An Outlook on Events in 2022: Expansion, Expectations and Excitement

If you feel like the events industry spent the last two years in the wilderness, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. From the sudden and comprehensive cancellation of in-person gatherings in 2020 to the patchwork landscape of hastily organized virtual events in early 2021, we’ve definitely had our share of upheaval and uncertainty. And we’re not out of the woods just yet. The recent surge of the Omicron coronavirus variant highlights just how tenuous conference and event marketing remains right now — and how omnipresent the shadow of COVID continues to be. 

But there is some good news on the events horizon. According to our data, more companies recognize the value of hosting events and plan to make investments that’ll make their gatherings more memorable, engaging, and impactful to the business. That’s the sort of optimism and forward-thinking that translates to a sustainable, healthy industry outlook. 

In the 2022 Outlook on Events report, based on a survey of U.S. event professionals conducted in late 2021, we found that many businesses plan to host more events in 2022. But they also expect them to generate results. More than 43% of respondents said they measure the success of events by their impact on revenue, an increase over last year. Our survey also found that 38% of companies plan to increase their event marketing budgets this year, compared to just 28% in 2021.  

The projected rebound in event volume has been predicted — and hoped for — across the industry since 2022. But the new emphasis on events generating measurable results has been driven by the shift toward virtual and hybrid event formats, advances in event marketing and management technology, and the increasing availability of event performance metrics resulting from the combination of those factors. 

The upshot for event professionals and businesses that plan to host gatherings this year? The new generation of virtual and hybrid events can be extraordinarily effective at delivering real results that impact the bottom line. With that increased efficacy, however, comes new expectations. 

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Virtual and hybrid events driving growth — and ROI expectations 

Over the last two years, event marketers got all the practice they needed executing virtual and hybrid events. They learned just how valuable getting the right attendees to the right event can be in the process. Because it’s easier to track attendee activity during virtual events — provided the right marketing tech stack is in place — event professionals can measure event ROI more accurately. That has raised expectations for the business outcomes events can drive, possibly contributing to the rising percentage of businesses that gauge event success by their revenue impact.

The potential for events to drive positive ROI is fueling a boom in virtual, in-person, and hybrid events to start the year. Additionally, the “old” event data set about how many people registered and how many attended has evolved. Now, marketers have the right tools to measure true ROI, pipeline development, and conversion rates in ways unlike before.

Event marketers’ ability to capture advanced ROI metrics through digital tools will only increase as the volume of events held swells through the year, as attendees remain eager to participate in virtual, hybrid, and in-person events. Sixty percent of those polled in the Splash report cited earlier plan to attend a conference for work in 2022. In fact, when we conducted the survey in November 2021, 63% of respondents were already registered to attend two or more virtual events this year, and 64% were registered for two or more in-person events.   

Emphasis on event flexibility 

There is no one correct answer for what type of events will work best for every organization in 2022. Our survey found that 50% of companies plan to host more in-person events, while 45% of companies anticipate hosting more virtual events this year. 

One constant, however, is the ongoing need for flexibility.  

Event organizers, like those responsible for CES and NRF, proactively planned a hybrid event program to accommodate those who prefer virtual experiences to in-person gatherings. Significant contingents of event attendees across industries will share this preference this year, so event technology that allows for more targeted, streamlined, engaging hybrid and virtual events is essential.  

Thanks to advancements in event tech that proliferated during the pandemic, event marketers have the tools to ensure their events are significantly better orchestrated, more inclusive, and more effective than they were just a few years ago. With the right event marketing platform, virtual and hybrid events are also more replicable than their in-person counterparts in the past. That means event marketers can easily organize a series of smaller events with consistent branding and format, but tailored to targeted audiences and designed to accommodate varying risk tolerances. 

Ultimately, though, professionals can differentiate their events and generate positive ROI for their companies by delivering memorable and consistent experiences to all attendees, whether they are on-site or dialing in.  

While the industry needs to be prepared for uncertainty, people are eager to attend events of all types this year to connect, share ideas, and be inspired by one another. Event professionals need to have the right tech stack to maximize the impact of these events and use event data to inform future initiatives. When the new approaches to event types and formats are complemented by optimized event marketing technology, the actual value of events can be unlocked and deliver significant results for the companies that host them.

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