It doesn’t come as a surprise that virtual events since 2020 have outnumbered the in-person conventions. When the pandemic started, we had to redefine major aspects of our lives. I can remember hours spent editing opportunities articles and crossing them out from our weekly newsletter when (almost) all events were canceled in March 2020.
Since a big part of my work involves researching and sharing opportunities with you, I started to worry about what other opportunities we could write about. We locked ourselves at homes and had to reduce a human contact to a minimum. It was harder than ever to stay sane. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the event industry to rise from the ashes.
Virtual summits became a great ersatz of gatherings we all needed
The events industry outdid itself in reformatting and adapting to a new reality. The software allowed them to create experiences we craved, such as virtual networking lounges, live sessions and even exhibition halls at some point.
The events were finally back, so we could all learn, meet other professionals and hear great keynote speeches. But how long did it take you to become tired of a home office, events at home, chilling at home and everything home?
Even though the industry mastered organizing online events, from the last quarter of 2020 to the second quarter of 2021, pivoting the next major event to virtual decreased by 18% (Virtual Tech Event Guide 2021, Event Manager Blog).
Since the vaccination and the COVID downfall, we are trying to get our “old normal” back. With the necessary safety measures, the events are expanding the attendance possibilities combining online with in-person gatherings. The hybrid format seems like a golden mean.
I attended a couple of virtual conferences and summits this year, and a number of speakers have said that they cannot wait to meet in person soon. I shared this feeling.
Let’s take a look at some of the upcoming events in 2022
- Web Summit (November 1-4, 2022), in-person
- Bits & Pretzels (January 20-21, 2022), in-person
- Hero Conf (March 14-15, 2022), in-person
- Salesforce Education Summit (April 20-22, 2022), hybrid
- Confab (May 9-12), in-person
- EIT Health Summit (May 24-25, 2022), in-person
- One Young World Summit (May 16-19, 2022), in-person
- European Women in Technology (June 8-9, 2022), in-person
- RE-WORK Events in 2022 – 3 hybrid and 20 in-person (as of October 2021)
- Tech Events listed by TechRepublic – 45 events, 4 hybrid, 1 online and 40 in-person (as of October 2021)
Glimpsing at 2022, the majority of events are planned to be in-person. According to the GBTA Report: currently, three-quarters (76%) of respondents feel in-person meetings are typically “somewhat more effective” (44%) or “much more effective” (32%) than virtual meetings. The report also mentions that the three major challenges for hybrid events are lower attendees engagement, difficulties to execute and lack of effectiveness.
Pros and cons of virtual events
The biggest advantage of online conferences is that even social distancing, closed borders and a travel ban cannot affect them. Here are some more good things:
- 💸 Save money: even if the tickets price stays the same, you save on travel fees and accommodation.
- ⌚ Save time: login from anywhere and choose the sessions you wanna attend.
- 🌎 Wide reach: virtual conferences have a bigger attendees capacity and are more accessible to people around the world.
- 🤓 Countless possibilities: virtual meeting software has been growing immensely and the attendees can experience events beyond only watching videos and typing on a chat.
- ☕ No bad coffee: you choose your favorite kind of coffee and how you like to prepare it.
Here’s what I’ve missed the most:
- 🤝 No face to face interaction: humans need smiles, hugs, gestures, eye contact, bumping on strangers accidentally and creating long lasting friendships out of such random encounters.
- 🗺️ No new experiences: when we went to Rome to with AlphaGamma, it was my first and only time in this beautiful city. I definitely miss experiencing new places since I already know my apartment so well.
- 😴 It’s hard to stay present: when you lose track of time between sessions and you space out on Netflix.
- 💻 It’s just less exciting: to see your idol online rather than in person, to network with people without really seeing them and feel like a part of a cool event being physically present in your comfort zone.
I’m sure there’s more to add (feel free to share your pros and cons in the comments!), but after this short summary, I must say that:
No virtual experience is superior to a real one
Online events are great – they are more accessible and affordable. In-person gatherings are also amazing. It’s thrilling to meet people you’ve always admired or have a coffee chat with someone new.
There’s no doubt that after months of distancing from others we appreciate the return of in-person gatherings. Looks like they’re here to stay?
What’s your favorite event format and how do you feel about the future of events. Is it going to be virtual, in-person or hybrid?