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  • Whitney Libby

The future of the events industry

For those keeping score at home, prior to the pandemic, the events industry was worth over a trillion dollars according to the Events Industry Council. This value was primarily driven by live event experiences, including conferences, sports, concerts and festivals. This dynamic completely shifted in 2020, with the cancellation of concerts, sports and festivals forcing the industry to pivot to virtual event delivery. The obvious question is: what's next and what will the event industry look like after the pandemic?


You could argue that the events industry was one of the most disrupted industries by the pandemic. The disruption has not all been negative though. Technology enhancements have increased the effectiveness of virtual events, making them a viable and, potentially, preferred, delivery option for consumers in the future.  From an event organizer’s perspective, companies have uncovered a new revenue stream and discovered attendance growth potential through virtual delivery that will be hard to walk away from. So what does the future hold? It's not live or virtual, it's the best of both with a hybrid approach.


Hybrid events are, in essence, two events in one - as you’re planning for both the live event experience, alongside the virtual event experience.  To give this a bit more context, let's use a sports match as an example.  When you attend live, you hear the crowd, hype music, smell the food, and feel the energy from the stands.  But when you watch that same sporting event on tv you have an entirely different experience, with video zoom-in capabilities and replays (without the need to leave your couch or stand in long lines for restrooms). Both are arguably great experiences and designed for their audiences unique experience in mind. Organizers of hybrid events should think about their designs in a similar way by delivering the best experience for the virtual and live attendees, understanding the pros and cons of each format.


I predict a couple of types of hybrid models emerge. With comfort levels for large gatherings likely to vary, particularly in the more immediate future, attending an event like SXSW with 280,000 other attendees is unlikely to be palatable to folks.  Instead you may see several regional live event experiences vs one large event, and a virtual attendance option, giving us our first hybrid model.  The second hybrid model likely to emerge is the more traditional approach of one live event location and a virtual experience option.


Hybrid models provide options for attendees to decide how they’d prefer to participate with your event, and they give organizers the ability to maintain the new revenue stream they’ve uncovered.  However, the design of hybrid events requires a lot of thought and strategy to achieve the optimal experiences for both attendee types like that sports match we discussed. If not planned properly, event organizers risk negative experiences, bad social media publicity and future year retention issues.  If you need help optimizing your event approach for hybrid, virtual, or live, feel free to reach out.  We are here to bring your events to the next level. www.nextlevelevents.org








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