Who would have known that 2020 would go down as one of the most influential years- if not the most influential year- for virtual events in history? Even as the highest-ranked event trends predictor in the industry, we couldn’t have guessed this. We surveyed hundreds of #eventprofs to weigh in on the hottest virtual event trends for 2020. Some of these trends match up nicely to our overall 2020 event trends we predicted, so you should see some cross-over for how you can also apply these to your hybrid and in-person events as well. Here we go as we make predictions on the hottest trends to hit virtual events!
2020 Virtual Event Trend: Personalization for Attendees
Not everyone at your event will be in the same place in their journey. Personalization allows each attendee to get exactly what they need. This will be one of the biggest trends of 2020. Personalization for attendees leads to a more successful event. When personalizing your event will feel custom and well thought out. Your attendees will feel they got much more value out of attending when their needs are met. There are many ways you can personalize your event but here are a few of our favorite ways.
Tailored Break Out Session Paths
In our 2020 event trends survey, 47% of event planners believed tailored break-out session paths would be the biggest personalization trend for events in 2020. It’s not really a surprise, breakout sessions are a staple at conferences across the world. Giving attendees a chance to personalize the breakout session path they take is much more satisfying than assigning them where to go.
Attendees can look at the agenda, and tailor their schedule to the experience they are looking to have. INBOUND is an event that excels at this. Each year attendees get to choose their track and pick breakout sessions. They have breakout tracks where there are suggested sessions for each track such as a marketing and customer service tracks. Attendees can filter the hundreds of sessions by a path to narrowtheir focus or mix the tracks creating their own adventure. With 377 sessions this year spanning everything from entry-level marketing, software deep-dives, leadership, and inspirational chats the options were limitless allowing attendees to get the value they desired.
Data-Driven Activity Suggestions
Using data will be at the forefront of planning events in 2020. Using that data to personalize an attendee’s experience will delight your guests. Choosing what to do at an event especially larger scale events with hundreds of sessions, networking events, keynotes and more can feel very overwhelming. Solution? Having data-driven activity suggestions in your event app. Apps are getting smarter. They have ability to make activity suggestions using algorithms based on attendees’ profiles and networks. For example, an event app might suggest an event marketer go to a content creation workshop.
This is a win-win for both attendees and planners. Attendees will feel the event is catered to their needs while planners can rest assure they are creating an engaging experience for all in attendance.
Sending Personalized Content and Resources
In a world with an abundance of content it is critical you personalize your content to stand out. Without question, personalized content is more effective a Demand Metric Study from 2016 found that 80% of people found personalized content more effective than content that hasn’t been personalized.”
Receiving personalized content improves attendees’ overall opinion of your event. It is a fantastic way to stand out and increase engagement. In a recent report, The Content Marketing Personalization Imperative, “88% of consumers say that personally, relevant content improves how they feel about a brand.”
Content personalization can take many forms, it can be as simple as including attendees’ names within emails, but we suggest you take this further by segmenting your attendees and sending personalized content and resources to those segments. For example, let’s say an attendee downloads an e-book and watches a video on the same topic, you can then send them personalized content related to those previously viewed pieces to create a custom experience.
A Continued Focus on Sustainability
Sustainability cannot be an afterthought. This has been on our trends list for years and we talk about it a lot. We will keep on talking about it until we see the necessary change within our industry. As planners we are responsible for the impact our events have on the earth. This year events will start thinking more holistically about what we can do to improve our impact from banning single-use plastics, and educating out attendees, to offering more plant-based catering. We will also see a rise in using recycled materials for event design. These small steps will propel the industry forward towards reducing our carbon footprint and impact on the earth.
2020 Event Trend: Increased Need for Event Security
Sadly, this trend continues to rise. It is an issue that plagues our industry. Every year it seems we are met with new event security concerns and needs. Often security and safety concerns are not met with solutions. Earlier this year we interviewed Lori Pugh from MPI about event safety. During our interview, Lori informed us that “only 53% of event planners actually have an emergency plan in place” This is unacceptable.
This year we will see this start to change and a focus on solutions to the increased need for event security in the form of crisis communications, cybersecurity and improvements in onsite security. It is your responsibility as an event prof to keep your attendees safe.
Strategic Crisis Communications
47% of planners thought crisis communications should be the biggest focus when it comes to security in 2020. And they are right! If there was a crisis before, during or after the event how do you plan to communicate with your attendees and stakeholders? If you handle a crisis the wrong way, you might not have a job or event again so you need a plan. Everyone at events as a role to play when it comes to crisis communications. MPI offers an excellent crisis communications course led by our very own #EventIcons host, Alex Plaxen, that will allow you to create and prepare a crisis communication plan, so in the event a crisis strikes you will be ready.
Onsite Security Improvements
As an event planner your number one priority should be every attendee is safe at your event. Have conversations about security with your venue and everyone on staff. Make sure they are aware of emergency and crisis communication plans.
Technology can be a powerful tool when it comes to onsite security. Use your app to empower attendees to act on reporting any potential security threats of suspicious activity. Furthermore, include maps with fire exits, and information on where to go in the case of evacuation.
Only an alarming 5.26% of planners surveyed believed cybersecurity should be a top priority for events. This is a huge mistake! Event registration platforms and management software hold a goldmine of information for hackers. As event profs, we have the responsibility to protect our attendee’s personal data. Brandt Krueger put it best “The amount of information that we are the guardians for is really pretty ridiculous. We’ve got personal first and last names of executives, titles, email addresses, phone numbers, personal cell phone numbers, travel itineraries, hotel reservations. All of this information is a gold mine for hackers because all they need is a couple of legitimate pieces of information”. With just a little phishing and a lapse in security on the events, hackers can have the keys to the castle and all the data they need to hack your attendees.
