We surveyed 181 event managers all over the world and asked them how they are dealing with the current pandemic times. Here is a summary of what we have learned!
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The year 2020 will forever be known as the year of global lockdown. We were about to leap into the new year when the first mention of an unknown virus hit the news. Little did we know that this virus will spread so fast resulting in a declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). At short notice, we were in the middle of the biggest pandemic in the last 100 years.
The constant changes in restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic situation increase the level of uncertainty and adds to the frustration in our everyday lives. There is no doubt that the event industry is one of the most affected industries, as events and gatherings became illegal literally overnight. After the first months of mass event cancellations and postponements, it was clear that there is no coming back to normal at any time soon. Event managers started to look for new ways to make events possible again, which kicked off the new era of virtual and hybrid events.
Even though the majority of our respondents had no experience with organizing virtual and hybrid events, our survey results showed that these types of events are not completely a new thing. Before the pandemic outbreak, almost 30 % of the respondents were already organizing virtual events, some of them (around 14 %) were even experienced with the new phenomena - hybrid events. These numbers rose significantly with the pandemic. Virtual events more than doubled and hybrid events increased by nearly 5 times. In-person events, on the other hand, dropped by almost half.
According to our survey, 80 % of all respondents would go back to in-person events once the situation gets better (looser restrictions, faster vaccination, fewer people positive of COVID-19, etc.). However, the pressure on event organizers to move their events into the virtual world has helped them realize the potential of the opportunities that virtual events offer. Based on this information, we could say, the future of events will be hybrid.
🦠 Pandemic Impacts
The pandemic of COVID-19 affected many different areas of event planning. In general, the amount of events organized per year decreased, as well as the size of the events and also the length of each event session. Due to the lower revenue organizers had to cut all unnecessary costs and implement a smarter budget strategy. The most significant change is the increase of technology expenses (69 % of respondents agreed). To no surprise, venue and speaker related expenses (e.g. travel and accommodation) decreased.
Event managers also had to make difficult decisions in terms of human resources. 45 % of respondents decreased the number of their team members. On the other hand, 12 % experienced a team expansion. Thanks to the change of focus from in-person to virtual event experience and the pandemic itself, new job positions emerged (technology specialists, health and safety specialist, consultants), this has been confirmed by 22 % of respondents.
🏋️♂️ Challenges today
According to our survey, engaging attendees, selling the desired amount of tickets, and preparing participants for virtual experience are the most challenging tasks of event managers nowadays. The least challenging is coordination of the event team.
See the full ranking (from most challenging to least challenging) below.
🤖 Event technology
With the transition from in-person to virtual events, technologies became key to the success of an event. When choosing an event tool, event organizers consider user friendliness as the most important aspect (more than 76 % rated this aspect with number 5 = most important). Second most important (nearly 63 %) are engagement features followed by the aspect of security.
Here are the aspects (sorted from most important to least important) event managers consider when choosing an event tool.
List of most common tools event managers who participated in our research use in current pandemic times.
Technology (% of all respondents)
The most popular engagement features used at virtual and hybrid events are live questions and live polls. The third most popular engagement tool is live chat inside streaming platforms.
Networking sessions are one of the essential elements of events, as people are attending events with an expectation to meet people who have the same interests and create valuable contacts. In spite of that, our research showed that almost 7 % of respondents don’t support networking at all. Those who do usually use breakout rooms, event mobile/web apps, or social network groups for connecting attendees.
📢 Event promotion
Digital marketing is an ever-changing field that is shaped by continuously evolving technologies, and yet, email is still considered as the most effective tool when it comes to communication with customers and target audiences. Among our respondents, the most common way of sharing event information are email campaigns (84 % of respondents use emails), closely followed by event websites and social media.
More than 50 % of the event managers claimed to have changed their event promotion strategy due to the pandemic. Social media are one of the most mentioned channels event managers invested in more (content creation, paid ads, cooperation with influencers, etc.). They also pay higher attention to building event communities (88 % of respondents care for event communities), usually via social media groups and event or chatting tools. Other things event managers mentioned: targeting new or broader audiences with ads and better websites (redesign, improved SEO).
📊 Event evaluation
At virtual events, the entire communication runs digitally, which makes collecting, analyzing and evaluating data more precise and so much easier. The shift into the digital world also affected the approach to measuring event success (38 % of respondents agreed). Besides the traditional metrics, such as feedback from attendees, engagement rate, attendance and profitability, there is a higher usage of shorter evaluation forms. Popular are for example polls/quizzes and NPS (Net Promoter Score). According to our survey, nowadays event managers give higher value to the ratio of registered/present attendees and the volatility of attendance in time. There is also a bigger focus on the technology aspect, whether there were any issues, shutdowns, etc.
When it comes to measuring sponsorship ROI, organizers of virtual events provide sponsors with valuable event information about their attendees (usually the total number of attendees or views and clicks on sponsored posts).
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