Pre-Pandemic Events Favored the In-Person Format
Pre-pandemic, in-person events were the most common event format. And there is a reason for that: research shows that events deepen relationships and drive sales and interactions. (Forrester Study, 2021)
In-person events encourage interaction -- between attendees, sponsors, and the event hosts. The level of engagement depth offered by these in-person connections can be profound, however there are some limitations, especially when it comes to the breadth of engagement - meaning overall engagement data is confined to those individuals who could physically travel to the venue.
Pandemic Events Went All-Virtual
During the pandemic, many events pivoted to virtual experiences, resulting in an explosion of scale and competition. 2020 saw a 290% increase in virtual meetings over virtual meetings in 2019. (GBTA, 2021) Organizations that had never hosted virtual events before were thrust into the space, often learning on the fly. In fact, data shows that businesses and consumers alike experienced five years of digital adoption progress in the equivalent of just eight weeks' time during the initial onset of the pandemic (McKinsey, 2020).
Virtual events can be powerful tools for reaching large swaths of attendees. They feature event assets that can persist outside the time boundaries of the event itself and can offer significant breadth of connection and engagement. These events can provide the ability to gather engagement data on a much larger group of people than in-person only events. However, virtual events are not without their limitations as they may see a reduction in the depth of engagement and interaction.
Approaching Post-Pandemic Events with a Hybrid Format Model
As we come out of the pandemic, hybrid events - those that combine both in-person and virtual formats - are rapidly increasing in popularity. Event decision makers say that 59% of events are going to be hybrid post-pandemic (Forrester Infographic, 2021). Hybrid events unify the in-person and virtual event experience by offering attendees the best of both worlds. These events can provide both depth AND breadth of connection and engagement by expanding the geographic reach of an event, encouraging a variety of interaction methods, expanding the time horizon of an event, and encouraging engagement throughout the entire event program - before, during, and after. Hybrid events can truly offer something for everyone.
One of the keys to success in the modern age of events is to utilize all of these event formats effectively within a total event program, this can allow you to get the most from the breadth and depth of event engagement.