Which way now?

What will 2021 bring for conferences and events?

Nothing about 2020 has been normal or expected. Professionally and personally, our lives have been turned entirely upside down. But one pertinent loss for the business world specifically has been conferences and events.

The lack of in-person collaboration and networking has left a massive void in the year. Our plans for MIPIM – delivering the programme for Cheshire & Warrington and speaking on the Manchester stand with Shoosmiths – were scuppered at the last minute. The lack of an autumn networking and conferencing season (and yes, the Christmas parties) has left a huge hole in our lives. And every business, in some way, will have suffered from a lack of connection with their community.

But 2021 will be a brand new year. So what are our predictions for conferences and events in the coming year?

Bringing people back together

Business benefits aside, events are integral for bringing people together. As human beings, we are social creatures. And conferences and events form the backbone of a sense of community, business, and beyond.

They’re a valuable resource that, frankly, is necessary for us to thrive as businesses and industries. So the question isn’t if they’ll come back next year, but how are we now going to share knowledge, create new ideas, share new ideas, collaborate, and move forward, together?

Living with the void isn’t an option, so how do we fill it?

Re-establishing a sense of community is necessary. And our main prediction is that events will come back as soon as they can possibly do so safely. But when they do, they’ll certainly look different.

Digital is here to stay

We touched on digital events earlier in the year. And the digital aspect of conferences and events is here to stay. Whether some conferences remain entirely virtual or some aspects of digital events are incorporated into in-person conferences, digital is the new normal.

First of all, digital makes events accessible for far more people. Even if an event is taking place in-person, providing digital access enables an even wider scope of attendees. It will help keep engagement high despite travel restrictions, work commitments or unease with travelling away from home.

The richer the variety of professionals and experts in attendance, the better an event will be. And why wouldn’t we continue to have as many people as possible take part?

Digital participation tools such as virtual polls, live chats, and question-and-answer sessions also boost the in-person experience of events. A blended approach will certainly pay off in terms of accessibility, engagement, efficiency, and the value generated from an event or conference.

Sticking within tribes

We predict that people will make more careful specific choices about where they go and what they attend.

We will decide what tribes we want to be part of and stay firmly in our lanes, committed to that community. During a time where we were all pushed to our limits, some connections will have been strengthened while others may have been broken. Consequently, we will be much more targeted, intentional, and tactical about where we’re spending our time and energy.

This will deepen the connections and knowledge sharing within a tribe, but we worry that the self-selecting nature of social groups will reduce diversity and increase group-think.

More identifiable tribes will also make conferences and events much easier for marketers. You can be more precise with the audiences you speak to. More sniper, less scattergun. You can form stronger, deeper, more valuable connections with those who resonate most with your values and approach. We think this will be a good thing in the long-run, as long as we reach out to others and resist group-think.

There’s no guarantee what 2021 will bring. However, we think conferences and events will return sooner rather than later because they’re such an essential backbone of the business world. But when they do return, they will definitely look different.

The sooner we can get back to connecting, sharing ideas, and collaborating, the better.

If you want to strengthen your marketing strategy in the new year, get in touch with Luma Marketing today.

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