The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way the world does business. The widespread transition to remote and hybrid work is commonly discussed. Less acknowledged is the way the pandemic altered professional seminars. In 2020, 70% of physical events switched to virtual or hybrid formats to avoid cancellation. Pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions left organizers with no other option.
Post-Pandemic Event Trends
Now in 2022, most COVID mitigation practices have eased. Despite the ability for physical events to continue, digital events remain popular. 40% of events planned in 2022 are intended as virtual. Another 35% are planned as hybrid events. Many professionals plan to attend virtual events at least as often as they had attended physical events pre-COVID-19. Digital engagement platforms are here to stay.
The benefits of hosting and attending online are numerous. Hotel rooms and airfare are both expensive. Businesses cut travel expenses by 30% when they switch to virtual webinars. Attending virtually also eliminates travel time for both hosts and participants. As a result, employees have more time and resources to dedicate to other tasks in their lives. Over 2 years after the pandemic began, 42% of business travelers have vowed never to return to the road. Hotel rooms have seen the impact of this pledge in their numbers. Business travel’s share of hotel room revenue is 9% lower in 2022 than it was in 2019.
The Rise of Digital Platforms
Instead of filling conference halls, audiences have moved to digital platforms. Zoom hosted over 45 billion minutes of webinars in 2020. At the same time, Microsoft Teams grew nearly 900%. Video conferencing existed before the pandemic, but COVID made it more commonplace than anyone had previously anticipated.
The massive switch to video conferencing benefitted many people, but it also came with a few challenges. Technology issues can ruin meetings in a matter of seconds. Audio glitches, poor communication, and problems with virtual meetings generate intense feelings of frustration.
Even in the video calls that run smoothly, “Zoom fatigue” can take over. Constantly looking at all the participants in a meeting can create a hyper-aroused state. Always being able to see oneself in real time is also disconcerting. Most humans don’t go places with a mirror in front of them at every moment, after all.
Despite these issues, there are ways virtual event organizers can make their experience beneficial to all. Planning appropriate breaks can limit Zoom fatigue. Another option is to organize a hybrid event instead of a purely virtual one. In hybrid events, virtual and physical components come together to connect separate audiences with the same content. The goal of hybrid events is to create the best experience for every audience.
There are numerous ways to format a hybrid event. The main event could be physical, one marketed as a VIP experience for a limited number of attendees. The virtual component could be watched by everyone for a limited time after an event has ended. Some companies may also look for ways to gamify the event. Creating a list of milestones can ensure participants see everything the event has to offer. See more about digital events through digital engagement platforms below.