The business of meetings certainly evolved over the last few decades. This past year created (forced) an extraordinary level of change in our industry. Since March 2020, when the outbreak of the pandemic all began, the meetings and event industry had to cancel many of their events or quick pivot everything they had planned to go virtual. We can all agree that the last 18 months have changed our business in countless ways.
Now, as in-person meetings are returning, we have a huge opportunity. Do we return to the “old ways?” Or do we apply what we have learned for the future?
Here are 10 Meeting and Events Trends to Continue as In-Person Meetings Return:
1. Meetings have evolved and the future of in-person meetings will be going hybrid
Virtual meetings have become popular in the past 16+ months and plan to stay. Many businesses have found countless benefits of hosting a virtual meeting, but many attendees still craved being in-person. Now that in-person meetings are returning, it is important to consider keeping that virtual element by making your future in-person meetings hybrid.
A Hybrid Meeting is when some of the attendees attend live, in-person while other attendees join remotely from anywhere, could be their office or in the comfort of their home. This is accomplished by an AV team and audio/video conferencing technology. It’s the best of both worlds; virtual and in-person meetings.
2. Marketing and promotion of your meeting is a vital part of the planning process
One of the best places to start is the strategy for promoting your meeting whether it be virtual, hybrid, or in-person. Social media has become one of the biggest tools for marketers to reach new customers. According to Lyfemarketing, “71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend the brand to their friends and family.” This is why it makes sense for you to utilize social media platforms to boost your upcoming events. Not only will you reach out to new people, but also satisfied attendees can promote your event as well by using tags, hashtags, and other tools. Check out How to Use Social Media to Boost Your Event for more ideas and tools to promote your event.
3. As meeting planners have been upskilling, so do your speakers and sponsors
Over the past months, many meeting planners had to quickly pivot into a new way of producing meetings. The focus had to be shifted into being creative and learning new skills to provide top-quality guidance for their clients. Virtual meetings are here to stay whether it be only online or a hybrid event. It is important that not only the meeting planner stay up to date, but it’s their role to make sure the speakers and sponsors are up to date and confident with this new way as well. Be sure to have rehearsals and tools to assist in training them on how to use the technology. This will help your sponsors and speakers help with the success of your event.
4. More technology being used in the meeting planning process
Technology continues to become more and more advanced and should be incorporated into your meeting planning process. Using technology tools not only can help with planning, registration, attendee engagement, branding, and more but also is more sustainable for our environment. If you are interested in the different ways you can use technology for your meeting planning, check out Tech Tools That Can Assist Your Next Virtual Meeting.
5. Virtual Meetings need to be at a higher production level
After over a year of zoom calls, many are burnt out from virtual meetings. This is why your next virtual or hybrid meeting needs to be at a higher production level than your ordinary work meeting. You want to create an experience that attendees can take away with them and will want to return for your next event. Little things such as lighting, audio and video quality, a virtual platform, internet connection, engagement tools, etc. all add up to making your virtual or hybrid meeting memorable. There is a wide range of options when it comes to these tools to enhance your production and to suit your budget and needs.
6. Interactive Entertainment
Now more than ever, engaging with your attendees is key to providing a great experience during your next virtual, hybrid, or in-person meeting. B2B event marketers say the biggest virtual event challenges are number one, audience engagement, and number two being interaction (Source: Markletic), so in the time of engagement being at high importance how do we accomplish this? A couple of items to consider is the content, quality of the speaker, user experience, Q&A, chat, and polling. Be creative and make it fun! Overall, having different and fun activities at your next meeting is crucial to keep attendees interested in participating and engaged. There are many possibilities out there when it comes to creating a good experience for your attendees.
7. Communicating safety protocols
Clear and concise messaging is key to make sure everyone is on the same page about following the safety protocols. Did you know? “Safety continues to be the number one issue for event planners. 55% cited safety concerns as the biggest obstacle to hosting live events” (EventMB, 2020). Taking precautions even though they don’t seem necessary is worth the peace of mind it will give your attendees. Begin your communication about safety protocols early in the pre-event stage. Then, at the live event, you can make an announcement, have clear signage, and other tools to remind attendees to please be sure to practice good hygiene and safety measures while you’re here attending the meeting. If attendees feel safe, they will more likely return to your next event.
8. More creative and flexible event formats
Moving forward with your meeting planning, you will want to be creative with your event formats. Attendees stay more engaged when event content is presented in smaller bite-sized bits, so break the rules when it comes to the traditional meeting schedule. If you have a virtual element, think about the different time zones and who you are trying to reach. No one wants to attend a virtual meeting at midnight. Also, if you are in-person or it’s hybrid, think about the setup of the room. Change up how your attendees are arranged. Not only for their safety but to change things up and make your meeting stand out.
9. Prioritizing networking opportunities for attendees
One aspect of in-person meetings that people missed and craved during the pandemic is networking with one another. Many felt it was more challenging to do during a virtual meeting and it just wasn’t the same. It is important to create experiences and activities for your networking opportunities such as happy hours, ice breakers, scavenger hunts, birth maps, etc. Having an activity will encourage attendees to meet one another in a fun way whether it is an in-person, hybrid, or virtual event. For more ideas about activities to have at your next meeting, check out 7 Best Activities to Have at Your Next Virtual Meeting.
10. Other options for food & beverage
When you are meeting planning, don’t consider buffet style as your first choice anymore. Think outside the box for the safety of your attendees. If you choose to do a buffet, consider having it be served by staff. Another option is doing boxed lunches that are already pre-packaged for attendees. What will best suit your next meeting? Do what is best for your meeting goals and the safety of your attendees.
While we could not change what was occurring, we could (and did) get creative with solutions. Now, as in-person meetings are returning, we have a huge opportunity. Meetings are evolving, and it is important to grow with them. If you are interested in learning more, check out The LaClare Group’s industry conversation event, Meetings Moving Forward, where we discuss what was learned while in-person meetings were paused and what we bring with us as we move forward with in-person, hybrid, and virtual meetings.