8 Key Trends for Live, Virtual, and Hybrid Events

October 4, 2023
Lindsay McGuire
Lindsay McGuire
Associate Director of Content and Campaigns at Goldcast

Maximize Your Marketing ROI

Join 10,000 other marketers already getting the best tips on running engaging events that boost pipeline and create raving fans.

While the global virtual events market is expected to increase exponentially over the next 4-5 years, that doesn't mean that just any virtual event will make your audience happy.

As the events industry continues to evolve, audiences want more. More engagement, more networking, more value. People have less patience for technical glitches and clunky, outdated platforms, and they're looking for companies that deliver on their promises and won't waste their time.

Most of all, people want options, including the option to attend in-person or via their devices, meaning hybrid events are a great way to make everyone happy.

Today, we'll dive into some key trends we're seeing in the events world and talk about attendee expectations, how to maintain engagement, and more!

Read on to learn:

  • Why are event trends changing?
  • 8 leading trends in the events industry
  • Why does audience engagement matter?
  • How to engage with your audience during any type of event
  • Goldcast's event management platform helps you engage attendees and prove ROI

Before we get started, have you read the Goldcast Attendee Sentiment Report yet? If you haven't, it's a great rundown of exactly what your audience is looking for when it comes to events. Get your report below!

Why are event trends changing?

Event trends shift due to many factors. Here are the most relevant ones right now:

Convenience and flexibility

We all know that the pandemic forced us online in 2020, which meant the industry had to do a quick pivot to get up-to-speed with hosting virtual-only events.

Since then, many companies have continued on with virtual events, even while adding in-person events back to the roster. Hybrid events have emerged as a sort of happy medium and a way to do both, and we continue to see more of those hit the scene. Hybrid events, as compared to physical events, are more accessible and accommodate a larger audience.

New technology

Advancements in tech continue to revolutionize every industry, including ours. Event technology has become increasingly sophisticated, with platforms offering advanced engagement features and striving to replicate the in-person event experience. As we see more artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and other technology trends arrive, the events industry will change accordingly.

Evolving attendee expectations

It's one thing for a technology to be available; it's another to see people responding well to that technology and, over time, expecting it. As people attend events where they're offered personalized experiences tailored to their needs, they're going to want more of those! People are now much less likely to sign up for a generalized, run-of-the-mill event when they know there is a better experience available.

Folks also want things to be seamless. They're looking for on-brand registration pages they can instantly associate with your company. They want it to be simple to sign up and attend your event. And, if they can't attend, they're looking to access the content on-demand whenever they have a chance to catch up.

Data-driven insights

Event platforms like Goldcast allow users to collect valuable event data about attendees and their preferences. As organizers accumulate more information about what people like, and what they'll interact with, events are changing to be more engaging and interesting.

For example, if a post-event survey alerts an event marketer that respondents want more product demo events, they'll likely begin hosting more of those. Other companies may take note of the success of these events and begin hosting more product demos as well, leading to a larger trend.

8 leading trends in the events industry

This year, we've seen hybrid event formats continue to evolve, and lots of new technologies hit the scene. Here are the top event industry trends to keep an eye on right now:

Hybrid events and elements

Hybrid events are sessions that combine elements of both in-person and online experiences. Hybrid events offer a blend of IRL and virtual engagement opportunities and can help companies offer an event to a wider market.

Typically, hybrid events happen on-site at a physical event space, and the sessions are live-streamed in real-time.

Event platforms like Goldcast take things to the next level, engaging virtual attendees in ways that parallel the in-person experience and help the virtual folks stay connected with the physical audience. Features like interactive Q&A, allowing for multiple event tracks with live streaming, and 1:1 networking all come in handy for hybrid events.

PS: Looking to choose the best hybrid event platform? Have a look at our 15-point checklist to help you decide!

AI tools

We've talked before about why AI can't replace your creative team—but we do believe it can make your life easier!

Companies are leaning on AI for things like:

  • Recommending content for specific audiences
  • Using chatbots to field general questions or funnel people toward registration
  • Analyzing large amounts of data to pull out the most relevant insights
  • Creating rough drafts of copy to use (could be for the event itself, promo materials, repurposing content afterward, etc)
  • Translating event content into multiple languages for accessibility reasons

There's no harm in viewing AI as an "assistant" of sorts. Next time you're stuck, whether in the brainstorming phase or with a task that feels unwieldy, see if there's a way that AI can help lighten your workload.

Engagement and entertainment options

To offset virtual fatigue, event planners have been thinking outside the box on ways to keep folks entertained. Just when we think we've seen it all, something more creative pops up on our radar! From live DJ sets to comedic relief, or in-event scavenger hunts to full-on workshops, the options run the gamut.

Think about your target audience and what entertainment might resonate with them. If you're in a high-stress industry, maybe a quick yoga stretching session or meditation break fits the bill. Or perhaps you want to teach everyone some dance moves to break the ice and keep things light.

Other ideas: virtual photobooths, live art demonstrations, contests/giveaways, and virtual award ceremonies, like the one we hosted for our top customers!

Data-driven personalization

As event organizers gain access to more event-related data, they're able to further personalize and customize the event experience. We expect to see more targeted, relevant event agendas that speak to specific audience needs and interests, as well as matchmaking between attendees to help people get the most networking value from the events they attend.

There are myriad other ways data leads to more personalized outreach. Event professionals might choose to segment email marketing lists according to demographic data or attendee interests. Engagement data can also be relayed to the sales team, so they can follow up with the warmest leads (we call these "hand raisers").

