The unexpected arrival of COVID-19 in April 2020 forced organizations to pivot their event hosting strategies. Since then, we have witnessed the event landscape drastically evolve.

The pandemic made it impossible to host in-person events. To stay afloat, businesses needed to find a solution that people could easily access from wherever they were quarantined. Virtual events were able to provide a lifeline to schools, businesses, and individuals.

However, as the world prepares to “reopen” many people have been wondering how the event industry will look moving forward. Were virtual events just a fad or are they here to stay?

Virtual events were a necessity in 2020 but the virtual events industry was already rising in popularity pre-COVID. With an expected compound growth of 23.7% from 2020-2027, it’s evident that virtual events will continue to be an important part of marketers’ strategies as the event landscape is redesigned.

As event professionals, we know that we need to learn from the past in order to stay ahead of the curve. To see where the event industry is going, we had to look back on where it had been.

The Social27 team was eager to hear about our followers’ experiences with virtual events. To find out more, we conducted a series of polls. These polls inquired about past, present, and future participation, and interest in virtual and hybrid events. Our first round of polls was shared every Monday to kickstart the week with an interactive question. This continued over the course of six weeks.

In total, we:

  • Reached 11,350 members in our LinkedIn Community
  • Received 450 votes across six polls (avg. 75 votes per poll)

What Our Results Found:

Virtual event participation boomed.

No surprise here – virtual participation exploded across industries in 2020. Individuals from all types of organizations experienced what it meant to “go virtual.” Data from LinkedIn’s platform shows that:

We couldn’t help but wonder about our LinkedIn audience’s participation and engagement with virtual events. It turns out, 32% of our poll respondents had participated in at least one virtual event, and 51% had attended four or more.

Additionally, 67% of those polled had hosted, co-hosted, or helped produce a virtual event in the past 12 months, meaning two-thirds of respondents had participated in a virtual event in some way in the past year.

As businesses reopen and navigate the post-COVID world, we wanted to know what attendees would deem the most compelling factor when choosing to attend a virtual event in the future.

Virtual and Hybrid Event Statistics from April 2020 and Into the Future Infographic

Future Event Interest

There are many benefits of attending (or hosting) a virtual or hybrid event. Unlike in-person events, one benefit of attending virtual events stands out among the rest – accessibility.

Almost half of respondents (49%) selected accessibility as their top reason for attending a virtual or hybrid event in the future.

Virtual events eliminate the physical, geographic, and financial barriers to reaching a broader audience. Accessibility to an event can be challenging when you have to worry about time constraints, work, family arrangements, physical access to the venue, and access to event content.

Now, you don’t need to take a week off work, fly halfway around the world, spend time planning the best navigational routes around the venue, or worry about your visual or audible access. For example, virtual events can eliminate the social anxiety some participants may experience when interacting face to face with attendees. While others with physical limitations, such as using a wheelchair, now no longer have to stress about feeling comfortable and quickly navigating the venue.

Your new event commute can take as little as two minutes as you journey from your bedroom to your home office – and with WCAG AAA certified platforms, such as Social27, you won’t have to worry about visual or audible access ever again! Part of increasing accessibility to your event means being accommodating. Attendees should be able to participate in a way that is most convenient for them.

By choosing to host a virtual or hybrid event, you are working with your audience; you are helping them fit your event into their schedule and lives to make the event more accessible.

Respondents also selected a “comfortable environment”, as their reasons for wanting to attend future virtual or hybrid events. 22% of respondents value the opportunity to participate in a virtual experience in an environment of their choosing. The pandemic has shown us that we can accomplish many things from the comfort of our own homes.

When you combine accessibility with a comfortable environment you ensure that those with physical, social, or emotional limitations can enjoy your event to the fullest.

Utilizing Hybrid Event Statistics

Some may assume that hosting a hybrid event has to mean hosting the same event in-person and virtually, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Hybrid events are unique! The virtual portion of a hybrid event is meant to allow attendees to do their “research” and connect with speakers, sponsors, and fellow attendees before the event begins. Hybrid events will help you cater to your audience’s needs by giving them a “head start”. Research indicates that 67% of businesses use virtual events complementary to in-person events.

Hybrid events also give attendees time to curate their own event experiences.

One of the best features a virtual platform can provide is a recommendation tool. Recommendation tools help to provide suggested content and connections to attendees. This way, attendees can go into an event already familiarized with the sessions, speakers, sponsors, and attendees best suited for them. Think of it this way, would you rather spend your time scrolling through the entire music library of Spotify when you are looking for new music, or would you prefer that you receive suggestions based on songs you already like?

Hybrid events are here to make your life easier. Say goodbye to the days of popping into a session to discover it’s not relevant to you. Say hello to a tailored event experience that is just right for you!

Since hybrid events are newer to the events landscape, we surveyed our audience to gauge their feelings on the topic. When asked if our respondents would continue attending virtual events, 29% of participants said they were specifically interested in attending hybrid events in the future.

The majority of event organizers (88%) arranged a virtual event, webinar, or meeting last year.  And 84% of event and business owners from our polls said they would continue hosting virtual events or implement a hybrid strategy in the future. As restrictions are lifted and in-person events become more commonplace, a hybrid strategy may allow a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario.

What’s Next?

Virtual events have made their mark on the industry by demonstrating their ability to impact a broader audience with higher ROI, while allowing attendees to experience an added comfort level and increased accessibility. And they’re here to stay.

According to a recent study by LinkedIn, 45% of future B2B events will be completely virtual. People want to have choices; virtual and hybrid events give attendees the power to attend when, where, and how they want.

However, as we eagerly look towards the future of a virtual and hybrid event landscape, we are still left with some questions such as:

  • What are attendees most interested in learning?
  • What do attendees feel is “missing” now that they’ve participated in various virtual and hybrid events?
  • How can we make sure your attendees get what they need from the virtual or in-person portion of your event?
  • Why will attendees choose a hybrid over virtual or in-person events and vice versa?
  • And much more!

Stay tuned for more as we continue our virtual and hybrid event polling series. You can participate in our polls every Monday on LinkedIn.

Click the link below to learn how to utilize Social27 Virtual Event Platform for your virtual and hybrid events: