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6 Event Trends That Will Shake Up Meetings & Group Business in 2022

Events have undergone some major changes over the last couple of years. From the lingering effects of the pandemic still impacting businesses to the major shift in societal attitudes about employment, social issues are making a big impact on 2022 event trends. 

In this blog post, we’re digging into some of those event trends. We take a deep dive into what to expect from in-person, hybrid, and virtual events in 2022, the new demand for corporate responsibility, The Great Resignation’s effect on events, new sustainability efforts, and other event planning industry trends you need to know

Whether you’re an event planner, the owner of an event management company, a supplier, an event venue manager, or anyone in between, you don’t want to miss out on some of the top 2022 event trends. While nothing is certain, especially in this ever-changing landscape, keeping up with changing event trends can help all industry professionals stay ahead of the game. 

1. In-person events are returning, but with some uncertainty. 

American Express Meetings & Events, a division of AMEX Global Business Travel, recently published the 2022 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, which details the meetings and event trends anticipated for the upcoming year. The forecast demonstrated that there’s a high anticipation of in-person events returning in 2022: “67% of respondents believe in-person meeting levels will return to their pre-pandemic numbers within one to two years.”

In-person event growth is also supported by the high number of event professionals who have increased their events budget for 2022: 64% of respondents, according to the report.

Key takeaway for planners: Rework your budget to include the return of in-person events. Book venues and event services early.

Due to the anticipation of the return of in-person events, some event venues already have limited or non-existent availability for additional events in 2022. Event venues, event staff, and various other vital services will likely be in high demand. Booking the necessary vendors and services may prove more difficult.

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Key takeaway for venues: Prepare for a busy year. Revisit cancellation and booking policies. 

Venue owners or operations managers should review booking and cancellation policies to ensure that they are filling their calendar fully, but appropriately. Many venues will need to determine what level of flexibility they will be willing to offer in 2022 regarding potential COVID-related event cancellations. Policies, changes, and updates should be clearly outlined in all event planning contracts

While the industry is not expected to resume normal operations entirely, AMEX did find that 81% of all 2022 events are expected to have some sort of in-person component, so venues will be in high demand. Popular event venues should prepare for a busy year by securing a strong team of venue employees and hiring event staff. We also recommend creating a backup plan for covering potential staffing shortages. 

2. The “Great Resignation” will affect meetings and events.  

Across a wide variety of industries, workers have been leaving their jobs en masse in what has become dubbed “The Great Resignation.” One of the key themes discussed at the International Confex 2021 conference was the shift in expectations of modern employees in connection with The Great Resignation: It isn’t just about the money anymore. Workers everywhere have higher expectations in their roles and are looking for companies that place an importance on personal wellness, mental health, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. 

As in many other industries, finding and retaining talent will impact events in 2022. Understaffing is one of the top challenges facing event planners, and staffing shortages in the industry have left many planners feeling burnt out, with some ready to transition into a new field altogether. 

In a 2021 survey with Visier, a people analytics company, planners reported feeling they were “stretched too thin,” that they were not receiving the personal or professional support needed from their superiors, and some even expressed disappointment with their organization’s unwillingness to acknowledge employee sacrifices. Event planners everywhere have been feeling the pressure of work overload, with one-third of planners admitting to feeling the burnout.

Key takeaway for planners: Protect yourself from burnout.

Event professionals should set the boundaries necessary to manage their work life, personal life, and individual circumstances without unwarranted stress. Reduce stress and burnout by setting clear boundaries, scheduling expectations, and practicing them without guilt or shame. 

Key takeaway for venues: Give prospective employees great reasons to work with you, and even better reasons to stay.  

There is more focus on corporate responsibility in the event management world than ever before, and venues will not be immune to the scrutiny. Treat employees well, provide ample compensation, offer benefits, and promote a healthy employee culture.

3. We will see a solidified focus on health and safety.  

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a new focus on hygiene develop, as well as the ability to socially distance at events. Touchless technology and digital event communication have played an important role in creating safer in-person events, and 2022 will show us that these procedures may be here to stay. Event safety is no longer an expectation, but a necessity.

Key takeaway for planners: Risk assess every event. Plan and budget for safety.  

In the American Express Meeting & Events 2022 forecast, it was reported that 58% of respondents were seeking “confidence in duty-of-care-components for attendee health-and-safety” when considering whether or not to attend in-person events. With safety being an utmost concern for attendees, travelers, and speakers alike, risk assessment is now a core component of event planning. Explore emerging technology upgrades that could help improve event and attendee safety.  

Key takeaway for venues: Provide safe and sanitary event spaces, flexible booking policies, and demonstrate your procedures to planners.

Ensure that sanitation stations are abundant and that there is adequate spacing at every event. Venues may be required to try out new seating styles to improve safety, incorporate outdoor event spaces, or even reevaluate venue capacity. Using a diagram check will allow venue directors to set standards for event diagrams, such as a specific distance between tables and chairs or a room’s maximum capacity. 

