Stopping the Pendulum: A Look Into the Future of Events

We like to keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the event marketing landscape, so we couldn’t wait to hear what other event professionals had to say at twine’s roundtable discussion, titled, “Where the Pendulum Stops: The Future of Events and How Zoom Events Fits In.” 

twine, a Zoom app for speed networking and advanced breakout rooms, used Zoom Events to host the event that brought together more than 60 event and marketing professionals. Moderated by Liz King Caruso, Michelle Bruno, and Dahlia El Gazzar, the hourlong, interactive discussion was an enjoyable opportunity for everyone to gain new insight into the current state of events and forecast where the market is headed. Here’s a hint: virtual events don’t seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon.

Those in favor of virtual events

The pandemic may have swung the proverbial pendulum heavily toward virtual events, but two years later, not much has changed. We voted our predictions as to the pendulum’s final resting place using a scale of 1–10, with virtual events at 1 and in-person events at 10. The results were 5.7, reflecting a strong desire for hybrid events, or live events with a virtual component.

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Even though face-to-face experiences have long been the standard, they weren’t always the most efficient, with some participants pointing out the amount of time wasted at in-person meetings. From long days of travel to unproductive keynote sessions, the need to be more purposeful with our time outweighed some of the in-person event benefits. 

Other conversations pointing toward virtual events were because they have:

  • less of a carbon footprint
  • the ability to provide more data
  • better accessibility and inclusivity that is challenging in physical locations 

Virtual isn’t going away. Meetings that became online will never go back and people are happy with that.

Adrian Seger, Conferences That Work

Making the case for hybrid

The strong support for virtual events doesn’t imply that in-person events have fallen out of favor, as there were more votes for than against. Instead, the majority of the group believed in the benefits of meeting face-to-face, but also think attendees would benefit more if given a choice around attendance. Other discussions focused on the need to refine virtual formats, offer more interactivity and immersive content, and define a universal “gold standard” by which all event organizers and attendees relate to.

This ambiguity also exists in the word hybrid as well. Instead, terms like “modern meetings,” or just events without a need for a modifier, are preferred. Here’s what else the event profs had to say:

  • “There is no pendulum. There are choices. Events are part of a mixed strategy. A blended combination of digital and in-person would move things forward.” – Rachel Stephan, Snöball
  • “I believe in a few years’ time we will end up somewhere in the middle at 60-40 in favor of in-person events. Delegates will be more selective when it comes to attending meetings.” – Ksenija Polla, CMP – ICCA
  • “The fact that in-person experiences are limited to the days of the event means that if you want to extend the experience, you’ll always have to resort to virtual additions in order to foster your attendees. These digital parts are essential and therefore we’ll never get back to ‘just’ in-person in the long run.” – Merijn van Buuren, Event Mender

Forget about the past

Event planners are tasked with developing new strategies to engage audiences in a post-pandemic age. Tried and true methods aren’t as impactful, as the boom of millennials in the workplace combined with the widespread adoption of cloud-based tools means you need to meet your (potential) customers where they are, with their favorite apps. Today’s younger generations aren’t as familiar with traditional events, and therefore, expect short-form, digestible content and digital networking tools for connections. 

Increasing in-person attendance also requires more intentional planning, with the event profs offering these suggestions:   

  • “Solutions that provide high-quality, personalized experiences are key for events to get to the next level of participation and engagement.” – Merijn van Buuren, Event Mender
  • “We need more networking and the ability to meet quality contacts in person. More unique in-person experiences that will draw participants, rather than standard keynote talks and workshops.” – Mike Taubleb, Promenade Speakers
  • “What happens with COVID will significantly affect the mix. And no one knows (yet) what that’s going to look like.” –  Adrian Segar, Conferences That Work

One of the biggest benefits of a remote event with online content is the ability to access data and measure far more than booth scans or attendee registrations. But this process still needs refining and is top of mind for event planners: 

  • “We need an easier way to evaluate/document perceived value from virtual participants.” – Mike Taubleb, Promenade Speakers
  • “Data is one of the most powerful tools and can support arguments of keeping online elements in events to engage and keep new audiences built during the pandemic.” – Ksenija Polla, CMP – ICCA

Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from the discussion was the importance of empathy. In a new age where we’re still recovering from the devastating effects of COVID-19, empathy goes a long way in understanding the needs of your audience(s) and staff and balancing the two. 

Looking ahead with Zoom Events 

The support for virtual events was evident throughout our discussion, as was the need for better technology and virtual event management platforms. When asked about Zoom Events and how it fits into the future of events, participants discussed the platform’s ease of use, variety in features, affordability, scalability, and built-in familiarity among general audiences. 

  • “The adoption of Zoom during the pandemic was organic. It is only normal that it democratizes virtual events and makes them affordable and accessible. It will do for digital events what WordPress did for website builders.” – Rachel Stephan, Snöball
  • “Zoom Events has the potential to make virtual events more accessible to the bigger public which is needed for mass adoption.” – Merijn van Buuren, Event Mender

The events industry will no doubt continue to evolve as we work toward defining the “gold standard,” but in the meantime, we’re dedicated to making virtual events as engaging, inclusive, and memorable as possible. To see how you can build smarter breakout rooms with twine for Zoom and elevate your event marketing strategy, contact Zoom Events today! 

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