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Eyeing the Event Future

By Bob Priest-Heck

Considering everything that’s happened over the last twelve months, it’s no wonder we’re beyond ready for some optimistic trends. And while we know that our world, the way we live, and the way we work has been forever altered, there has always been hope in the chaos.

Since the pandemic hit, our data intelligence team* has been conducting ongoing industry research to gage our audience sentiments in light of the crisis and its aftermath.

Hope springs eternal

Our latest report was released earlier this week and the results are promising — really promising: The majority of attendees and exhibitors in the U.S. plan to return to face-to-face events by the fall of 2021.

Cue the applause!

That hope dwelling in the chaos is emerging — finally. It points to a brighter future for our industry and an accelerated return to in-person events.

More specifically, the study shows that 78 percent of attendees expect to attend in-person events in fall 2021. By winter, that jumps to 94 percent! Exhibitors are slightly more optimistic with 80 percent returning this fall, 95 percent by winter.

The value of face-to-face

Because of the disruption, we’ve moved quickly to expand and perfect virtual events — and those experiences have opened up new opportunities. But the value of meeting face-to-face for connections and commerce cannot be replaced.

We know this fact in our guts, but it’s gratifying to see the proof in the research pudding: 85 percent of respondents say in-person events are irreplaceable.

Bottom line: Events are unmatched for their ability to drive business and networking that creates partnerships and innovation.

It’s certainly encouraging that our research points to an accelerated return to in-person events. The right timing for individual events, of course, will depend on the industry, the event type, and region.

Bridging the gap

In-person and hybrid events have already been (and continue to be) conducted safely by putting the proper health and safety measures in place. Our expectation and hope is that the combination of the vaccine rollout along with health and safety protocols will continue to make face-to-face experiences feel safe. And we anticipate that regulations will adjust accordingly as more in-person and hybrid events move forward.

We’re currently experiencing the “bridge year” — we are rising from the depths of 2020 and easing back into live with a full return of in-person and hybrid events in 2022.

Redefining live

The pandemic has changed how we live, learn, and work. And just like the rest of the world, the business of live will need to change, too.

Before COVID hit, we were already working to evolve the live experience. Now we’ve taken that foundation and integrated the changes and shifts experienced over the last year to redefine live for a new era.

And how about that new era peeking over the horizon? It’s looking truly hopeful!

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