Sum Wong, CEO of EventX, shares several trends – ranging from the metaverse to the rise of NFTs – that will play a role in the evolution of the events industry this year
The past two years have been a crazy ride for the business events industry, with event organisers having to revamp business models overnight, marketers having to pivot their event marketing strategies in a blink of an eye, and event attendees not being able to have the intimacy of face-to-face engagement.
With that though, the event industry has evolved and innovated. Where previously there were challenges around building enough online functionality and capabilities for sponsors, organisers and attendees to have the same experience and audience engagement as a physical event, technology has truly enabled the industry for the past two years.
So how will technology shape the events industry in 2022?
Hybrid events become the norm, virtual events as a tool for marketers to generate leads
Before Covid-19, events were mostly physical events, and in 2020, events shifted to fully-online events. In the year ahead, we will see that hybrid events, which refer to events that are held concurrently online and offline, will become the norm.
With the objective of events being to serve both attendees and partners, it’s important that both get an ROI even for hybrid events. In a recent survey of over 3,000 event organisers globally, Markeletic found that 86 per cent of B2B organisations see positive returns from hybrid events, seven months after the event date. WIth hybrid events providing both physical and online touchpoints for attendees and partners, there will also be greater attendee satisfaction for events (an 81 per cent contributor to satisfaction as voted on in the survey for Markeletic).
We will see events no longer limited by geographical boundaries, and businesses, attendees and of course event organisers will be able to gain increased value from hybrid events. From greater capabilities for lead generation and greater data on attendees, event organisers and sponsors will undoubtedly be able to not just populate sales pipelines but also understand areas that need to be optimised to improve attendee awareness, attraction and acquisition.
AR & VR take centerstage
The past few years have seen greater adoption and innovation around augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), but the real boost in this space came when Facebook announced their plans to go all-in on the metaverse. Make no mistake, these are not new technologies, but they have been given a new breath of life because of the metaverse.
We’ll also start to see more utilisation of AR and VR for events in 2022, providing more immersive experiences for attendees and more engagement opportunities for sponsors and partners.
The metaverse will permeate the events industry
By now, you would have at least an inkling of the concept of the metaverse. For one, it’s the future version of the Internet, but fundamentally, these are 3D and virtually integrated spaces through AR and VR as touched on above.
With touted to become a US$800 billion industry in 2024, this is something that should not be ignored. As of now, the likes of Epic Games and Roblox have already hosted concerts within their metaverses, while Unity is looking to provide live sports content and tools for the metaverse.
Several ways that businesses can dip into the metaverse include virtual stores, employee training material, customisation of products, and more. Other opportunities include interactive advertising opportunities for sponsors, gamification, visual-audio immersion and shopability.
Increased virtual networking opportunities at events
In the year ahead, we would already be hyper-familiar with online communication, with remote working becoming almost the norm for a majority of people. We will also see this applied to virtual events, at a much deeper level.
From joining discussion tables and online video networking to virtual networking lounges and even networking in the metaverse – the amount of innovative opportunities for event platforms has never been greater.
Event data analytics will get more intricate and at a deeper level
Data helps us keep pace with our customers’ wants, needs and intentions. In the year ahead, online event platforms will have even deeper capabilities to provide event organisers with robust analytics. We will also see more marketers start to implement trackable attribution to online and hybrid events, as this part of marketing attribution traditionally fell into a manual black hole.
From attendance to session watch times and audience engagement, event organisers will have even more data around which they can optimise and improve subsequent event flows, audience engagement, audience acquisition and more.
The rise of NFTs for events
Another highly-anticipated opportunity for the event tech industry is the use of NFTs in events. Think about it. Pop stars can create exclusive content and issue them as NFTs to attendees or put it up for an exclusive auction for the attendees. Art exhibitions in the form of hybrid events can implement NFTs for authentication or digital art. Ticketing can come in the form of NFTs for greater authentication. The opportunities are endless!
Businesses and marketers will also need to think of the best ways to implement NFTs across their products and offerings. Once that is done, the shift to implementing NFTs in online events will be a much smoother process.
Increased investments in event technology
With the above trends, we will definitely see more investments in event technology and peripheral technology. Today’s landscape for events is already highly-promising. From automated business matching and virtual gift bags to automatic captioning and live translations, the opportunities for a business to easily scale their events has never been greater.
However, it’s highly important for businesses to know the type of features and capabilities that they are looking for from an events platform and build a long-term strategy around running events. This will undoubtedly ensure a strong short-term and long-term return on investment.
Personalisation for event attendees
Today, personalisation happens every second. From Spotify recommendations to Netflix suggestions, you are being analysed and more relevant content is being delivered to you. How this personalisation applies to the events industry can come in the form of recommendations of sessions to watch or which booth to visit.With personalisation comes improved attendee experience, conversion rates and even lead generation.
As we head into the new year, one thing is for certain: events, as we knew back in 2019, will never be the same. With online merging with offline, opportunities will present themselves to businesses. As the pandemic persists, event professionals have to embrace hybrid and virtual ecosystems, champion diversity, prioritise health and safety, and create event experiences that keep attendees engaged and coming back for more.
Can you grab these opportunities when they come?