Virtual and hybrid event platforms, real-time and immersive networking, and interactive live streaming are all examples of innovations developed to keep events running during the pandemic.
This technology will continue to evolve at a rapid rate throughout 2022 as the industry seeks to maximise the benefits of virtual and hybrid events. Here are the key trends and developments to watch out for in the coming year and beyond:
Flexibility as Standard
While improved vaccination roll-outs and uptake will go some way to stabilise the event environment, the future is still unpredictable.
New variants, changing government health directives, low vaccination areas, and increased global travel will mean the event industry needs to stay flexible and nimble.
In-person events may be possible, but planners will need a backup plan should the event landscape suddenly change.
Key trend: truly flexible event platforms
Utilising an event tech provider and platform that can switch quickly from in-person or hybrid, to virtual will be essential to avoid event cancellation or rescheduling.
Fluid Content Delivery
One of the great benefits of virtual event delivery is the ability to reach a global audience. However, if event content is aligned to a single time zone (e.g. eastern Australia) it can mean a sub-optimal event experience for global virtual attendees who may have to participate very early or late in their day.
The same applies to changes in the way we work. With businesses set to support a hybrid (part office, part working-from-home) approach to work, events that adhere to a single date and time span may not give attendees the variety of access options they expect.
Fluid content delivery means creating an event agenda with flexibility that allows attendees to choose when and where they engage. This might sound like a complex undertaking for event planners, however, advanced virtual event platforms have evolved to include flexible scheduling that supports customised agendas and content delivery for specific attendee groups.
This means planners can easily create a schedule of pre-recorded content, live stream and session access for attendees in specific time zones, or those with a preferred access time, e.g. after 6pm. This flexibility doesn’t just accommodate time differences, it can also be used to deliver content to event attendee groups who may have certain interests in a specific topic, e.g. a medical conference that wants to restrict session access to anaesthetists only.
Key trend: tailored event schedule and agendas
Creating live streams and pre-recorded content delivery for different time zones, working schedules, and specific groups will help create a more bespoke experience for every attendee.
We know on-demand content is great for extending the life of an event.
In 2022, we expect to see event organisers taking this further by creating year-round connections using on-demand content and communications, such as pre-recorded videos from expert speakers, hosting one-off live streams about timely topics, and staging live Q&As with an industry panel.
Content will be hosted in the primary event platform (primary being the major annual event), which will help to establish an ongoing relationship with attendees by providing relevant and interesting content in one place. The continued development and use of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) for events will deliver even greater ongoing attendee connection. A PWA is a website that looks and functions like a mobile app (Facebook and Uber are examples of effective PWA use). Accessible via desktop, mobile and laptop, an event PWA means attendees are no longer limited to a single device to access event content.
Key trend: developing an ongoing and trusted relationship between attendees and the event brand. Utilising primary event platform to publish relevant content throughout the year. Increased use of PWAs to deliver cross-device accessibility.
Honing the Virtual Experience
The evolution of virtual event technology has been staggering.
At the start of the pandemic event tech providers, such as CrowdComms, were able to help keep events running through live stream broadcasts and an associated event platform (featuring agenda items, networking channels etc.).
Our technology is now fully integrated, with a seamless live stream and interactive event platform that facilitates real-time polling and Q&A. We’ve added content-on-demand, and the support of live and pre-recorded content throughout an event.
Delivering a cost-effective, sustainable and inclusive event experience, virtual and hybrid events will continue to feature on global event schedules for the long term.
Key trend: continued refinement and innovation within the virtual event space. For example, networking to become even more immersive and reflect the in-person event experience. Planners will become experts at optimising the virtual attendee experience through tailored session delivery, bespoke video content and flexible access.
Seamless Hybrid Events
As virtual continues to deliver an even more immersive attendee experience, hybrid events will bring their in-person and virtual attendees together.
Taking a ‘virtual-first’ perspective means considering the remote audience as an integral part of the attendee base. Rather than simply delivering the in-person content to the virtual audience, advanced hybrid events will enable virtual and in-person attendees to experience the event content together.
Both sets of attendees will interact with speakers via live streamed or in-person sessions, network with each other in immersive and interactive digital spaces, and engage with event content – seamlessly across digital and physical boundaries.
Key trend: amalgamating virtual and in-person event audiences for hybrid events. Allowing a fluid engagement where in-person and virtual attendees can access event content together.
Entering the Metaverse
It may currently be the preserve of gamers and armchair roller-coaster fanatics, but the metaverse is set to go mainstream – and at the same time transform virtual events.
We’re probably a way off from seeing our attendee avatars enter a simulated 3D event venue for a fully developed immersive event. However, with systems like Oculus readily available, we’re close to seeing experimental one-off speaker sessions, networking and entertainment appearing at events soon.
Key trend: an exploration of the metaverse via one-off sessions and experiences at in-person events. Longer-term progress towards events held entirely in the metaverse.
Rise of Machine Learning
The event metaverse may be in its nascent phase, but machine learning is a reality.
Connected to artificial intelligence, machine learning technology uses past data to make predictions or undertake actions. The more data the tech receives, the more accurate its outputs.
We experience the results of machine learning every day. It’s how your favourite online clothing store ‘knows’ (through personal and broader data analysis) exactly the right time to suggest a new pair of jeans in your perfect fit.
Key trend: machine learning will enable event organisers to deliver a truly personalised event experience. In real-time, machine learning technology can analyse an attendee’s networking, exhibitor and session connections to make recommendations about upcoming event features the attendee may be interested in.
2022 and beyond will see the event technology developed during the pandemic (such as virtual event platforms) continue to be refined and expanded. Utilising innovations such as progressive web apps and machine learning will deepen the attendee relationship and create an even more immersive event experience.