While we can’t predict the future (2020 made that clear), we’re seeing some exciting virtual events and digital experiences trends that we expect to see throughout 2021.
Virtual is Here to Stay
According to Bizzabo, “93% of event marketers plan to invest in virtual events moving forward.” Why? Virtual events and experiences are a long-term resource for audience engagement and increased sales. While in-person events will always be the best medium for building relationships, virtual events have proven valuable to reaching a wider audience in a more convenient way. (Read more about if a virtual event is right for your team) Even after in-person events return, you can expect to see digital experiences along with him. Hybrid experiences are the future of marketing.
Why Bother with Trends?
Yes, trends are ever-changing – So why bother implementing them? Trends demonstrate the wants and needs of people right now. If you were to create your experience based on the desires of people 20 years ago, it probably wouldn’t resonate. Staying up to date with the latest virtual event trends allows your team to develop experiences that are relevant and meaningful to your audience. It is important to understand which trends are appropriate for your demographic. Yes, Tik Tok has been incredibly popular this year, if your target audience is Senior Living Facilities, this may not be the best trend to implement.
7 Trends for 2021
1. Experiences…Not Just a Webpage or Meeting
2020 was full of zoom meetings, and at this point, we’re all a little (a lot) fatigued from them. Your audience is no exception. For most people, virtual meetings have become a regular, ordinary occurrence. Is that how you want your event to be described? Regular? Ordinary? Your event shouldn’t resemble what’s become a monotonous daily task for your audience. Your virtual event should be special, unique, and memorable.
In 2021, we expect to see virtual events that are one-of-a-kind experiences. These events will stand out from an ordinary day and bring exciting, engaging content to audiences.
There isn’t one way to create this type of experience – It will be unique to YOUR brand and YOUR customers. We covered 3 of the types of experience possibilities in our previous blog for some inspiration.
2. Keep Them Entertained
Think about the cadence of a traditional in-person event. Normally, content is broken up with breaks. During these breaks, guests weren’t sitting in silence. They could network with attendees, explore a show floor, grab a bite to eat – There was always something to keep them busy and most importantly, entertained.
With your audience most likely still working from home, traditional event entertainment is not an option. But, that doesn’t mean your event breaks should leave attendees bored…or worse, exiting out of the event. Now is the time to get creative with entertainment. Whether it’s a magician, comedian, art tutorial, or animated short, incorporating fun, lighthearted content into your event breaks will engage your audience and leave them smiling.
3. Event & Experience Boxes
Everyone loves swag. Just because you’ve gone virtual, doesn’t mean you have to forgo promotional items. Virtual experience boxes are a great opportunity to connect with your audience on a more personal level. This year, we expect to see a resurgence of promotional items, but this time, with intention. 2020 gave many people perspective on what’s truly important, so now is the time to wow your audience with unique, meaningful items. Run-of-the-mill logoed swag just won’t do it anymore.
One of our more recent initiatives has been our ‘Keep Your City Smiling’ boxes that feature local, curated goods from small businesses. These boxes can be customized for your business’ needs, while supporting artisans and entrepreneurs from the community of your choice. Promoting your event or experience with a unique, personalized box is a sure-fire way to leave a lasting impression on your audience.
4. In-Depth Data
One of the biggest positives of virtual events is the data that comes with them. As virtual events continue to grow and develop in 2021, we expect data to become increasingly important. Access to accurate data on your event or experience brings valuable insight into your audience, the success of your project, and enables effective plans for the future.
The specific data you collect all depends on your teams’ needs and objectives. It’s not ‘what’s available?’, but ‘what do you want to see?’ You can learn more about some of the data available from virtual experiences, here.
5. Rethinking Event Duration – Keep it Realistic
A 3 day virtual event is vastly different from a 3 day in-person conference. For one, an in-person conference offers an all-around escape from the norm. Attendees are filled with excitement for their new surroundings, and have dedicated their schedule to the event itself.
As you embrace at-home attendees, you can’t expect the same attention span. Your audience will be viewing your experience from their regular work environment, full of distractions and tasks to be done. Additionally, studies have shown that the adult users can get bored in as little as 10 minutes (Source). With that in mind, asking your target audience to join a multi-day virtual experience is, probably, unrealistic.
We predict that in 2021 companies will introduce concise, meaningful virtual events. Your audience’s time is valuable. Getting rid of event filler brings more value to attendees and increases the likelihood of engagement with your brand.
6. Lights, Cameras, & Increased Production Value
It’s been almost a year since virtual events entered the scene. The onset of COVID-19 forced companies to quickly adapt, and many virtual events had less than desirable production value. But, since March of 2020, we’ve all become much more accustomed to navigating the virtual landscape, and audience expectations have risen. Sure, in summer of 2020, it was acceptable to see a blurry speaker with a bland, gray background behind them – but not anymore.
This year, we expect to see an increase in the production value of virtual events. We’re talking about speakers with virtual backgrounds, custom physical sets, favorable lighting, and improved audio. This doesn’t mean your team has to have all of the equipment on hand. Many companies offer the opportunity to rent/build sets and rent AV equipment. That way, your team can efficiently allocate resources to create a quality, professional event. (Take a look at our 2020 Impact event for an example of a custom set built just for the event).
7. Giving & Charity
It’s difficult to find someone who hasn’t been affected by the events of 2020. We’ve seen a lot of adversity, but we’ve also seen the beauty of people coming together. Right now, many people want to know how they can help support the causes important to them, as they’re more acutely aware of their troubles than ever before.
Incorporating giving/charity into your virtual event or digital experience is a great way to show support for a cause, give back, and encourage others to do the same. Here are a few charitable causes we expect to see ‘trending’ in 2021:
- Human services
- Environmental protection