Sledge MD Sarah Yeats shares her insights on event format trends for the year ahead…
There are many 2022 learnings we can take into the new year, one of those being related to the role of the event format. It was once very clear cut, with experiences designed for predominantly in-person audiences.
However, we now know that peoples’ wants, and needs have changed, and accessibility and sustainability are more important than ever.
Offering attendees flexibility in how and when they join an event, based on their individual values, preferences, and ability to attend, whether that’s related to matters such as accessibility, their own schedules, or another reason, is key. So much so, it should ideally form part of every strategy, and be given careful consideration at the briefing, pitching and pre-planning stage.
So, let’s delve into what this may mean for event formats in 2023…
An alternative take on hybrid
To attract event attendees, we will need to reconsider how we approach the hybrid format. We know that virtual events open themselves up to a much wider audience, and yet the value of face-to-face connections remains.
Achieving success with hybrid, and event success more generally, will therefore involve a balancing act of sorts, where overarching messages and event identities are consistent, yet the in-person and online experiences are treated as separate entities.
They will have their own budgets and project teams, and specially curated content and experiences. We increasingly saw event profs switch to specialised digital roles last year, and this presents an opportunity to utilise those with expertise in virtual events, to design and produce truly engaging experiences in this realm. Meanwhile, those with a continued passion for live, can focus on planning and producing events of this nature.
At the same time, it will be vital that the two project teams work together. This will help to ensure there are opportunities for in-person and virtual attendees to connect, and that these opportunities resonate with them in equal measure.
Mini hub events, on the rise
While hosting an annual global conference where delegates fly in to the one location was once the norm, this format is set to transform. It’s a trend that we saw emerge over the last 12 months in particular, and is one that is not going anywhere, anytime soon.
We can expect to see more and more brands host localised ‘mini hub’ style events that are smaller in scale, yet their overarching content strategy is consistent (with respect to cultural nuances), and they are scheduled to take place at the same or similar times.
This ensures all people can join either physically or remotely, reduces the need to travel – and therefore an event or series’ environmental impact, and if planned and produced in the right ways, that all attendees still have the opportunity to network with their counterparts in regions or countries other than their own.
Purely in-person: here to stay?
Having produced events for almost 20 years, well before we had tech at our fingertips – and in pre-pandemic times – for me, there’s nothing quite like the thrill and excitement of heading to an in-person event.
At the same time, purely in-person events are in some ways, a thing of the past. Technology provides us with plentiful opportunities to extend the reach of a brand, their key messages, and their face-to-face events.
Whether it’s producing bespoke video content to generate pre-event excitement, capturing, and sharing BTS footage for sharing outside of the experience’s four walls in real time, or simply creating and encouraging the use of an official event hashtag, events and digital are now inextricably linked. We, of course, can’t deny the power of the rich data and analytics technology can provide, too.
An important question to ask…
To conclude, in 2023 we will focus on the audience first, and the event and format itself will ultimately come second.
With this in mind, I encourage you to guide your clients to think differently, by asking them to consider: what is the purpose of this event?
Supporting clients as they pinpoint their goals allows us to develop a deep understanding of their target audience, which will then inform all key elements of an event, from its format and design to location and marketing strategy.