The Future of Meetings and Events in 2022

The Future of Meetings and Events in 2022

stories virtual emcee virtual keynote speaker

I'd like to talk to you for a moment about the future of meetings and events in 2022.

Now that the Omicron varient is surging across the country and around the world, meetings and events are going virtual again. Those that are still in-person are a hybrid of both.

I'm preparing to fly to New York this week to kick off a meeting with my motivational keynote speech at an in-person event in front of a live audience. And of course it will be broadcast to a virtual one as well.

I can't help but reflect on the past 2 years and wonder what comes next.

As you know, the corporate meeting and events industry completely shut down in March of 2020. Some of us were able to pivot successfully to virtual events, but many were not.

If you'll remember, back in December 2019, Zoom only had 10 million daily users. But within a few months of the pandemic shutting everything down, meetings went virtual and Zoom became ubiquitous, growing by 3,000% in a single quarter to 300 million daily users.

The Future of Work arrived in the form of one long, never ending Zoom meeting. And we all became talking heads in a box.

Not long after that, Zoom fatigue set in. But what choice did we have in 2020? We could either meet virtually or not at all.

Only now are new and better options beginning to emerge from the rocky path that we all did our best to traverse last year.

In my own business there were lots of peaks and valleys. I had some great months where I presented virtual keynote speeches, virtual magic shows, and produced entire online events as a virtual emcee and I did it all from the comfort of home.

I had other months though where events canceled entirely and chose not to go virtual at all, opting instead to wait the pandemic out and return once in person events could be safely held once again.

Many of those clients are still waiting for a second year in a row despite the clear need to adapt to this new reality of virtual presentations. They frequently cite Zoom fatigue. But are people really tired of Zoom or are they just tired of looking at talking heads in a box all day? 

In my experience, engagement is the key and it's entirely possible to create more engagement through better virtual presentations. Nonetheless, a great many speakers, meeting planners, agents, and event professionals have struggled to adapt to this rapidly changing environment.

I've watched as friends left the industry and pursued other career paths, something I never thought I'd see. I wondered just what the new normal would be. But then again, don't we all?

Being able to work from home has given me and so many others unprecedented amount of time with our kids and as a parent I am so grateful for that opportunity. And for that reason alone I've wanted to find a way to keep giving virtual presentations, even as the pandemic subsides.

But after more than 15 years on the road, I miss hearing the roar of the crowd in my ears and watching them leap to their feet in unison for a standing ovation. Acknowledgement of a job well done. I miss it. It doesn't really translate through a computer screen, sitting alone in your home office.

So here I am, straddling both worlds. Loving the opportunity to give virtual presentations from home and the lifestyle that that affords, yet missing the experience of interacting with audiences. live and in person.

What will the future look like for the meetings and events industry?

While no one knows for sure, my educated guesses is it'll look a lot like a hybrid of both virtual meetings and in person events, because the scalability accessibility and cost effectiveness of virtual presentations ensures that they will only grow in importance over the coming months and years.

And there have been exciting technological advances in this area already. Video presentation solutions that you can see in this photo here. They were hacked together using different hardware and software solutions just one year ago. They're already becoming seamlessly integrated into low cost easy to use apps such as Mmhmm, which I'm using to make this presentation that you're watching right now.

But no matter how rapidly virtual video presentations improve, and they are... I mean, just look at this picture. Count them up, I had to use six screens. There are six screens in that shot! That's what I had to do a year ago to accomplish what I'm doing right now, with just two screens.

But despite that, actually being in the same room together, connecting in a shared experience, that can never be fully replaced, because it's an important part of being human.

So I think there's room for both to coexist, even within the same event. And I believe that's what will begin to happen throughout the meeting and event industry as things slowly start to open back up again.

A small group of key players will get together to network and learn and exchange ideas in person. While most attendees participate remotely through online video conferencing portals.

It's safer and more cost effective than larger conferences of the past. And with thousands of people flying to one location or meeting indoors for several days it's going to be a while before we start to see that in any sort of a regular fashion again.

As much as I loved opening those kinds of conferences in the past. I just don't see them returning as the norm anytime soon.

However, the potential for growth and reinvention here is enormous. I don't think we'll ever go back to the way things were. Nor should we. I'm going to spend the better part of the next two days on the road this week just to present for one hour on stage and that's always been a waste of time and productivity.

The future is here now.

If the client had the budget, beaming me into the event via hologram would make a lot more sense and that isn't even science fiction anymore. That technology is in use right now. Today. Virtual hologram presentations allow the speaker to be in two places at once without ever setting foot on a plane. And even though that's reminiscent of this scene in Star Wars, it will only become more widespread as the costs come down over time.

Video presentation technology will change rapidly over the next few years because it's already in widespread use and we've only just begun to tap into potential. So let's take what we've learned in this past year about how to present well on video and start to bring that into our in person events now, blending the best of both worlds to create a new and improved experience.

What will that look like?

Who knows we're just beginning this journey and the destination has yet to reveal itself. But I can see the direction that we are going from here and it includes presenting on video.

Video meetings became the norm during the pandemic because that's what we had to do. In a post pandemic world, we will incorporate videos into all meetings virtual and in person, because that's what we'll want to do. Because video has the potential to make those meetings better, more engaging, more cost effective, more valuable and more accessible to more people than ever before.

The future of the meeting and event industry includes video. So the better you show up on video now, the better positioned you'll be for whatever comes next.

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