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Kicking Off the New Decade: What Lies Ahead for Events in 2021?

After a chaotic year marked by massive challenges and new learnings, the event industry steps into a fresh decade with renewed determination and hope. The past 10 months have tested the industry like never before, and despite a significant impact to event programmes, staff and top-line growth, event firms and agencies showed their mettle by quickly adapting to the virtual format and creating new ways to connect with customers.

Amidst all this uncertainty, resolution in matters with international consequences, notably a resolution to US presidential and Brexit negotiations, as well as the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, provides the clarity we need to make plans once again. Although we do this with one eye on other crucial factors, such as the looming threat of the new coronavirus strain and its effect on international travel and in-person events.

As the new decade begins, here’s what the scenario for meetings and events industry could look like:

Digital counterparts will be a mainstay of events programmes

Virtual experiences will remain integral to business events in 2021. As concerns linger around the pandemic and hosting physical-only events remain unlikely, remote collaborations and virtual meetups have found increasing acceptance among attendees, exhibitors and sponsors. digital counterparts will be a mainstay of events programmesAs insurance against unforeseen circumstances and to avoid cancellations and postponements, event organisers will include a digital counterpart for any in-person event planned for the year. Which brings us to our next point…

Hybrid events to see an upsurge

One of the themes of 2020 was “adopting virtual while anticipating the return of in-person events”. This got a further boost towards the end of the year, when the COVID-19 vaccine was announced and a rollout was initiated. Though the vaccine is here, businesses are still on tenterhooks about hosting large physical gatherings while adhering to official safety guidelines and restrictions.hybrid events to see an upsurgeThe inevitable way forward will be a rise in hybrid events – whether it’s a conference, exhibition or trade show. The hybrid experience will allow event organisers to serve both remote and in-person audiences simultaneously while offering a business opportunity for venues to upgrade themselves and create seamless, integrated event offerings. For example, leading European technology conference Web Summit will be adopting a hybrid model for 2021.

Smaller, close-knit event organising teams

The pandemic severely affected the finances of many businesses, with event firms witnessing a significant drop in their bottom lines and massive staff layoffs.smaller close knit event organising teamsAs virtual events have low capital requirements, we will see smaller teams working together closely to organise a large number of events in 2021. Event spend will be mainly focused on virtual event technology platforms, content creation, online marketing and sales. 

More engaging experiences using virtual events technology

Event professionals had their first brush with virtual event technology in 2020 (for many depending on manual processes, it was their first experience using any sort of event tech) and after a period of scepticism and experimentation, it’s likely they would be looking to explore more aspects of virtual event platforms. experiential experiences using virtual events technology

In 2021, we could see more immersive experiences for remote attendees through 360-degree video technology and augmented and virtual reality, especially for online exhibitions and trade shows. With digital activations expected to go up, organisers will be keen to differentiate themselves by crafting new interactive ways to engage the audience.


The ongoing pandemic continues to be a challenge for event professionals; however, it is also a force of transformation that has enabled the industry to re-imagine and redefine its future in an increasingly connected world.