2021: A Reflection
There’s a palpable “end of year” feeling in the air. The Christmas lights are up and, despite last night’s announcement, we are all looking forward to spending time with our loved ones after another challenging twelve months.
This time of year inevitably brings with it an element of retrospection. How did we do? What have we learned? What will do differently in 2022?
The 2021 Aspect Insights Report provides a great frame of reference for this, as we look back at our predictions for an industry still rocked by the effects of a global pandemic.
In March 2020, the industry was forced to pivot. By January 2021, when it became clear that we weren’t out of the woods, businesses were looking for ways to integrate virtual into their permanent event mix and make the format more engaging for their audiences. We advocated for best-in-class production values and superior technology solutions to bring content to life with authenticity and originality.
It’s great to see how much progress we’ve made since January – think about it, when’s the last time you heard someone mention Zoom fatigue? This is in part due the world getting slowly but surely back to normal but mostly because organisations have upped their virtual game. What’s exciting is that there is still so much untapped potential in virtual event production – we look forward to continuing to support our clients to explore everything the format has to offer.
Innovating with technology
At the start of the year, we predicted that technology will continue to be at the core of all event formats. Virtual reality, mixed reality, AI, broadcast quality productions, and the latest animation techniques would all play their part. We knew that the real value would come from embracing a “mix and match” approach of platforms for each event and tech collaboration.
Many of our clients have embraced these innovations, which has resulted in some truly imaginative and memorable events. Online networking capabilities have improved but we know this is an area with great potential for further optimisation. We’ve also seen success with organisations adopting alternative channels such as podcasts, providing an opportunity for ongoing audience engagement as part of an overall communications strategy.
The audience journey
One of the biggest concerns about virtual was the perceived disparity between the in-person and digital event experience, mainly due to the lack of human connection. In contrast, one of the greatest opportunities was giving delegates the choice to engage with an event in whichever way suited them most, providing ultimate flexibility. The focus needed to be on audience journey mapping to ensure that each experience was meaningful and exciting in its own right.
Understanding and considering the specific requirements and objectives of each audience remains key. While events used to prioritise the in-person experience, they are now increasingly optimised for the variety of different ways people choose to watch and participate.
We predicted that the tidal wave of collective environmental consciousness was going to keep sustainability near the top of business agendas. With no travel or physical waste, the emissions generated from virtual events are smaller – great news. But they do still exist. From social media apps to video hosting platforms, the internet uses energy to store and transmit data.
Motivated by this year’s COP26 climate change conference, organisations increasingly acknowledge that reducing their carbon footprint is key to hosting environmentally sustainable events, whether they be virtual, hybrid or live. Not only do sustainable event offerings raise awareness of issues and inspire change, they can also cut running costs, boost an organisation’s reputation, and open up a whole new world of sponsorship opportunities.
We’ve always known that one of the true advantages of virtual is its capacity to provide a wealth of actionable data. Measurement criteria can be set depending on whether the objective is to increase revenue, retain customers, or change behaviours in an audience. The ability to track how delegates behave and interact with the content, provides rich data to inform the organiser’s marketing, comms or sales strategy.
Our approach to achieving maximum ROI for our clients is based on providing a more integrated communications and audience engagement solution, which allows the data mined from an event to extend the content’s lifecycle, not to mention the potential of reaching a much wider audience. This has and will continue to have positive implications for measurement, future marcomms activity and event sponsorship opportunities.
A new breed of events professional
Getting used to the new technology involved in running a virtual event presented one of the biggest challenges for event professionals. Equally, understanding how best to shape the content and map each audience journey to optimise engagement across different formats was going to become an essential part of any event strategy.
Organisations have had to recognise where the internal skills gaps in these areas are and provide learning and development opportunities for their employees. In reality, much of an event professional’s previous experience and specialisation has remained relevant, it was just a matter of applying it in a different context.
It’s been another challenging year for our industry but there is no doubt in my mind that we will reap the rewards of this period of accelerated transformation for years to come. At Aspect we are excited to continue to work with our clients on future-proofing their event and broader communications strategies.
And while you’re here … We are currently in the research phase of our 2022 Insights Report, due for publication in January. If you’d like to have a say in it (anonymously, of course), please follow the link to our survey.