10 Predictions for Virtual Events Industry in 2021 & beyond

Just like for every other industry, 2020 has been a revolutionary year for the events industry as well. While the events industry has been seeing usual advancements, due to the pandemic, the opportunities for virtual events have significantly increased in the last one year.  In the future, virtual events will be even more innovative, interactive, and dynamic. Evolving practices and technology will make it possible to make virtual events more organized, enjoyable, and engaging to audiences. 

Here are 10 predictions in the virtual events space in 2021 and beyond, which we feel are going to be realized sooner than later:

  1. Consolidation of Tech Companies & More Investment in Eventtech. It’s a known fact that as industries mature, they enter the "Consolidation Phase". At this stage of the industry life cycle, companies often attract huge funding rounds, and merge & acquire other companies. With new funding rounds for virtual tech tools in recent times and acquisition of individual companies, the consolidation phase has already begun. In 2020 alone, there have been multiple funding rounds for virtual eventtech companies for e.g. Bizzabo raising $140M, Rainfocus raising $40M, Fever with $35M, Hubilo with $4.5M, etc. to name a few. During the past few years leading up to 2020, we have seen Cvent acquiring multiple smaller companies like SocialTables, WeddingSpot, DoubleDutch and finally itself being acquired by Vista Equity ventures and merging Lanyon (another eventtech portfolio company of Vista) with Cvent. Hopin's acquisition of Topi, Cisco's acquisition of Slido, etc. are similar indicators of this trend.

  2. Virtual Events are peaking now, but Hybrid will become the future. Virtual events are not unique to 2020, they have always been adopted when discussions & collaboration was needed without the limitation of geography. However, what the pandemic did was to accelerate the business world's need to replicate most meetings, events, and similar functions online and thus the spike in virtual events. But as this period phases out, the industry may not go all the way back to the old days of preferring everything in an in-person setting. VentureBeat recently published its talks with some of the founders and investors of event tech companies on the future of virtual and hybrid events. One of the notable comments from Paul Murphy - general partner at London-based VC firm Northzone, which invested in Hopin "For years, event organizers have recognized that their future needs to be fit for a digital-first world. Naturally, the global health pandemic accelerated that interest, but the journey of hybrid event formats had already started. One-sided and passive webinars were quickly falling out of favor, while many of the physical industry events were starting to lose their original appeal. The most successful up-and-coming platforms supersede traditional video tools by having a laser focus on engagement and user interaction.” According to Welcome CEO Roberto Ortiz "Overwhelmingly, we’re hearing our customers say they’re defaulting to hybrid events moving forward. Going virtual has allowed them to reach larger audiences, track stronger engagement analytics, and ultimately better serve their customer’s post-event. COVID-19 has also proven that virtual and hybrid events deliver a ton more ROI, at a sliver of the cost it takes to produce physical events.” Similarly, Web Summit & Reuters also confirmed about going with a hybrid model for their events. What hybrid events offer is a flexible way for companies to scale their events without all of the limitations of a standard in-person event - such as time, distance and budgets. With such benefits, more and more companies will likely embrace a hybrid model in 2021 and beyond.

  3. Virtual Events will pave the way for Contactless Check-Ins. Check-in is a vital part of tracking who has attended your events. Typically, in a physical event these would often mean long queues and a concierge processing each request individually. During Covid period, this wouldn't have made social distancing easy because of the obvious flaw in the check in process. One of the technological innovations during the Covid period was for ways to do contactless interactions in physical spaces. However, while contactless check ins are now mandated legally, the current systems are still in their early design lifecycle and has room for improvement. On the other hand, virtual event systems are going on to become more and more Interactive and engaging. So, in a post-covid era, the physical events will likely leverage some of the learnings and best practices from virtual and further improve the process & systems for contactless check ins.

  4. As engagement remains a top challenge for virtual events, more and more organizers will turn to gamification. In virtual events, since you don't physically see the others up close and in person, can't shake their hands, can't give them a hug or a fist bump - people tend to feel this void of physical interaction and it leads to lower engagement among attendees. To solve this challenge, use of gamification has been a growing trend in the events space for some time now. Gamification aims to make virtual interactions more engaging to bring it close to, if not similar to live events. Traditionally this means the use of games, contests, quizzes, etc. to increase participation & engagement among event attendees. But lately new practices have sprung up that promises to take gamification to the next level. The event technology platforms are all bringing in different approaches to gamification in an aim to solve this fundamental challenge and our prediction is that the gamification features will become an indispensable tool for event organizers.

  5. Tech Proficiency will continue to rise for Virtual Events. As mentioned above, virtual events are now going through a significant innovation phase and as with any innovation, it leads to better versions. Given the rise in interest for virtual events, adoption of virtual event technologies, and the proverbial need for more will only lead to an increase in capabilities of virtual event technologies. The proficiency of people (e.g. event organizers, event attendees) will also grow with the rise in technology. Futuristic UIs will become commonplace and native to the tech that powers the virtual events.

  6. New roles (specific to virtual events) will start to emerge. As with any growth phase, the new way of doing things means there is room for specialization. With the recent increase in virtual events, there will be a need for specific functions that the event organizers will want to delegate. Some of these have already started appearing in job boards globally - e.g., AV Producer, Event Experience Designer, etc. This is much needed for more successful execution of events.

  7. Monetization opportunities & tactics will increase for Virtual Events. Traditionally, virtual events are considered as low value due to lesser ticket prices as compared to Physical events. But in terms of economies of scale, the virtual events are more cost efficient since they only cost a fraction of what it would take to host a physical event, as such the ROI for virtual events can be much more than physical ones. Virtual events are also not void of monetization opportunities. Today's virtual events already offer monetization opportunities to the event organizers (like special promotions & deals, payment integrations, purchase links, etc.). With the increase in popularity of virtual events, these opportunities and tactics are just going to increase from here on out.

  8. AI will pave the way for more meaningful connections in Virtual Event platforms. We discussed earlier about how virtual events lack the spirit of physical interaction that we find in a live event. However, with event technologies investing more into the use of AI these aspects will likely to improve in the coming time. Virtual event platforms today are already making use of AI for recommendations in networking and content consumption. Use of chatbots & machine learning are also highly anticipated within the Virtual Events space. These applications of AI will become even more compelling to conduct engaging events in future.

  9. Adoption of vIrtual & augmented reality. With the increase in technological innovation, virtual & hybrid events of the future will try to create more immersive experiences for the attendees. The increasing use of VR and AR are already being seen in many industries and events industry for one will not shy from adopting such technologies. Seeing & interacting with a product in 3D, getting up close with colleagues, acquaintances and new connections in VR will make virtual events much more interactive and similar to physical ones.

  10. Rise in curated interactions & experiences beyond just large-scale events. Once again use of technology to facilitate interactions between people is already observed in our day-to-day world today. What the future holds for us (especially in event networking zones) will be to recommend interactions between people with similar interests, facilitate conversations, provide profiling information on persons someone is interacting with are going to be more common than ever. With more focus starting to build on improving attendee experiences, the future events will also likely to include personalization like we have never seen before.

These are some of the things we at EventEngage believe to be coming in the near future when we look at the current progression of virtual events. Needless to say, the realization of these predictions of course are dependent on the current technological, socioeconomic conditions prevalent in our world. But we for one are already working towards building some of these capabilities into our platform. 2021 and beyond looks pretty exciting from where we are today!


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