In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic turned the whole world upside down. Almost overnight, people were social distancing, adhering to government-mandated stay-at-home orders, and the events industry was shut down.
The lingering effects of the health crisis created a “new normal”. For accountants, this meant working remotely, handling new financial schemes for clients, and moving in-person events online.
In late 2021, in-person events seemed to be back on. For instance, in November 2021, INAA held its AGM in Frankfurt. But what does the future hold for in-person events? Will virtual events become a distant memory in 2022? Continue reading to find out.
Since the pandemic, we have seen a major shift towards virtual and hybrid events. HubSpot Blog Research found roughly 40% of marketers plan to increase their investments in virtual events, webinars, and conferences in 2022, followed by 39% who plan to spend the same amount as they did in 2021. Just 16% plan on decreasing their investment.
Virtual events make it easier than ever to deliver a world-class line-up of participants. Organisers can secure guest speakers and experts from around the world who may not have been able to attend in person. Online events also have a wider reach, accommodating more attendees than a conference centre ever could.
Likewise, the longer shelf-life of virtual events means they can bring more value to firms in the future. For example, if an accounting firm holds a webinar on tax digitalisation for SMEs, the content from the webinar can be repurposed for post-event email campaigns, or the session could be recorded for anyone unable to attend.
There is also an environmental advantage to virtual events. Research from LinkedIn shows that 42% of organisers will continue to produce virtual events because they are more environmentally friendly than in-person sessions, eliminating the need for travel and cutting down on single-use plastics often found at live events.
But virtual events aren’t for everyone. Setting up a live stream, for instance, requires a more technical skill set than in-person events, making it a challenge for certain demographics. Furthermore, business leaders may be wary of virtual-only experiences, particularly if their audience learns and networks best in person.
That’s where the hybrid event comes in.
Hybrid events are held with digital and in-person attendees, posing a powerful alternative to traditional or fully remote events.
The hybrid model allows organisers to scale their events while connecting with those who cannot attend in person for physical, financial or medical reasons. The flexibility of the model will also prove a significant benefit amidst the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic. If events need to go fully online again or attendees are prohibited from travelling, organisers can easily pivot to meet these needs.
However, if you choose to organise a hybrid event, you may need to work harder to recreate the human connection. Research carried out by Qualtrics highlighted that the two key factors people miss the most from in-person events are “face-to-face networking” and “interactivity”. If you’re planning on holding a hybrid event in 2022, consider including live Q&A sessions and chat functionality so that virtual attendees still feel connected to the event.
Combining the virtual and in-person experience enables professional conferences and live events to go ahead while allowing attendees the freedom to choose what makes them most comfortable. But will they replace in-person events for good?
When the pandemic struck, organisations had no option but to take their events online. But humans are social creatures, and many prefer face-to-face interactions. It’s much easier to walk around a convention and meet new people than waiting for an opportunity to unmute your microphone at the same time as fifty other accountants on a Zoom call.
According to a survey carried out in May 2021, 59% of respondents prefer virtual events, but only 41% would still prefer to attend a virtual event in 2022. This preference varies around the world. Countries such as the UK (71%) and France (76%) are leading the charge for a return to in-person events after 2021. In the US, however, this figure drops to 57%.
A critical element of any in-person event post-pandemic will be health and safety. Many people still view large events with trepidation. Organisers must provide reassurance in the form of enhanced health and safety measures, such as social distancing or frequent sanitisation.
After examining all three types of events, it’s clear that virtual-only events have had their heyday and are no longer a priority for businesses. Meanwhile, hybrid events are a powerful alternative, combining the benefits of both virtual and in-person events. Lastly, face-to-face events will become more common again in 2022, empowering CPAs to connect with peers and potential clients on a more human level.
But there are no rules. If you’re planning on organising or attending an event in 2022, you must do whatever makes you most comfortable.
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