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Expected 2021 Virtual Event And Hybrid Event Trends

by Gary Lagestee, on Jan 21, 2021

What The Clarity Team Expects 2021 To Bring 



With the race on towards vaccinating the world against COVID, the tides are changing in 2021 and the events industry is gearing up for the potential return to live events. The work from home, don’t travel, stay safe mindset has become the normal routine. This new mindset has left companies, planners, and executives guessing about how and when they will be able to bring their team members, fans, customers, and suppliers back together. What will events look like as we transition out of the pandemic? Many people think that hybrid events are going to be the solution to these questions and there is an effort underway to build out the hybrid experience. Clarity expects we will see the industry navigating virtual, hybrid, and live events and people figuring out what event format is right for them in 2021. Keep on reading to hear the different trends the Clarity team expects we will see throughout this year! 

Virtual events that have the best chance of making it long-term

If it is safe to host a live or virtual event, will virtual events become extinct? Gary, Clarity’s VP of sales, thinks that internal meetings, executive meetings, ad boards, project collaboration, and presentations where attendees are at remote locations or the company has a global footprint have the best chance of making it long term. Today’s software allows for interactive workgroup type meetings to occur for groups of all sizes as well as keynote type presentations to be produced and delivered virtually better than ever before.

Virtual events that may not have the best chance of making it long-term

Now on the inverse, the types of virtual events that might not have the best chance of making it long term, are public-facing events, customer-facing events, and exhibits/sales kick-offs. These types of events will be difficult to sustain 100% virtually long-term because personal interaction is key to success for these types of events. The two biggest challenges the virtual event software companies have when it comes to virtual events are networking and exhibits because these are personal interactions. Should hybrid and/or live events come back in 2021, Clarity expects that most people will opt to network and participate in exhibits in a live environment. 

What are hybrid events and are they sustainable?

Conversations are picking up around the topics of hybrid and live events for 2021...and we are pumped about it! Until live events fully pick back up, hybrid events are going to be the move. Hybrid events have two audiences, live and virtual, but only time will tell if events going forward will be able to sustain two audiences. When it comes to hybrid events, Clarity expects that planners will be challenged to create a model that works for their company knowing both audiences will exist going forward. Many questions still need to be answered to know more about hybrid events, which Clarity believes will be phase two of this unique time in our space. Phase 1 was going from live to virtual, and now phase 2 will be to learn if a hybrid solution is the right format for you or not. A few of the questions we feel will start to be answered in the next 4-6 months are: 

  • How do I monetize both the virtual and live event properly? 
  • Can I or should I connect my virtual and live audiences? 
  • Should the events run simultaneously or at separate times? 

Planners will not want to cannibalize their live attendee registrations, but they will want to cater to a virtual audience. This is no doubt an exciting time in the events market as we will see these questions get answered shortly!

What to consider as you evaluate your hybrid event

Since hybrid events are unchartered territory just like virtual events used to be, Brian, CEO of Clarity, came up with a few things he suggests you consider as you evaluate your hybrid event:

  • Choose your event dates and build a plan that allows your attendee count between live or virtual to be flexible
  • Gain support from your leadership to have a flexible budget that will adjust to achieve your goals as your attendees and presenters comfort with travel will be unknown until just before your event starts
  • Understand that you will need to fund your production for both the live portion and the virtual portion, which in most cases, will be a greater spend than you are used to in the past
  • Create a plan for engaging your live and virtual audience using a news desk or master of ceremonies role 
  • Consider aligning teams of attendees between the live and virtual audience to share their experiences and participate together
  • Offer small personal virtual sessions between executives, presenters, and suppliers or exhibitors with your virtual audience attendees

Hybrid and live event trends for 2021

Now that we have talked about whether or not hybrid events are sustainable and what to consider as you evaluate your hybrid event, we can talk about hybrid and live event trends Clarity expects to see in 2021. For this section, we got the scoop from Andi, Clarity’s Regional General Manager. From Andi’s client base, she has already seen the shift to hybrid become more popular.  

The asks have focused on connecting the virtual audience to the live audience, either through team building activities, networking sessions, or a community page. In some instances, we are looking to create a "buddy" system where attendees are paired or grouped (one online/one live), to spend time together sharing their conference experience in hopes of expanding the take-aways for both parties. 

Engaging on-demand content is also huge, and by increasing the production for both in-person and online, the "experience factor" is amplified. We also expect to see post-event on-demand sessions to be more professional looking and become part of an elevated archive that can be used for marketing opportunities.

Let's Talk About Your 2021 Events

At Clarity, we already have both hybrid events and live events on the calendar for 2021! We are working with our customers to help them navigate both types of events and find the right approach for them. Stay tuned for further updates as we work to provide you relevant market updates for all things events, and give us a call today to talk about your 2021 events! 

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Topics:Audio VisualAV ServicesEvent Industry