How are organizations navigating their 2022 events? There’s no substitute for hearing directly from event leaders themselves, and the results of our 2022 State of Events Survey provide an in-depth, honest look at the most common ambitions, challenges, and experiences. From the highly awaited return to in-person events to the evolving relationship between marketing and events teams, numerous important themes emerged.
Here are some of the most compelling findings:
First, more than nine out of 10 respondents said they plan to run in-person events this year (as conditions allow), with the vast majority standing up their initial in-person events in the first half of the year. With ever-improving knowledge of how to gather while minimizing risk and maximizing attendee confidence, organizations are ready to fill conference centers and meeting rooms with eager attendees once again. Virtual events deliver enormous value at numerous points in the customer lifecycle, but the unique benefits of face-to-face discussion cannot be replicated for certain interactions.
Despite this enthusiastic embrace of in-person events, the industry will not see a wholesale return to 2019 operations. The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently shifted event strategy — in many ways by highlighting new strategies and opportunities. Most survey respondents (88%) said they had run a virtual event in the past six months, and a significant number still planned to hold webinars and other virtual events in the remainder of 2022.
A hybrid approach will remain ideal. This strategy includes virtual event programming designed to complement in-person events, increase flexibility for both host organizations and their attendees, and attract different audience segments.
For virtual event components, continued innovation and adjustment will be critical to ensure those events meet their goals now that the novelty has long worn off. “We expected virtual event fatigue from our attendees, and that is what happened,” one survey respondent stated. Others noted that it was tough to maintain attendee engagement when virtual attendance was competing against other work-related and personal priorities in attendees’ daily lives, and measuring attention levels proved difficult.
“Though it’s no one’s fault, virtual event fatigue is very real,” said one respondent, summarizing a widespread observation. “Nearly all other professionals I have networked with said that their events this year fell short even from 2020 when we were all scrambling.” Reduced engagement unsurprisingly ranked as the most common perceived risk of hosting a virtual event, followed by tech failures and lower ROI.
Fortunately, with practice comes ever-greater learning. This year, event leaders can deploy a number of powerful tactics to boost engagement and prevent virtual event fatigue and boost engagement. Survey respondents reported a wide array of tools in their virtual event toolbox, from strategically shorter content (the most popular response) to livestreamed concert performances to gamification and incentives. Many also plan to streamline the virtual experience to emphasize content consumption over networking that may be better served by other types of events.
Event success also requires accurate, meaningful measurement. Our study showed that for a hybrid event program, important metrics vary depending on organizational goals and other factors.
When asked what KPIs they will use to gauge hybrid event performance, respondents frequently mentioned client satisfaction, as measured by survey results, informal feedback from sponsors and others, and/or retention numbers. Others will closely examine registration numbers, revenue, turnout, and the number of leads or meetings secured as a result of the event.
Stay tuned for discussion of more study findings!