Without a doubt, COVID-19 upended our daily lives, careers and even the global economy. Event planning was one of the hardest-hit industries, with 87% of planners canceling events and 66% postponing because of the coronavirus.
Although we are – hopefully – approaching the end of the pandemic, 2020 dramatically changed how we approach, plan and attend events. While hybrid and virtual events are still a mainstay in 2021, a gradual return to in-person experiences is reshaping the future of corporate events.
Understand how COVID-19 affected the future of event planning, as well as emerging industry trends, and use these five tips to design strategic events beyond 2021.
The effects of the pandemic
While unquestionably devastating to the event industry, the pandemic did have a silver lining: it forced corporate event production to innovate. Nearly overnight, event planners had to rethink the experience, moving their events online or canceling them altogether.
Canceled bookings, furniture rentals, sponsorship booths, catering and more led to a huge upset in the world of corporate event planning. Event plans in 2020 were at a standstill for several months, but the pivot to virtual was a necessity. Anything that wasn’t digitized pre-pandemic was forced to digitize. And with more people working from home, on-demand Zoom events skyrocketed (maybe a little too much for some).
Today, 83% of Americans who work remotely say they miss in-person meetings and conventions. Humans can only connect over video calls for so long, and that’s part of the reason why event planners need to rethink their event strategy moving forward.
Your audience loves the convenience of digital events, but they still want in-person connections after 14 months of lockdown. Their preferences should shape how you design experiences moving forward.
5 corporate event tips for 2021 and beyond
It’s time to emerge from hibernation and transform your digital-only events into powerful experiences that get attendees engaged – safely, of course.
Keep on top of the latest innovative industry trends and keep in mind these five tips to do better corporate event production in 2021 and beyond.
- Plan for virtual and hybrid events
According to research, 97% of marketers say they expect to see more hybrid events in 2021. While virtual events are always a safe option, hybrid experiences combine in-person interaction with digital components.
That might mean offering a limited headcount for a live conference with more seats available online. It could also mean hosting small, in-person get-togethers for VIPs before a digital conference.
At any rate, virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. People love the convenience of virtual events because there’s no need to travel. In fact, you can reach attendees anywhere in the world on a virtual platform, which can be a huge boon to your attendance figures and overall brand.
For now and in the future, incorporate both virtual and small in-person components into your events.
- Share the right kind of content
Blogs and videos are great, but they don’t necessarily engage your attendees. In an age of Zoom fatigue, you have to share click-worthy, compelling content that people actually want to engage with.
That means your marketing and planning teams need to work together on content like:
- Livestreams or live chats
- User-generated content
- In-depth free guides
Average or bad content just won’t connect with overwhelmed attendees. Use innovative formats and get more creative with the experience to encourage interaction.
- Let data drive your decisions
The great thing about virtual and hybrid events is that they allow you to track attendee data from start to finish. If you aren’t already investing in these technologies and processes, you need them to design better post-pandemic events:
- Customer relationship management (CRM) platform
- Cross-platform attendee lead attribution
- Lead scoring
- Marketing qualified leads
- Post-event activation campaigns
Robust, purposeful data collection enables you to personalize the attendee experience, too. If you aren’t sure on a theme for your event, for example, you can ask attendees to upvote their preferences so you design a better experience for them.
- Remember hygiene and attendee comfort
According to a State of the Event Industry report, 55% of corporate event planners say their biggest obstacle to in-person experiences is safety. While biometrics and in-person interaction were on the rise pre-pandemic, it’s still tough to do these safely in 2021. Even if you wanted to try new technology like facial recognition, face masks make this inconvenient and unsafe for the time being.
You still need to keep attendee safety in mind. If planning a live event, make sure you keep it as safe as possible with approaches like:
- Limiting touch: Touchless check-in is essential. Ask attendees to check in on their smartphones via QR code. You should also remove touchscreens.
- Spacing and dividers: Create intimate areas for attendees to network, but separate them with plexiglass dividers. Space out your furniture to avoid crowding attendees in one area.
- Booking larger venues: You need room to keep attendees six feet apart, and that might mean booking larger-than-normal venues to accommodate. You also might book less conventional outdoor spaces instead, such as college campuses, picnic pavilions or botanical gardens.
- Health checks: Depending on your local requirements, you might need to check attendees’ temperatures before they enter the space.
- Communicating before the event: If you require masks, social distancing or proof of vaccination, communicate these requirements well before attendees buy their tickets. Everyone needs to feel comfortable at the event, so manage expectations early with clearly defined safety precautions on the booking page.
- Invest in VR or AR
Immersive experiences are a must to get attendees engaged, but how do you achieve immersion when everyone needs to be socially distanced?
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are the answer. Whether you want to create a realistic virtual experience with VR or add value to in-person events with AR, this technology has so much promise for post-pandemic corporate event production.
Use VR to transport your attendees to a different reality. You don’t need to buy everyone an expensive Oculus, either: Google Cardboard and YouTube VR make this technology accessible to attendees without the huge price tag. Use VR to take attendees to a beautiful location, on a tour of your HQ or anywhere else.
AR is useful for adding banners, trying on clothes or inserting cool furniture into a space. Attendees can use AR features like Snapchat filters to engage in a virtual or in-person environment. For example, you can share 3D models of your products, create a virtual art exhibit or allow attendees to see your products in their home.
The bottom line
Last year pressed pause on most in-person experiences, but it forced corporate event planning to innovate quickly and creatively. Necessity is the mother of invention, and these new tools, processes and trends make the future of event marketing and production brighter than ever.
Now is the time to break down silos in your organization, try new tools, and really engage with your attendees. These new trends and tips are sure to elevate your events, but you’ll only succeed if your team has a strong, smart strategy that helps you think differently and enhances your capabilities.
CPG Agency is a corporate event agency that doubles as your strategic business consultant, making innovative event design the catalyst for solving your business goals. Your favorite brands trust us to transform their significant moment into a powerful, ongoing and effective movement.
Let’s get creative and make this your best year ever. Get in touch with CPG to design a blueprint for your corporate event planning and marketing in 2021 and beyond and see how we bring event strategy to life.