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Event industry trends for 2022 – the Year of Partnerships?

Farewell 2021, hello 2022. We have a year of opportunity ahead of us, but it’s important to know what we will be faced with.

That’s why ExpoPlatform has worked alongside a panel of top event industry experts for their insight into which topics are going to dominate the sector over the next 12 months.

Here are eight key trends our industry will see over the course of 2022:

Thank you to all our contributors: Kathryn Frankson, Timothy Skennion, Robyn Duda, James Hampton, Paul Maerz and Matthias Tesi Baur.

The Year of Partnerships

If one thing is for certain, it looks like we’re going to have another year of unpredictability.

To tackle this, we’re seeing a clear trend within the industry of like-minded partners coming together to navigate these times together.

Here are two areas strong partnerships will be forged:

  • Technology partnerships
    A digital transformation of our industry means we’re in a vastly different position to 2020. The last two years have seen event organisers leap into short-term pilots with a lot of new technology, but there is now an increasing maturity in the year ahead. Planners are considering features that will help to create a strong value proposition for their market, while also prioritising longer-term relationships with technology vendors. These partnerships will be built on a shared vision and an ability to adapt to meet market needs.
  • Exhibitor partnerships
    Kathryn Frankson, Informa Market’s director of event marketing, believes 2022 will see organisers having “fluid” longer-term partnerships with their sponsors, able to flex and create opportunities for engagement together. She said: “The previous ROI goals have been tied to short-term demand generation and with the rate of competition in each vertical there will be a renewed focus on brand building. Sponsors will have a guiding hand with event design, partnerships will be aligned based on shared values and impact will be measured beyond just short term KPIs.”

Cultivating communities

Online communities are set to see huge growth in 2022 as more and more event planners want to secure monetisation and growth opportunities 365 days a year.

They offer a way to drive year-round revenue and engagement with audiences, as well as improving the experience of your in-person offerings.

Timothy Skennion, managing director of Derabo Advisory Group, said: “Events will evolve from single-day activity to 365-day engagement programs.”

“Innovative event producers will build programmes that engage and nurture their audiences year-round.”

“Events act as the key vehicles for engagement and monetisation of your audience, but the community content offers return on investment for all stakeholders.”

He sets out these opportunities as:

  • Attendee – access to content and people that are important to them year round.
  • Sponsor – more targeted and engaged audiences, increased access to buyers on multiple formats and channels, event investment extended throughout year and increased ROI.
  • Event producer – ability to segment, target audience more effectively based on behaviour, content consumption and  monetise audiences year round.

Find out how to grow your communities with our complete guide.

Robyn Duda, founder of advisory firm RDC, takes this one step further in warning there could be a move towards “community-owned events”.

She believes that content creation being controlled by organisers creates a risk when the public seem more intent on producing their own – and engaging with those who do.

Robyn said: “The concept of community-owned events really intrigues me when it comes to event design. 

“As much as the industry would like to believe they know their audiences, creation still stems from a few. 

“As we’ve seen with the trend of democratising currency and the desire of people to own more of their fate, the fact that there is no ownership among the masses in events could pose a threat.”

James Hampton, MCI UK director of operations, sees the 365 engagement opportunities as a way for Associations to diversify their revenue streams and add some element of security during these times.

He said: “We are adopting a hybrid mentality with our clients’ association events as we wish to keep the door open to the new audiences we gained during the virtual editions these past two years and allow the 365 engagement possibilities through digital platforms.

“Associations themselves will need to address their value proposition and revenue streams asking themselves the question – is one source of revenue a risky business model in the new climate i.e. their annual conference. 

“We will be supporting Associations on that strategy.”

Focus on data growth

The debate over who should control attendee data was settled in 2021 – it must reside with the organiser, not the tech provider.

Upcoming research from ExpoPlatform shows the vast majority of event professionals believe planners should take responsibility.

Now the focus moves to how to take this resource and build their businesses around it.

Our industry has seen the number of data points on each participant increase by a factor of 20 since this digital transformation. 

New business models – including increased use of virtual and hybrid event technology and 365 community engagement – have created a far more information-rich environment which need to be utilised.

Unlocking the power of this data can have a transformative effect on a company’s success – and that’s where leading organisers will focus their efforts over 2022.

Getting smart about events

In-person events have become more enhanced through technology – whether it’s for registration, scheduling meetings, networking, feedback surveys or lead capturing.

Attendees expect a seamless blend of physical and digital elements for a more rewarding experience.

It makes sense – our personal consumer habits are dominated by personalised platforms such as Netflix, Spotify or Amazon.

Paul Maerz, managing director at Fairtrade Messe, added: “When events restarted in autumn 2021, the focus of most of the organisers really went back to life events – our focus definitely did.

