Expected to reach $1,552.9 billion by 2028, the size of the global events industry is in a constant state of change. When face-to-face gatherings halted, event technology soared. We are now at a point where hybrid is now no longer a novelty, but a norm, revolutionising the way corporate meetings and events take place, giving greater flexibility to attendees, and improving the visibility of venues and events around the globe.
It's important to remember that while each region is facing different challenges and will have different uses for events and meetings, the overall industry’s future outlook is positive and full of exciting opportunities.
What is important in the next two years?
The 2021 IBTM Trends Watch Report chooses to look at the future in three main segments; corporate, associations, and industry media; but I'm going to discuss corporate meetings and events. The report outlines that the key challenge corporate organisers are looking to tackle between now and 2024 is ensuring the sustainability of events.
What are the industry expectations up to 2024? As the IBTM research indicates 77% of survey respondents scored "ensuring sustainability" as their top priority. But it's important to look at this from more than an environmental standpoint, you need to ensure that your business model and practices are sustainable.
COVID-19 required all business operators to take stock of what they had and what they didn't need, a practice exacerbated by the uncertainties of the pandemic. Throughout this self-audit, it became pretty obvious to a lot of businesses how unsustainable many practices were. It wasn't uncommon to hop on a plane just to attend a meeting, (mind you it still isn't) however prior to the pandemic this was often the only way to effectively attend large meetings and events.
Today, it's not just physical attendance that's changed - technology has caused an expected behavioural shift in consumers.
How the last two years have influenced behaviour
Crisis can serve as a catalyst, and over the past few years, savvy venues had an opportunity to reinvent and put themselves at the forefront of the industry. This included implementing entirely new processes and touchless technologies, which are not only more hygienic but more efficient. This challenge isn't specific to corporate meetings and events - it's industry-wide. Changes were also accelerated by the widespread implementation of 5G which forced venues to fifth-generation technology, meaning their infrastructure required a significant overhaul.
Corporate meeting spaces and events that aren't operating on 5G will struggle to meet the mark with expectations. High-quality video streams require a great deal of network support to maintain quality. If venues don't have that infrastructure in place, they can't meet the expectation of their consumers. Put forward a high-quality product and your attendees will have plenty of good things to say, solidifying your place as a reliable event and meeting space provider for the future.
This is a fundamental shift that meetings and events have to keep in mind. As technology changes, so too do the needs and expectations of attendees. It's especially crucial as hybrid events continue to grow in popularity, it will become crucial for venues to have the technology capabilities and infrastructure in place to support them in order to deliver memorable experiences.
How you can make a shift
The Pulse Survey by NorthStar Meetings Group revealed that over 54% of meeting organisers intend to arrange live events that also contain an online element. An additional 22% are also planning to use a hybrid model for meetings. In my opinion, unless every attendee can easily attend meetings in person, a hybrid model should be implemented.
Hybrid events were nothing new before 2020, but their necessity was certainly accelerated in the last two years. This allowed venues and event organisers to grow new audiences and communities that they had never thought to interact with before. Furthermore, these audiences are accustomed to attending your events now and will expect to do so in the future. Not having a hybrid aspect to your events can potentially decrease your audience numbers by not catering to their delivery preference.
There's no longer an excuse to run corporate events and meetings solely for those who can physically attend. Implement a hybrid model, do it well and you'll see how greater accessibility leads to greater success. Yes, you may need to overhaul your infrastructure but the increased revenue brought in by hybrid events makes it well worth it.
Now may seem like an uncertain time to be daring, but fortune favours the bold. Make sure you plan changes accordingly, all steps should be mapped out and your research should be done, but don't be afraid to be forthcoming in your plans. Fear of the pandemic may have been relevant this time last year, but it's time to stop letting it hold you back.
Your stakeholders are expecting business as usual and if they can't get it from you, they'll get it from someone else. The next few months are critical for your future success so ensure you're poised for further change and become a leader in your industry.