Check out the full recording of our The Future of Events podcast with Allen Yesilevich from Accelevents for more predictions on the frequency of in-person versus virtual events, tips for event organizers on how to select the right platform and get the most out of its functions, and best practices for participating in virtual events as an attendee.


About

MEET (meetroi.com) helps international B2B growth companies soft-land and scale in the U.S. through trade shows, virtual and in-person events. MEET’s processes help clients ramp-up sales quickly and maintain a steady stream of high-quality prospects going forward.  Contact Bill Kenney for a no-obligation conversation: bill@meetroi.com or +1 (860) 573-4821.