So much has changed over the past year – including what people expect from events. What’s “normal” is a continually evolving concept, so what once seemed like a novelty can quickly become something people depend on having. In this post, we outline what audiences expect from events now – and how to deliver.
On-Demand Content Is No Longer Optional
On-demand content is now a vital component of an event – and it’s not limited to virtual events. Pre-2020, there was a “one-shot” attitude toward events: audience members had one chance to attend however many sessions they could physically be present for, choosing between multiple tracks. If a work emergency pulled them out of the room for 15 minutes, or if they were late getting to the event venue, there was no way to see or hear what they missed.
The explosion of virtual events in 2020 drove the use of on-demand content, because the events were relatively easy to record. As more people discovered the convenience of on-demand and the added value it brought to their experience, hybrid and even live events frequently now have on-demand content available for attendees after the event.
On-demand allows people to access content that was unavailable to them during the actual event as well as revisit content they may have seen previously. On-demand content can be provided in a number of ways: a permanent library, videos that are only available for a certain amount of time, or through a subscription platform.
How highly produced on-demand content needs to be depends on your event goals, how your audience likes to receive content, and the shelf life of the content.
Event Attendees Want More Flexibility
Experience planners know that the number of confirmed attendees impacts every aspect of the event. In a well-executed event, though, audiences aren’t thinking about any of the logistics. Everything seems like it just magically appeared. This is the goal, but it can also mean that attendees don’t make plans in advance or change their registration status at the last minute.
This became more pervasive over the past year for two reasons. The first is that people enjoyed the convenience of signing up for things at the last minute or canceling if their plans changed. The second is that because so many things did change over the past year, people were more hesitant about committing to something even a month into the future.
Finding a way to meet the needs of both attendees and event hosts requires some creativity. Incentives can be offered for early commitment or firm commitment. Packages can also be created that give attendees a different kind of experience if they register late or as an alternative to an outright cancellation.
Events Carry More Social Importance
People have been apart for a long time, and for some people that isolation may be even more deeply felt. What may have previously been a routine event is now thought of with the kind of anticipation and excitement as a 20-year reunion.
When planning an event, it’s important to maximize the number of personal interactions to meet these heightened emotional expectations. Activities can be optional so more introverted people also feel comfortable, but even things like a morning yoga session or an afternoon coffee break with mingling can help deliver on the need for social connection. For larger events, circulating a list of attendees prior to the event can give people something extra to look forward to.
Virtual Needs to Pack a Bigger Punch…
“Zoom” has become a noun and a verb. Especially if people are working remotely, they are spending a lot of time on video calls. This no longer has the same element of fun that it once did, and “Zoom fatigue” is real.
To be successful, virtual events need to be more impactful, better produced, and have a clearly defined reason for existing. Virtual events are delivered through a computer screen, but they don’t have to be defined by the screen. Outside-the-box thinking and knowledge of cutting-edge technologies are crucial to creating an experience that wows even the most jaded zoomer.
… And So Do Live Events
Live events can be exciting and joyful, filled with opportunities for genuine human connection and knowledge acquisition. Attending one also requires more effort and planning than staying home. This means event planners need to wage war on inertia by developing innovative and engaging experiences. Attendees are weighing the cost, time, effort, and in some cases child or family member care necessary for them to attend, so the experience needs to have enough “can’t miss” components that the decision to say yes is easy.
Sanitation and Hygiene Will Remain Front and Center
There’s nothing like a global pandemic to get everything thinking about germs. People have been conditioned to follow certain safety protocols and to confirm that the places they visit, sleep, and eat are also following them. Seemingly little things can make guests feel cared for: making sure restroom soap dispensers are stocked, providing hand sanitizer stations, educating attendees about venue cleaning protocols and frequencies. More importantly, these touches will allow guests to relax into the event experience.