We are already well into the new year, but the continued uncertainty makes it difficult to know what to expect regarding event design and planning this year.
- Will easing restrictions help attendees feel more comfortable returning to in-person events?
- What role will hybrid events play in event portfolios?
- Will attendees expect more engaging and interactive formats?
There is only one thing that is certain. The way we work and engage with each other has changed – and those changes impact how events are designed and planned.
Here are what we know:
- Audiences crave the ability to connect face-to-face again. But they won’t be satisfied with the same pre-pandemic event formats of long program hours filled with boring breakout presentations.
- Virtual has opened new opportunities for speakers to connect with larger audiences worldwide. Yet, they may still struggle in delivered their presentations effectively in the digital format.
- Sponsors, exhibitors, and partners want to continue to support organizers. However, budgets are smaller, and there may be a greater emphasis – or demand – for ROI.
Whether your event is a corporate sales meeting, an annual association conference, or a charity fundraising, incorporate these eight event design principles into your strategy this year to satisfy audiences’ needs, speaker preferences, and partner requests.
1. Offer online and offline options.
Virtual events have staying power, but they aren’t necessarily a replacement for in-person. Virtual formats work well for short, educational sessions, and they are also a nimble option when time is of the essence to communicate.
On the flipside, in-person events provide opportunities to connect, network, or have more hands-on opportunities. But they must offer a compelling reason for participants to invest in the time and cost to travel and be out of the office.
Expect more event formats (hybrid) that combine in-person and virtual experiences, engagement, and content for both reasons. But how exactly can you apply this principle to your event?
Start by determining how most of your audience will participate – in-person or virtually? Use this insight to guide your online and offline options. For example, if only a small group of attendees participates remotely, a simple stream broadcast with limited interaction may be enough. But if a majority will be a part of the digital experience, you may need to build a more robust platform to allow people to engage more intuitively.
2. Create blended interaction opportunities.
Sticking a camera in the back of the room to broadcast a live stream to remote participants isn’t a hybrid event.
A fundamental event design principle is to build opportunities for online and offline audiences to interact with each other. These moments must be intentional and set up for success. Consider leveraging an audience engagement platform like Evenium ConnexMe that offers both a virtual platform and mobile app audience experience.
3. Re-think engagement opportunities.
Remember, engagement means something different to each attendee. As part of your event design, put yourself in their shoes, and offer various activities for everyone at each stage of the event.
Collaborative sessions, facilitated conversations, or optional chat rooms are all excellent engagement activities that can create a positive experience.
4. Incorporate user-generated content.
In 2022, people will come to events because they want to see, talk, and re-connect.
Give more opportunities for attendees to be a part of the event content beyond typical networking sessions. Here are some ideas for your inspiration:
- Attendee roundtables
- Fireside chats
- Video content submitted by in-person and remote attendees incorporated into a compilation video
User-generated content options like the above can up-level your overall event experience.
5. Upgrade content delivery.
In an era of screen fatigue, commit to thinking outside of the box regarding content delivery.
Content is continuing to evolve in placement, display, and absorption. Think shorter segments, fun and creative approaches like live surveys, polls, collaborative sessions, or new networking formats.
Remember also to consider content platform and display. While some content may work well on a large screen for in-person audiences, double-check the experience for remote participants viewing smaller screens.
And don’t forget to think about designing content that is easily consumable for digital participants and shareable to extend your event reach to a bigger audience. Consider infographics, reels, quotes, blogs, knowledge articles, pre-recorded sessions to watch on-demand, and more.
6. Plan for broadcast quality.
In the early days of the pandemic, attendees overlooked lousy lighting, low-resolution video, and less than ideal audio quality. The bar has been raised, and attendees expect broadcast quality during their digital experiences.
Lean into TV show production set-ups, like multiple cameras, upgraded audio and lighting, and carefully timed transitions come into play differently than if the event was produced for an in-person audience.
Bonus benefit: Up-leveling production quality also adds value to on-demand event content.
7. Add gamification.
What is your wordle score today?
Gamification apps, services, and development have been available for many years. Gamification strategies incentivizing in-person and virtual event attendees boost engagement, help immerse them in the experience, and motivate them to take action. What is your wordle score today?
There are plenty of options to make it fun to participate in, including trivia contests, scavenger hunt contests, partner passports, social media activity, and more.
8. Keep it going 365.
Pre-pandemic, in-person events were often the primary way for large like-minded community groups to come together. But when face-to-face events abruptly stopped, organizers got creative finding new ways to engage their communities, leading to the rise of 365 community engagement.
When designing your event this year, consider keeping your audience engaged outside of the event date. Year-round engagement can happen in the form of regularly scheduled networking sessions, a cadence of distributed content, games, incentives, and other customized content to keep attendees coming back for more.
During the last two years, event planners developed unique and innovative ways to engage their audiences. It’s vital to continue innovating in 2022 and adopt new event design principles like the eight above into the planning process.