“Event tech will remain very relevant and we should not lose the focus on that topic because there’s so much potential in it.

“We should keep the momentum even though we can deliver live events once again.

“Of course we prefer to do that, but we should focus on what we have achieved and continue on that journey.”

Continued uncertainty

We all hoped and believed we wouldn’t be in this position in 2022, but the pandemic isn’t going away soon.

Governments such as the UK and Germany have introduced stricter safety measures as the highly infectious variant gathers pace around the world – with no clear end in sight.

Organisers have now started to wearily cancel and postpone Q1 events until later in the year again, with some even being put on hold until 2023.

High-profile shows impacted include BOE International, Furniture China, Tefaf Maastricht, Toronto Boat Show, Embedded World 2022 Exhibition and Conference and Agritechnica 2022.

The continuation of this uncertainty is one which needs a business model which is flexible.

Matthias Tesi Baur, founder of ETT-Club, has set out two scenarios that will impact how event professionals should move forward over the next 12 months.

He said: “In the best case scenario, the pandemic situation becomes more under control and shows have the security to reopen and stay open in most regions across the world. 

“That would allow us to start the journey of recovery which means we still have 60% to 80% of enthusiastic exhibitors and visitors who love to meet again as they have really missed a F2F platform. 

“We would need to work hard to grow the shows back to the old level and bring back the missing 20%-40% of our customers.

“That will require a grow-back strategy with new USPs, new onsite formats, new digital beyond-show benefits and more.”

The second scenario he sets out is one where the pandemic continues to strike with new variants which spread across the globe.

Tesi added: “We need to take this scenario very seriously as long as we do not have a worldwide vaccination rate to prevent mutations. 

“The seriousness of that scenario will mean that even loyal customers will readjust their marketing activities to new formats when a show has not happened for two or even three times. 

“It means we would need to boost our digital efforts purely to stay relevant and to widen our offer to the market.

“Just to be clear – boosting our digital efforts is important in both scenarios, but the second scenario will require more digital functions even more to stay relevant as a partner for our customers.”

Online buying and selling surges

B2B buying and selling has rapidly moved online over the last year – and it will continue to do so.

A total of 35% of buyers are willing to spend $500,000 or more in a single transaction, according to a recent McKinsey study – up from 27% in February. 

More than three-quarters of customers told the B2B Pulse survey they would fork out $50,000 or more.

The research also shows 94% of decision-makers say the new omnichannel sales model is as effective or more compared to the sales model they used before the pandemic.

The pandemic has accelerated the process of remote forms of interaction adoption across all industries, however this shift has been experienced differently by industry sectors. 

It means B2B suppliers can no longer rely on one avenue for doing business – ignoring the omnichannel, digital future isn’t an option.

Driving towards diversification

Organisers will look to accelerate plans to diversify their business through mergers and acquisitions.

We have already seen Hyve acquire omnichannel meetings programme organiser 121 Group, Tarsus has created a division to put event acquisitions alongside their new digital acquisition and Informa announced the next stage of their transition to Smart Events.

Timothy Skennion said: “The event tech space has become saturated and this, coupled with some anticipated corrections in terms of valuations, make the sector highly attractive to potential buyers.  

“Expect a lot of activity from mid-tier event tech providers with transactions largely driven by private equity-led consolidations and strategic acquisitions by ancillary solutions providers – agencies, CRM and MarTech – looking to add event tech platforms to their existing tech stacks.”

Serious about sustainability

“The time for talking is done and the time for action is now” was the message as global event industry leaders spoke at Cop26.

High-profile figures from our sector spoke in Glasgow to deliver a pledge towards a net zero future by 2050 “at the latest”.

The Net Zero Carbon Events initiative has already brought more than 200 organisations together to tackle the issue.

But that means the work really starts in 2022.

James Hampton said: “Sustainability is something that has been talked about for a long time and with an injection of energy post Cop26 it’s time for clients and agencies to push the dial and start including strategies into their events.”

Paul Maerz said: “Now the sustainability issue in our industry is becoming really important, you see it everywhere.

“This will be one of the key topics of the future – especially in Europe and in the US.

“We need to be very careful about this topic – if you only look at the travel aspect, then it doesn’t look very good. 

“Look at how much travel we avoid by bringing in people from all over the world in one place, instead of them visiting each other in many different countries. 

“This is the story we need to tell. We should not show the industry in a bad state, but already in quite a good state. 

“But sustainability and pressure on that will be very high – that will be one of the key topics I see.”

We hope you enjoyed reading this article and found it useful. At ExpoPlatform, we want to help you build better events and communities. Please get in touch and ask for a demo here. Thank you.