What’s Ahead for Events in 2021

This year is an opportunity for companies and organizations to rethink their events. Instead of returning to the same format, hosts should leverage lessons learned from a year of virtual events to reimagine in-person experiences.

Here are the event insights and trends we’re watching in 2021:

  • The return of in-person events will follow our recovery from COVID-19. Even then, event organizers will have to rethink signage, registration, catering, floor plans, security and more. Extensive safety guidelines will go a long way toward making attendees feel comfortable and provide a safe in-person experience. The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in May—Davos in Singapore—is set to be the first in-person global conference since the start of COVID-19 and could provide a large-scale model for health and safety protocols if it can be done safely.
  • Smaller events will return first. Salon dinners and roundtable discussions will be back before fly-ins and policy conferences. For attendees, smaller events mean a more thoughtful discussion, and for hosts, the potential to have additional smaller events throughout the year, engaging with an audience more regularly.
  • Hybrid events are likely to become the new normal. Virtual events do have some upsides: broader audiences, less environmental impact, lower costs. Not every event will fit a hybrid model, but as in-person events return, most will have a virtual component—and the most successful hybrid events will offer an equal experience to both sets of attendees. 

  • Sideline events and meetings are incredibly valuable. In-person events help sustain relationships, and it’s often the side receptions, chance encounters and unofficial networking opportunities that attendees value most. Those side events also help drive conversation—social media buzz around this year’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference was down 55% without the meetings and parties to connect people in-person and online.