Insights
Emerging Event Trends

03 August 2021
By Nazlihasri Abdul Rahman
The COVID-19 pandemic arrived in late 2019 and rampaged throughout 2020 like a storm, leaving a devastating wake on society. Many economies are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, and heavy uncertainty still looms as we discover variants of the virus, seemingly as though there is no stopping this pandemic. However, the presence of COVID-19 did accelerate a decade’s worth of digital transformation into just a few weeks. While there is still much uncertainty ahead, however, virtual events are here to stay, and the future is hybrid.
A hybrid event combines a “live” in-person event with a “virtual” online component. It will become the new normal, where both in-person and virtual audiences merge together as an experience. Virtual participants can interact with in-person attendees, exhibitors and sponsors; while in-person attendees can engage virtually, viewing parallel sessions and even network with others on the personal devices of their choice.

Below are some of the emerging event trends that will propel the event industry forward into the new hybrid events era.
Interactive Entertainment
Let’s take a look at the recent IBM Digital Transformation Summit 2021. To demonstrate interactivity, the organiser invited the audience to participate in the co-creation of a musical piece which will be played by a live band. They did that by asking via a poll to get the audience to suggest a song, genre and a word that appeared in the audiences’ mind, relevant to the summit topic. When it was time to perform, the band delivered a personalised song derived from the input received from the audiences.
Curated Session Tracks
Content is king! It is vital to captivate the attention of the content consumer. On top of that, it is important to organise multiple sessions in an event. Curated session tracks allow attendees to easily navigate content and focus on the topics that interest them. The key is to consider and understand what the audience wants to listen to and how they would like to consume the information by matching their interest with the closest relevant content presented in an organised manner.
Business Matching
Connectivity is an important element which can determine the success of an event. One of the selling propositions of any event is to connect people and generate business or network leads. Studies have shown that an average 75% of participants attend events because they want to establish new leads and potential business partners. Leveraging on data profiling and match making technologies, quality networking opportunity is possible. Attendees can select their interests and offerings to be matched with other attendees or products, set mutual meetings or even sealing a deal.
Virtual Photo Booths
Photo booths have always been an essential at most in-person events. In the digital realm, these booths evolved into interactive offerings that utilise the user device’s camera. Images are easily customisable making it easy to create engaging, shareable and branded content. At the same time, photo booths offer branding opportunities as they can be sponsored items to boost a brand’s presence at the event.
Immersive Virtual Experiential
Having a digital representation of the user (avatars) creates a way for virtual attendees to feel present and able to effectively engage in a virtual space. Virtual participants are given the opportunity to craft their virtual identity which will represent them as they navigate the virtual platform, simulating a physical experience.

Hosted by PETRONAS, the International Project Management Conference (IPMC) 2020, which was held on 1 & 2 December 2020, saw the participation of more than 1,400 participants from 19 countries across the oil and gas, new energy, maritime and shipping, building and infrastructure and digital industries. At IPMC 2020, virtual attendees were able to choose their preset avatars and interact with other virtual attendees in a 3D immersive environment. Other than serving as a conducive platform for exchange of knowledge and best practices for the project management fraternity, this new immersive conference and exhibition brought out fun and creativity of a virtual event experience.
360-Degree Tours
A 360-degree tour can not only deliver both the virtual and in-person experiences together, but also help in making the event memorable and highly immersive for the audience. In a hybrid event, it allows virtual attendees to tour event site, have a chat with in-person or virtual attendees and many other activities that help attendees get an idea of how the environment actually feels.
Professional In-Studio Session Recordings
If you are really looking to elevate your sessions, consider recording them in a studio with a professional production team. It rivals the quality of news broadcasts and can bring your event to the next level. With the use of green screens, multi-camera, studio lighting, broadcast quality audio, virtual backgrounds and other professional equipment, in-studio recordings will dramatically level up the quality of an event.
Branded Virtual Backgrounds
Uniformity throughout the presentations of an event can be addressed through branded virtual backgrounds. Anyone may be recorded from any part of the world, but by using the same backgrounds it gives a cohesive look. Having the same virtual backgrounds for hosts and speakers will create an impactful brand exposure and unified experience for the audience.
Gamification
Leaderboards are a great way to boost engagement and encourage attendees to experience the event. Attendees can earn points through performing simple activities such as downloading materials from the exhibition booth, exchanging business cards, and attending keynote sessions & breakout sessions. To incentivise attendees, the top winners will be acknowledged with rewards and prizes for participating. The key intent is to promote feature utilisation, interaction and networking.
On-Demand Sessions
On-demand sessions allow attendees to catch session replays at their convenience even after the event is over. It is especially helpful for tackling issues such as different time zones when hosting a global audience. Additionally, by keeping content and functions available on-demand, the user will feel that their needs matter to the organisers, and degrees of flexibility such as this will go a long way in delivering a live experience and even lead generation are well provided after the event is over.
Wrapping Up: The Sky Is the Limit
Event trends will keep changing, and to sustain, event organisers will have to adapt to the evolving needs and demands. Virtual or hybrid events will continue to become prevalent in 2021 and beyond as organisations find more ways in managing the many impacts of COVID-19. The right tools allow event organisers to transform any part of an in-person event to a digital environment. Look outside the industry for inspiration; it can provide great ideas that attendees may have not seen before, making the event more interesting, value-driven and engaging.
© 2021 International Conference and Exhibition Professionals (iCEP)
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