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What’s to Come for the Event Industry in 2022

Key Takeaways:

  • COVID-19 continues to be a part of event planning considerations, but vaccination availability provides more flexibility for conducting in-person events.
  • Companies are prioritizing employee engagement by investing in learning and development and creating unique meeting experiences.
  • Event technology is developing rapidly and unconventional platforms are becoming more popular.
  • It is now an expectation for organizations to consider ESG values when planning an event and making business decisions.

The event industry has come a long way since March 2020. Throughout the past two years, event planners and vendors have had to deal with the unpredictable nature of COVID-19 and develop new skills and strategies practically on the spot.

The third year of the pandemic continues to bring out new challenges—especially with the emergence of the Omicron variant. But there are also many exciting opportunities for growth. In the recent webinar, “The Road Ahead: State of the Event Industry 2022,” Howard Givner, CEO of the Event Leadership Institute, shared his insights on what to expect for the industry this year and in the near future.

With vaccination now relatively widespread in the U.S., the knee-jerk reaction to cancel events when case counts surge can now afford to be reconsidered. Givner recommends that event planners carefully review hospitalization and death rates, as well as vaccination rates among event attendees, when making a decision about how to proceed with an event.

In terms of business outlook, investment in learning and development is expected to be a big focus for the event industry in 2022. The combination of shorter event lead times and a tight labor market makes acquiring and retaining good talent crucial to success. The need to reskill and upskill employees is also increasingly essential. Skills in business leadership, omni-channel event design, and technical event producing are all in demand right now, and new roles are constantly evolving to fill these gaps.

“There’s a lot of talk about the importance of soft skills, and this is not to diminish the importance of that by any means, but by the same token we are hearing from a lot of leaders of event teams that some of those hard skills, really business skills, are severely lacking,” Givner said.

Another area that is lacking is UX design for event technology. This was one of the sectors that fell short of expectations in 2021, particularly in experiences such as organic networking and video game-caliber engagement. But this year, with venture capital money at an all-time high, customers now have the power to demand better UX, seamless integrations, and useful and intuitive features.

A growing trend among companies is the desire to increase engagement among employees, especially as remote work becomes more common. This focus on improving company culture and employee engagement has opened up new areas for events to flourish, one of which is the concept of “workations.” Although business travel is becoming less popular, people still want to travel for leisure, so meetings that blend both aspects have the potential to create unique experiences that people find indispensable.

“The bottom line is making sure we have a laser focus on our value proposition for attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, and partners,” Givner said. “It has to be something that is worthwhile and the methodology should be: Think about making your event or your program into something that people would go crazy if you took it away.”

Some events have started to experiment with holograms, virtual reality, and the Metaverse. When rapper and producer Travis Scott held a concert inside the popular video game “Fortnite,” millions of fans tuned in. The success of Scott’s event indicates that brand marketers and event planners look at unconventional platforms and start to go where the people are.

“Think out of the box,” Givner said. “Think where the next thing’s going to be and are there opportunities here for us to differentiate ourselves.”

Besides skills growth and technological advancement, the event industry is also seeing a greater emphasis on ESG (environmental, social, and governance) values. Using these values in decision-making processes and being mindful of supplier and venue practices that may conflict with those values is key in 2022.

To go deeper into other trends and ideas shaping the event industry this year:

  • Listen to the entire conversation here.
  • Review Givner’s slide presentation here.