If the last paragraph scared you, good, it SHOULD! First, we are happy to report this issue is coming to the forefront, governments and companies all around the world have begun to implement several measures to ensure that data privacy finally becomes a reality. First, we saw Europe roll out GDPR regarding privacy and personal data. Now in the US, we are seeing the “Mind Your Own Business Act”, essentially the bill would allow the FTC to set minimum privacy and cybersecurity standards for tech companies. If tech companies do make some sort of breaches they will be fined. The bill would also make it a crime for senior executives to lie to the agency regarding privacy standards, and would empower state attorneys to enforce regulations.
But that is just the government’s role, what can planners do NOW to prevent a cybersecurity disaster? Make sure your event data is encrypted, you are using a password manager (hint: don’t leave event registration software passwords on a sticky note on the laptop at check-in), use 2-factor authentification for logins and more. If you would like to learn more about how to prevent security breaches check out our free webinar on how to prevent cyber attacks.
2020 Virtual Event Trend: Plan Events Virtually
We believe the industry will continue to move forward with planning events virtually and cutting down on in-person site visits, especially with the rise of the COVID-19 making it hard to travel in the first place. The technology is already there to plan remotely.
You can do a lot of pre-planning by just going to venues sites. Most venues have floorplans, videos, and most basic information such as capacities and catering options right on their site. Taking it a step further, site visits are now going virtual. From video meetings to VR venue tours planners can now utilize technology to plan an event at a venue they have never even stepped foot in. Not only can this save planners time but also is more sustainable. Keep in mind, when we talk about virtual events, we include hybrid events as a huge part of this! But it doesn’t just stop at site visits!
Collaborating in a Virtual World
With today’s technology, collaborating with team members near and far is simple. You can virtually hold staff and vendor meetings virtually with tools like Zoom and handle daily communications through Slack. Collaboration tools such as Trello and GDrive make staying organized and sharing documents a cinch!
2020 Virtual Event Trend: Interactive Live Event Entertainment
Immersive experiences will become a focus and one of the biggest 2020 event trends. 78.25% of the hundreds of event planners surveyed placed it at #1 above all other types of live entertainment. People crave human connection and this is exactly why your event needs to have immersive experiences even in a virtual world. Immersive experiences can take many forms from instagrammable social media moments to virtual escape rooms and interactive cooking classes. The more creative you can get the better.
2020 Virtual Event Trend: Data-Driven Decision Making
74% of event profs surveyed agreed data drives their decision-making. Using data to plan and guide event decisions will come to the forefront in 2020. Data is a powerful tool that can help create a successful event. Data can breathe new life into events. You can use data to make important decisions for your event in several ways that weren’t possible before. Most commonly event profs use data to check attendance numbers but going beyond that will result in happy attendees who want to come back year after year.
Creating a Personalized Experience and Predictive Analytics
We broke this down above, but to reiterate personalized experiences lead to happier highly engaged attendees. Making data-driven suggestions on what attendees should go to such as breakout sessions or VIP cocktail hours will not only help your attendees navigate large events but make them feel custom to their experience. You can also use this information to predict trends for future events.
Managing Expectations and Avoiding Bad Experiences
Use your event app to allow guests to give feedback in real-time. Attendees can let you know if the venue temperature is an issue, whether lighting is adequate for note-taking at a conference and if they are dissatisfied with the cleanliness of amenities. By using data to manage expectations and make adjustments you can immediately resolve a bad situation, saving a negative experience from affecting many more attendees.
Real-time event changes
Gone are the days when you have to wait for the post-event survey to come trickling in to make changes. Data allows you to see what is working and what is not at your event in real-time. Technology such as RFID and smart badges will allow you to see what parts of your event are popular and which parts might need a boost. If there is a noticeable dip in attendance in a certain speaker’s presentation you can address the issue immediately. From there you can immediately adjust push notifications, signage, and more to encourage more attendees to go to those less trafficked areas of your event.
A Focus on Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion will stay top of mind when planning events in 2020. When planning events there is not a cookie cutter attendee, you will need to plan with diversity in mind. Diversity and inclusion go way beyond race and ethnicity, it spans age, genders, physical ability, religion, language, allergies, and more. We are seeing a push to do better at celebrating diversity and being inclusive.
From the inclusive language on signage, inclusive food options, better representation on panels, and clear codes of conduct we’re seeing major strides in this area. We are happy to report an increased effort to create more inclusive events for everyone.
2020 Virtual Event Trends: Improvements in Event WiFi
Bad event WiFi can really put a damper on your event. But a lot of planners don’t know where to start to fix this issue. The biggest issues we see where improvements can and should be made our WiFi costs and fixing connectivity and speed issues at your event. Especially in a virtual world where attendees virtually sometimes do not have the internet bandwidth to handle a high fidelity experience. Ultimately this is also important for the rise of hybrid events because attendees are going to need rock-solid wi-fi if they are going to stay connected to the virtual audience.
64% of event planners feel they are overpaying for event WiFi. You might feel stuck paying for hotel WiFi that isn’t that great, but you don’t need to do that. You DO have other options.
In order to improve your WiFi and save on costs, you need to first understand event WiFi is not one size fits all. There is no blanket formula that will make your event have great WiFi, just like event AV there are many moving parts and variables. In order to improve your event wifi first, planners will need to gather a basic understanding of event WiFi. If you learn the terminology and do some homework beforehand like calculating your event bandwidth needs (check out our free event bandwidth calculator).
For more on this topic check out our 10 best tips to make the most of your event WiFi.
Where Else Will We Go?
That does it for our annual virtual event trends guide, however with such a defining year for virtual events- where will we go from here? How will virtual events continue to shape and evolve even throughout the year?