Chief Event Einstein
The biggest trend we will see is that virtual- and hybrid-meeting designs will be more deliberate. In 2020, people were reactive out of necessity—trying to do what they could as quickly as possible. Most people were relying on what they knew about digital possibilities versus what is actually possible.
But now we are going to see more deliberate design around the event experience, starting with handling speakers. Many planners thought these folks would level up their online abilities quickly, such as learning about cameras and microphones and presenting well via technology. But there are still professional speakers who don’t have the setup for an engaging content experience, not to mention thought leaders in every industry who speak but aren’t pros at it.
Rehearsals aren’t happening often enough, and even when you send presenters a two-page guide on tech requirements and emergency-backup plans, too many of them ignore it. So, 2021 will see more time and financial investment by meeting hosts in speaker training and speaker prep, or planners will simply start spending more on professional speakers who do things right with technology.
Another major trend: People are getting so fatigued about staring at a screen that we’ll see an evolution beyond the laptop and smartphone interactive experience. Group whiteboarding in several locations simultaneously is too costly right now to do all the time, but you can pick and choose the events where you use that collaborative tech-augmented experience. Vibe is one company that makes affordable touchscreen and draw-on-screen computers—they’re basically smart whiteboards. In any case, many meetings are going to be hybrid in format, perhaps using the hub-and-spoke model, because people won’t want to experience all their events through their computer or phone screens any longer.
As for virtual reality, you are going to see more adoptions of VR as costs come down and functionality goes up. Attendees need headsets to participate; they aren’t commonplace but they are coming. The new Oculus Quest 2 units cost about $400; they are really good and need no other hardware. If the pandemic lockdowns continue into the second half of 2021, you will start to see some VR adoption for business events.
For events with registration fees, VR can be a strong draw even at a notably higher price point because of the experience and because attendees can keep the headset. Events that used to be $599 to attend can go to $999 for admission and a VR headset. Before Covid, people were spending to attend events, so don’t go backwards and try to keep tightening the budgets and holding down prices after the pandemic—give people a new experience and charge what you must in order to make it amazing.Lastly, there is very little chance that the tools planners use today will be the ones they are using at the end of 2021, especially for hybrid meetings. We have seen such an advancement of technology in such a short period of time, and that is only going to continue because of all the money that’s going into it. So, don’t get tied to one vendor or technology for too many of your needs because it is all going to change before long.