2020 was an earthquake for the events industry.

Brought on by a pandemic that necessitated social distancing, many traditional in-person gatherings were either postponed or altogether cancelled.

However, there was another alternative that emerged during this period of great challenge: the virtual event.

As with video conferencing, virtual events became a powerful way to maintain connections and communities, all while keeping people safe.

While we are not yet in the clear, the growing availability of vaccines has started to bring the end of the pandemic in sight.

As we look to life after the pandemic, what will happen to events?

That was the central question we asked when initiating our comprehensive State of Events in 2021 and Beyond Report—which surveyed 1,500+ event professionals and organizations about the future of events.

In this article, we share the 5 key takeaways from our Report.

1. The pandemic remains the biggest challenge for event organizers in 2021.

Although the world is slowly reopening, 64.4% of event organizers say the pandemic remains their greatest challenge in 2021 and beyond.

It’s no surprise, given the uncertainty that Covid-19 and its variants have created. When considering physical events, organizers are concerned about:

  • Low attendance
  • Covid-19 cases rising immediately before the event
  • Local regulations changing before an event
  • A breakout occurring during or after an event

These uncertainties can put an entire event in jeopardy. Considering the cost of in-person events, this is a massive risk for many organizations.

To combat this risk, many organizations are hosting—and plan to continue hosting—virtual and hybrid events.

By removing the in-person element altogether, a virtual event can practically eliminate the risk of disease spread.

Meanwhile, hybrid events can significantly decrease the number of in-person attendees to minimize risk and adhere to local social distancing guidelines.

2. Event organizers are turning to virtual and hybrid events over exclusively in-person events.

To reduce the risk of in-person events, event organizers are running more virtual and hybrid events and fewer exclusively physical events.

According to our research findings, 72.3% of people plan to run one or more virtual events in 2021 while 52.4% plan to run one or more hybrid events in 2021.

In comparison, only 35.8% of survey respondents plan to host an exclusively in-person event in 2021.

In the process of hosting more virtual and hybrid events to deal with Covid-19, many event organizers realized the lasting benefits of virtual and hybrid—increased reach and event attendance being one of the major ones.

Hybrid and virtual events aren’t merely a bandaid to make it through Covid-19. They have long-term benefits and are a part of a healthy, effective event strategy.

3. Hybrid and virtual events open up attendance to a larger audience.

Due to expensive travel costs and the risks of in-person interaction during a pandemic, many people are unwilling to travel to physical events.

Event organizers agree that hybrid and virtual events eliminate these in-person event limitations and open up attendance to a larger, more diverse audience. 

Seventy-nine percent of respondents said virtual events open up attendance to a larger audience of people who can’t attend in person. 74.3% of respondents said that hybrid events open up attendance to a larger audience of people.

Event organizers’ definition of events is changing. Events, even post-pandemic, no longer need to be bound to a single location. Travel isn’t necessary. Hybrid and virtual events can attract a geographically distributed audience, which benefits businesses seeking to build awareness, grow, and reach their business goals. 

Related: 8 Reasons Why the Future of Events Is Hybrid

4. Event engagement is a key to success and a challenge.

While hybrid and virtual events provide massive advantages to event organizers—especially during Covid-19 recovery—they also bring new challenges.

One is engagement. 86.3% of survey respondents said the main advantage of in-person events is better human connection and better engagement.

With a virtual or hybrid event, event organizers must battle online fatigue and online distractions. In fact, 40.4% of event organizers said that engaging audiences is their biggest challenge in 2021. 

Engagement is also a key to success. 30.2% of event organizers say that interaction and engagement among attendees and speakers is the most important part of running a successful event in 2021, and 14.7% of respondents say engaging content and speakers is the most important element of a successful event in 2021.

Virtual and hybrid events change the nature of events. They create new opportunities for engagement that aren’t possible at an in-person event. For many attendees, starting an in-person conversation or asking an in-person question is difficult. Hybrid and virtual event technology makes this easier. 

Attendees can more easily network one-on-one as technology pairs them together. Attendees can ask questions on screen or via chat, giving them the ability to choose how they want to engage depending on their comfort level.

On top of that, virtual and hybrid events make it more possible for attendees to meet with other people from around the world and expand their network, since these events are not location bound.

5. Reliable and innovative technology is a must-have for successful, engaging events.

Event organizers are turning to technology to solve their engagement challenges. Reliable and innovative event technology is most important to the most event organizers (32.5%) when it comes to creating successful events in 2021.

When asked what event platform feature or tool is most important to them, event organizers said (35.3%) that multiple, separate virtual spaces within one event is of top importance.

Of next importance to event organizers are engagement features, like 1-on-1 video networking (15.8%), interactive chat and polls (10.8%), and group meetings (8.5%).

Since traditional video conferencing and webinar tools don’t provide many of these features, event organizers are looking elsewhere. Full-scale event technology, like Hopin, is becoming the option of choice to deliver immersive, engaging events.

For all the findings and data in our State of Events Report in 2021 and Beyond, download the report on the Hopin website.