After the unpredictability of 2020, associations, communities, and societies saw reason to be hopeful in 2021 for the return of safe, in-person meetings and events with the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine. This year, in-person conferences and tradeshows are re-emerging around the world, but not all with the full participation from attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors we hoped to see as new waves and variants of COVID continue to present challenges. For 2022, there are three mega event trends associations should keep an eye on to remain relevant in a fast-evolving world.
Health and Safety
COVID-19 is an ongoing obstacle that is top of mind for everyone. Depending on the industry, there are varying degrees of response from show organizers, attendees, and partners. It will be important for associations to build a value proposition for why members, speakers, companies, and exhibitors should travel and participate in a safe in-person event or tradeshow, or identify if and how a hybrid approach is the best solution to meet the health and safety needs of your community and stakeholders.
Event Value Proposition and Stakeholder ROI
The past two years created a world in which companies and individuals were able to engage virtually, sometimes obtaining more reach and engagement than if they had participated in-person. To drive in-person attendance, the onsite event experiences have to be new, exciting, and meet the current and evolving needs of all audiences involved. Companies have tightened their belts and attendees are comfortable in a virtual world – what value is there to return in-person? Associations will have to deliver the “why come back” for members of their communities. In times like these, when difficult decisions are needed or your association has to efficiently manage limited resources, an objective viewpoint or specialized consultant may be an option to offer a new perspective or provide subject-matter expertise.
There is no barrier to prevent anyone from launching their own event to a similar audience; even large exhibitors can launch their own events and become their own media publishers and content creators to engage with B2B buyers. To stay ahead of the for-profit competition, associations have to embrace a digital mindset. The event landscape associations are a part of has shifted, and associations have to shift and adapt too. Now is the time to reimagine the creation, delivery, and commoditization of the member, exhibitor, and sponsor experience to meet the current needs of stakeholders. It is critical to review your association’s event portfolio and plan to integrate new or different digital elements to remain relevant.
Ande Leslie is in Marketing & Communication Services at Smithbucklin.