After a year like 2020, we know it’s absurd to try and predict what’s going to happen in 2021. But we’re going to do it anyway.
Based on our hunches, and on our team’s many years of experience with events, we’re sharing a few educated guesses about what to expect this year. And if we’re totally wrong, you can come back in December to call us out.
1. Event organizers will become community managers.
The shift is already happening, whether you’re ready or not.
In the old days of mostly in-person events, event planners could rely on attendees doing the work of community building: People would naturally form their own pockets of community just by mingling at an event.
But with virtual events, it’s not so easy. It’s up to event organizers to keep attendees engaged and connected to the content and to each other. That may require building communities where your guests can connect. Think private Facebook groups, Slack channels, or virtual breakout rooms during events. Event planners also need to take more active roles as moderators to encourage audience participation.
2. Virtual events will stick around.
Okay, this isn’t the wildest or most daring prediction. But we’re pretty confident that it’s accurate.
If you’ve been procrastinating on getting started with virtual events, it’s time to stop putting it off. Even as in-person events slowly return, many attendees will expect hybrid event options that allow them to attend virtually (more on hybrid events below).
Even if you don’t love virtual events, they have their perks. In 2021, we expect to continue streamlining pesky meetings and events that could have been emails. Who doesn’t want an extra hour or two back in their week?
3. Tools and tech for virtual events will improve.
Expect to see virtual event technology that transcends Zoom this year.
One to watch is the startup Hopin. Last year, Hopin launched to provide a virtual solution for conferences. By November, the company had raised $125 million in its latest funding round, reflecting a growing and sustained interest in the platform from investors and users alike.
We also expect to see social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube continue to make strides in their virtual meeting technology, offering new features and avenues for creators to make money on their events.
We can guarantee that we’ll be continuing to enhance our own Virtual Events plugin in 2021, building new integrations and adding features that will help you take online events to the next level.
4. Hybrid events will get more sophisticated.
Hybrid events are events that occur simultaneously online and in-person, allowing attendees to convene in the same space or join from anywhere around the world.
In 2021, we expect to see event planners elevating their hybrid events to encourage more virtual interaction from guests. It’s easy enough to livestream an in-person event, but attendees need an incentive to show up to a live virtual event — a one-sided presentation doesn’t cut it these days. Bringing attendees into the fold with audience participation technology will ensure that everybody feels included.
5. Some events will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.
Could rapid COVID tests at the door become the new normal at in-person events? Some people think so.
Mandatory proof of a negative COVID-19 test is already common for people traveling internationally. As the technology becomes available, it’s possible that event planners will adopt similar policies asking attendees to show their test status. “Vaccine passports” may have a dual purpose for travelers and for event guests to show proof of vaccination status.
6. Small events will make a comeback by late summer.
Here’s where our guesses start getting a little more… guess-y. Take it with a grain of salt, but we’re keeping an eye out for small events to start popping up by late summer if the vaccine rollout continues at a steady pace across the U.S. and the globe.
7. Larger events could return in the fall with reduced capacity.
What about conferences, concerts, and festivals? We think some large-scale events could make a comeback by the fall (again, depending on the success of the vaccine rollout).
Even as large events return, planners will need to continue with extra safety precautions. Some big events might not come back at all; others will return with capacity limits, more outdoor activities, and an emphasis on personal space.
Travel will likely remain a safety concern, so we expect to see larger events return locally before the bigger global conferences and festivals that draw attendees from around the world.
Unfortunately, we have yet to develop a crystal ball plugin to say with certainty what 2021 will bring. But we’re optimistic about the future. The events community is resilient, and The Events Calendar will be here to support you through everything to come.