The COVID-19 crisis has upended few sectors as completely as the events industry. The question now is, will virtual and video-based events be the norm once the pandemic has passed?

Event planners and speakers aren’t the only ones paying attention, either. Recruiters are worried about on-campus events. Employees wonder whether in-person conferences will still make sense for professional development.

What does the event industry’s future hold? Keep an eye out for these trends, now and after the pandemic ends:

Virtual Events Will Be the New Normal

COVID-19 proved that not only are virtual events possible for large groups, but they can be engaging as well. While there are certainly pros and cons to hosting an event online instead of in person, seven in 10 marketers foresee virtual events will be the norm past 2020 according to a 614 Group survey.

The good news is, virtual events are much easier to organize. There’s no need to hunt down and book a venue, or plan refreshments or accommodations for attendees. All you need is video software everyone can use. For these reasons, it’s also much cheaper to put together a virtual event.

But the reality is, a virtual event just isn’t as impactful as a physical one. That’s why the dynamic of in-person events will also shift.

Related Article: Shifting to a Virtual Events Strategy

In-Person Events Will Gain Exclusivity

Due to how common their virtual counterparts will become, in-person events will increase in status and demand. That may also transform the topics and types of attendees they attract.

Lauren O’Brien, COO of VentureBeat and VB Transform, foresees in-person events catering to executives. “We believe that in-person events will remain highly desirable for executives mainly for the networking and one-to-one, in-person meetings that they facilitate,” she explained.

In a virtual event, networking simply isn’t the same. The sensation of sharing a room with influential people doesn’t translate well over an internet connection. O’Brien is confident those factors will ensure that, like paper books survived e-books, in-person events are here to stay

Related Article: Video Conferences Will Not Replace Face-to-Face Events

Hybrids Will Become Common

An innovative event trend surfacing is the rise of hybrid events. These events will balance the engagement of real-world events with the safety and ease of digital ones.

O’Brien sketched out what these might look like: “We envision hybrid events where there will be an element of in-person networking experiences coupled with digital content broadcast to a much wider audience.” Attendees will be able to pick and choose how much of their own time, such as for travel, they want to invest in the event.

Learning Opportunities

Hybrid events bring exciting possibilities to the table. Presenters will find new ways to mix and match, such as in-person activities that remote attendees can also try at home.

Related Article: Virtual Events in 2009: Then vs. Now

The Biggest Events Will Be Open to Anyone

Events like SXSW and the Sundance Film Festival draw millions of people from all over the world. At that scale, the capacity of vendors like hotels and venues becomes an issue.

Not only is attending a virtual event easier, but it means these events will no longer be capped by third-parties’ capacity. At these events, anyone will be able to see big-name speakers and bands present in real time.

For entertainment as well as professional development, the democratization of top-tier events will make a world of difference. Barriers like price, time off and ticket volumes shut many workers out.

New Monetization Options Will Emerge

Much has been said about the economic effects of fewer in-person events. But for every restaurant that misses out on business from in-person attendees, another company will benefit.

Gil Becker, CEO of AnyClip, argues media and software companies will see some of the greatest gains. "Outside of traditional sponsorships, virtual events present multiple untapped opportunities to monetize video content," Becker explained. "This includes pre-event promotion, streaming during the event, and post-event opportunities like subscriptions, promotional content, video and display ads, click to action, and more."

These monetizations won’t only benefit sponsors. They’ll also help the host by engaging new audiences. The resulting flywheel effect will mean more revenue for everyone involved.

The future of events is exciting, even if the content they cover won’t be dramatically different. But the attendees, formats, sponsorships and virtually everything else about tomorrow’s events will be. See for yourself — you just might learn something new or make a fresh connection.

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