As the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on in the summer and fall last year, and brought a new wave over the winter, live events were rare to come by.

The concerts and meetups that were allowed to continue were few and far between, not to mention surrounded by anxieties and regulations.

Now, the craving for live events has reached a fever pitch. Consumers are hungry to get gigging again, to feel the energy of a crowd, to trek to their favorite convention, to attend the latest conference in their field, and to see a performer in the flesh.

As vaccination programs mature and society adapts to pandemic life, the possibility of once again enjoying a live experience gets increasingly realistic.

But what will these events be like? What should they be like?

The Evolving Landscape for Live Events

It’s not just consumers who are hungry for live events to get going again.

Brands are also excited to renovate their event planning strategies, but this excitement comes with a hefty dose of trepidation, too. What’s stopping brands from putting events together?

Safety is, of course, the main concern. Consumers need to know that the events they’re attending are as safe as possible.

This means a level of operational rigor that many brands aren’t ready to go through, such as implementing mask mandates, verifying vaccine cards, requiring new testing regimens and protocols, and more.

That’s why nearly two-thirds of live meetings were delayed or canceled in the fall of 2021.

However, that statistic shows signs of improvement. Fewer planners are delaying their events indefinitely, and many are committed to hosting in-person events in 2022 (and are beginning to plan in earnest).

Plus, because pandemic life has opened up the accessibility of digital engagement, planners are recognizing that the events of the future could be even better than those of the past.

One of the most interesting trends to come out of the pandemic is that people have come to appreciate in-person events more. Being forced away from crowds and social settings meant that people developed an intense desire to meet up in real life.

They’ve been missing out, and almost all consumers surveyed by UTA IQ want to attend live events after it’s safe to do so. However, live events will certainly be different going forward.

There will inevitably be some COVID-19 testing requirements to help ensure safety, and testing solutions such as BELLA Health will soothe that pain point. Other regulations will also require adaptation, but planners and consumers alike are becoming more used to jumping through these hoops.

But in-person experiences won’t be the end-all, be-all of post-pandemic events. Almost 70% of event planners believe that hybrid events — combining live, recorded, and remote elements — will be more common than before the pandemic.

Keeping virtual options for live events will allow consumers to participate differently, according to their comfort level.

And 52% of eventgoers say they’ll want to enjoy both in-person and video events once the pandemic has eased.

Create Interactive and Engaging Events

The gap between live and remote experiences has narrowed. People have learned how to engage online in a way that feels almost as active as attending in person.

Physical and remote attendees are also learning how to better interact with each other. People attending an event in person can feel the energy of remote attendees and vice versa.

Today’s events might be very different from those you were planning two years ago, but we now have the tools and digital accessibility to make them even more interesting and engaging.

Here are some strategies that will enable you to take advantage of this new era in event planning:

Understand Your New Target Audience

If you think you know your audience, think again. Much like everything during the pandemic, it has changed.

Although the same consumers as before might gravitate to your events, you probably have gained a new remote audience. This means you must determine the different needs of in-person and virtual attendees.

Investigate the profiles of your potential audiences as they stand today to provide the best experience.

Embrace Hybrid Events

Your event doesn’t have to be all physical or all virtual.

Choose the elements that make sense for your offering; attendees will thank you for your flexibility and will be excited by the opportunity to engage as they choose. But make sure you’re thinking about how the virtual experience can connect with the in-person event — virtual doesn’t simply mean livestreaming an in-person event.

Create a cohesive and interactive experience so people tuning in at home don’t feel checked out and can engage with their in-person peers.

Focus On Ease of Use

Ease has become a major differentiating factor for people choosing which events to attend.

They’ve got a million things on their mind and just as many tasks, so you need to make it easy for them to find, select, book, and attend your event — however they choose to do so.

Use creative flexibility to bring your brand to life, even at the browsing and booking stage of your event. How could you make the process fun to showcase the value of the event right away?

Work With a Production Partner

To tackle this new stage of event planning, you’ll need help and guidance along the way.

Working with a production partner can ease the planning and execution phases of your event by getting ahead of potential issues.

And, if you’re excited about creating hybrid live-virtual events, find a partner who understands both worlds.

The pandemic has made us hungrier and hungrier to get together, whether it’s in person or virtually.

As you get back in the swing of planning events, maximize the excitement and accessibility of your meetup by opening your mind to new formats.

Bob Marsh

Bob Marsh is the Chief Revenue Officer at Bluewater, a design-forward technology company that helps craft moments that connect and inspire. Specializing in retail technology, displays and fixtures, as well as AV integration and event tech services, Bluewater works with top brands like Walmart, Ford, and Rocket Mortgage.

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