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Audience EngagementBusinessCorporate EventsEvent PlanningEvent TrendsHybrid EventsProgramming

2021: Event Trends to Carry Forward

If you have spent the last 20 months waiting for things to ‘get back to the way they were,’ I have some bad news for you. The events industry will not get back to the way it was. In my opinion, the industry will grow bigger and become better than ever as we build back from a historic shift in our business. However, if you’ve not been putting thought, strategy, and execution into the way your approach to business will change, I encourage you to start now. COVID-19 may have been the impetus for this, but innovation, adaptability, and partnerships will more than make up for the business that was hurt in 2020 and 2021, can carry us forward in 2022 and beyond.

The culture at Streamline Event Agency exists to constantly innovate and be creatively ahead of our client’s wishes. So, by April 2020, we were already looking forward and solving the problems that our clients hadn’t yet seen coming. We were fortunate to get way ahead of the Virtual/Hybrid solution with our own proprietary Platform, JoinIn, and it greatly shored up our 2020 and exploded in growth and scale in 2021.

I believe hybrid is here to stay, in one way or another. We are working daily on ways to make the at-home audience feel just as engaged and incentivized as the in-person audience. While most of us in the industry are extroverted people who LOVE gathering in person (see the very successful IMex2021), many became very used to working from home and networking digitally, and the cost savings can be immense!

It is also important to consider the age and experience of the younger work force beginning to thrive in our industry. They absorb learning and content much differently than the generation before them, so that impacts the way we approach the production elements of large-scale meetings. In addition to recommending adding hybrid, we are creating assets that re-enforce content by using the creative arts, technology, gamification, and AR/VR to meet the workforce where they are.

Lastly-empathy, mindfulness, and intentionality are common themes that I’ve heard and read from respected colleagues. Each of us has been through a battle and we are a dynamically connected community. We need to remember there’s an individual story on the other end of the phone/Zoom or in person meeting. We have a chance to connect deeper than ever out of this shared experience.

Streamline is fortunate to have strategic relationships with great thought leaders in the industry. I recently spoke with some of our trusted colleagues – who I also believe to be futurists, like myself – about what they expect to see in the future of the industry. Here’s what they had to say: 

What do you feel are a couple of permanent changes that the events industry will carry forward out of the pandemic?

Tom Hubler – CSI-DMC: “We have seen new kind of buyers for more efficient and straight forward terms and conditions. They are seeking an efficient process. Also, buyers far more willing to support cancellations and surrendering deposits for work completed.” 

Heather Mason of The Caspian Agency is a colleague I heard speak in NYC at the Event Planner Expo and I immediately knew we had a whole lot in common in the way we think about the future. She even coined a phrase that was so perfect for the future I thought, “MAN I wish I would have thought of that!” She answered the question this way. “Flexibility and new concepts of value. Event producers are embracing the idea that everyone doesn’t have to be at the event, just like everyone doesn’t have to be in the office. The gold standard of “THEY MUST ATTEND” might have been a misleading one. People can participate in new ways, their ways, flexible ways. And while many will likely try to be “there” in-person, if they can’t there are options, or there can be. We can start to live in ways that make sense, whether that is in-person sometimes, virtual sometimes, and sometimes just watching later. The world just became a lot more welcoming – for everyone’s lifestyle and goals. And I think that’s a good thing.”

Rhonda Brewer – Motivation Excellence: “I do think the top 3 things that will carry forward at least through 2022 will be: Cleaning and testing protocols, education and understanding about our ever-changing environment, and remote working. Remote working will then fuel the need to bring people together in different and engaging ways.”

Greg Bogue – Maritz Global Events: “I believe we have forever made the transition from static presentation of content to immersive, engaging programming.  The interruption inspired us to think more about outcomes (turning insights into action) than output (just gathering information). Solving problems with creative engagement is our way forward.”

Amberlee Huggins CSI-DMC: For many organizations, COVID-19 turned virtual events into a fast-forward reality, and I believe they will remain a robust means for providing content to broader audiences. With that said, COVID-19 could not crush our basic need to meet. It catapulted us to rethink the flow of networking spaces and onsite experiences. It’s been an uncharted, often rugged road. Yet, collaboratively across our industry, we have created best practices that will serve as part of an ever-evolving roadmap for in-person events now and into the future.”

Scott Young – The Meeting Company: “I see hybrid as having a place in the industry moving forward. I don’t believe that it will or should go away. It has value to add in so many areas and companies should be prepping themselves to have this be part of their strategic meeting management (SMM) approach. Companies will be more reliant on meeting technology (across the board) going forward. I think companies have been awakened to the fact that they need to these digital tools in place, and you will see more of a push for that. You are going to hear a lot more about vendor alliances and partnerships going forward. It is a model that should have been adopted more frequently and never was during the status quo years of planning. You can now see it unfolding. There will be adjustments over time to how that looks, but it makes too much sense for this change not to happen.”

Chris Torella – Pickerel Pie Entertainment: “I think for me the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of meaningful connection. It took not having it during the pandemic for us to realize how much we crave it. So, coming out of the pandemic hopefully we look at our events be in in person, hybrid or virtual with a renewed focus on the attendee experience. Our world is increasingly complex, and we need to me more mindful of why we are bringing people together.”

What do YOU think? Would you comment below, or shoot me a direct email? I’m always looking for innovative ideas, partners, and clients! I am deeply appreciative of the diverse ideas of what will stick for our industry as we reset after a historic event. I think we’ve learned adaptability and flexibility will ALWAYS be a part of our industry going forward, as who knows what the future holds. But we are all in this industry for a reason: the power of connection, education, ideas, and innovation. Streamline looks forward to connecting with many more thought leaders in 2022 and beyond. Our very best to you this Holiday Season.

Event Trends

Don Donahue

Don Donahue is a multi-faceted industry veteran – Talent Scout, Label President, Booking Agent and Concert Promoter.  He believes the platform of live entertainment is a valuable tool for education and creative reinforcement of content.

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