Key takeaway for all event professionalsHave a backup plan for events. 

Every 2022 event should have a “Plan B,” and these should include emergency services, such as flights out of a location, in case health concerns arise. Many in-person and hybrid events will have vaccination or testing requirements, and it is likely that we will see more on-site testing taking place at events. Event professionals should work hard to communicate policies and procedures clearly and frequently to future attendees. 

4. Integration of more augmented/virtual reality.

Virtual trends have been rising over the last few years. Recent data, however, is showing that AR is becoming a popular event trend, as augmented reality experiences are a more affordable and accessible alternative for many event professionals.

Key takeaway for planners: Find the right AR experience for your planning style and stay up-to-date on emerging event tech. 

Augmented reality event planning tools can be used for product demos, creating networking opportunities, entertaining an audience, engaging with virtual or in-person event attendees, and even creating interactive maps for events and venue tours. Moreover, augmented reality technology has become so advanced and readily available that AR apps can be used on most smartphones.

Key takeaway for venues: Add AR to your marketing plan. Create a virtual tour of your venue to appeal to planners and event professionals. 

Virtual tours can help travelers and event attendees feel like less of a stranger in a strange land. Virtual tours and interactive digital maps allow attendees to tour the event space ahead of time, find their way to a variety of event breakout sessions, or locate specific vendors at large expos.

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5. Hybrid events continue and virtual events become more frequent.

The events industry is continuing to see a growth in the popularity of both hybrid and virtual events. Virtual events, as well as hybrid events that mix virtual and in-person components, tend to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly than in-person events. They can also give planners the opportunity to reach a wider audience.

Due to the reduced overhead costs, many planners who have embraced virtual events have seen an increase in their ROI. In fact, 84% of planners found virtual events to be much more affordable than their in-person counterparts, and 93% of event professionals told Bizzabo that they “plan to invest in virtual events in the coming future.

Key takeaway for planners: Review your virtual event ROI. Host better virtual and hybrid events in 2022 with updated software.  

Planning virtual events more frequently will also require that many event professionals invest in better virtual event software. Looking to 2022, Paul Cook, a celebrated Virtual Events Specialist, offers industry professionals some advice, saying, “virtual events will be in demand, and the best ones will be those that increase their production values. In other words, the home-made look will quickly become a thing of the past, if the organisation is to keep its brand reputation in good shape.”

Key takeaway for venues: Add hybrid event marketing to your venue’s 2022 sales strategy. 

What digital technology does your venue offer to connect a live audience with an online audience? Do you have virtual event technology tools that will allow virtual attendees to engage with in-person attendees? 

If so, make that information available to prospective clients and event planners, as many planners are seeking venues that have hybrid event tech already on-site. Refresh your 2022 marketing materials and venue services list to showcase your ability to accomodate hybrid events.

6. There is an increased demand for eco-friendly, sustainable events. 

Across the globe, merchandisers, vendors, and suppliers are choosing to commit to more sustainable business practices and eco-friendly events. We’re seeing massive support for a sustainable shift in the events industry as well, according to Mark Bannister, the Technical and Operations Director for COP26. Bannister’s primary goal is to create a carbon-neutral event by working with a circular economy, sourcing responsibly, achieving social value and reducing the carbon footprint of an event.

Key takeaway for planners: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

When planning an event, use what already exists. Get creative and repurpose areas, items, and materials. Event professionals can also work to create a circular economy by using items that can be reused or recycled after an event, and add social value through donations or giving free lessons and lectures to community members. 

Bannister also noted that many planners are working to make the environmental impacts of 2022 event travel as minimal as possible, as travel alone is responsible for 85% of an event’s carbon footprint. By hosting smaller, more frequent events in multiple locations, booking corporate events closer to home, and incorporating virtual or hybrid events, planners are reducing the environmental impact of event travel. Professionals across the industry are making a commitment to tackle ethical issues in event planning

Key takeaway for venues: Incorporate or reinvigorate sustainability initiatives.

Designate a “sustainability champion” for your team to encourage and educate staff on sustainable initiatives and other eco-friendly hotel and venue ideas. Provide resources, tools, and information on corporate sustainability. Renovate and replace venue machinery with eco-friendly and sustainable appliances when possible, add multiple clearly marked recycling areas around the venue, and set a goal to add renewable energy sources that could accommodate a portion of your venue operations.

But remember, nothing is certain — especially now. While these are some of the 2022 event trends to keep an eye on for the remainder of the year, there’s no guarantee that they will all come to fruition, and there’s even less of a guarantee that other trends won’t emerge and steal the spotlight. With that being the case, it’s more important now than ever to be nimble, aware, and ready for change at a moment’s notice.

Up next, check out 14 of the must-attend hospitality conferences for 2022.