Read Next: Successful Post-Event Follow-Up: Synergizing Your Sales and Marketing Teams

Live streaming and on-demand access

These days, people expect to be able to view your content, no matter where they are in the world—and if they can't attend live, they'd like to view it after the event ends.

Live streaming is an accessible way to get your message out to everyone who'd like to attend, even if you're meeting in person. Afterward, hosting your content in an on-demand library boosts exposure and accommodates people across time zones; people who attended may also choose to revisit the content and spend more time on a specific topic or concept.

Privacy and security

Data privacy and security are top of mind for many consumers today, and a trustworthy event platform takes that into account. People want to be sure that the info they're providing you won't be breached or stolen, and having something like that happen damages your company's reputation, which no one wants.

Thus, we've seen many companies opting for robust security features when it comes to their virtual event platforms. As an example, Goldcast encrypts all data stored on our platform using industry standards; we also utilize a secure deletion process. We've created strong firewall policies, and we grant data access to the minimum staff necessary in order to prevent unnecessary access.

Accessibility and sustainability

We've touched a bit on accessibility already, but that and sustainability continue to be important considerations for event planning in 2023. Organizers know that it's important to include as many people as possible, while employing practices that are sustainable for the long term.

This might include things like:

  • Captions and translations in multiple languages
  • Alternative text (sometimes called "alt text") for visual assets
  • Opting for digital-only materials unless printed or physical materials are absolutely necessary
  • Cutting back on swag giveaways
  • Offering hybrid events to cut back on travel and reduce carbon footprint

Event platforms that integrate with other apps

Using an event platform that easily works with the other tools you already use just makes life easier. Integrations allow you to maximize the usefulness of your platform and get the most out of all your tools, ultimately delivering a better experience to your attendees. They also eliminate the risk of human error and bottlenecks that can occur when people need to manually transfer data or information.

Goldcast integrates with HubSpot, Marketo, Salesforce, Slack, Drift, and more, making it a breeze to share info across platforms and communicate with company-wide stakeholders.

Want some amazing, real-world examples of these principles in action? Check out these Goldcast Hall of Famers! There's something special about every one of these, and we think you'll find inspiration here for your next event.

Why does audience engagement matter?

No matter what type of event you're hosting or what it's about, engaging your attendees always has to be top of mind.

Here are some reasons why engagement matters so much:

  • Attendees who enjoyed themselves at your event are more likely to spread the word about your company, your future events, and your product offering. They're also more likely to return for future events.
  • Engaged attendees are the perfect prospect for your sales team to reach out to and continue building the relationship, hopefully leading to a conversion.
  • When someone attends your event and actively participates, this creates a better experience for other attendees as well—who then become more engaged as a result!
  • Audience engagement is a quantitative metric you can look to after an event to assess how successful your event was. It's helpful to know how many people participated and when they interacted most when you're thinking about structuring future events.

Now then, how do you engage people? We've got a lot of material out there on this subject (see here and here to start!), but read on for some of our favorite tips!

How to engage with your audience during any type of event

Engaging your audience starts with creating compelling, relevant content. If they're not interested in what you're talking about, they're going to tune out real fast!

Try experimenting with different formats throughout your presentation. Maybe you sprinkle in a poll every so often and share the results with your audience so they can discuss, or perhaps you use videos every now and then. Or maybe you break things up with a DJ set or a magician—hey, if you've attended one of our events, you know anything's possible!

We like to leave ample time at the end of our events for Q&A sessions. Sometimes, a question will get everyone's wheels turning and start an interesting discussion, leading to a spike in engagement, which is great.

Another suggestion is to build in ways for your audience to network with each other. We've heard of people using AI tools to plug in everyone's info and then suggest who would be best matched for the most valuable networking opportunities; you could give that a whirl and see if any meaningful relationships result!

The right event management platform can make engagement easy throughout your event. Goldcast allows you to change things up from the typical "slide and speaker" event, which contributes to people's Zoom fatigue. People have been there, done that, and they want something different!

With Goldcast, you can do things like pull someone from the audience "on stage" and allow them to offer their perspective or ask a question. You can add in-event games that keep people's brains active without taking them out of the event. You can broadcast messages or questions to the lower-third of the screen, keeping everyone on the same page without disrupting your most engaged attendees.

Goldcast's event management platform helps you engage attendees and prove ROI

Remember how we talked earlier about how audiences want more? Goldcast is the platform that can help you deliver on those heightened expectations.

Whether you're hosting a digital-first event or a hybrid option, Goldcast has event tech features for interacting with your audience and allowing folks to network with each other. We're talking 1:1 networking, breakout rooms, round tables, in-platform gamification options, and so much more.

All this from a platform that prioritizes accessibility and provides subtitles and closed captions in multiple languages for live events!

If privacy and security is a concern of yours, it's on our radar as well. We want audiences to feel safe and secure when attending a Goldcast-hosted event, and to make that happen, we're compliant with SOC 2, GDPR, and CCPA.

And, when your event is over, you'll be able to easily unlock powerful insights that allow you to prove ROI to senior leadership. Our ROI Dashboard is cutting-edge and points directly to metrics you care most about, like influenced and generated pipeline.

In short: We're the only platform built specifically for B2B event marketers to take their event programs to the next level and offer attendees an elevated and secure event experience. The future of events is now, and we can help you rise to the challenge.

© 2024 Copyright Goldcast, Inc. All rights reserved.