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Evolution of the Event Industry Post-COVID

October 25, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic shook up several industries, and the events industry was one of the worst hit. Event staff were classified as non-essential staff during the pandemic, and because several events were scheduled to be in-person before COVID hit, many event organizers feared losing their jobs. 

It's now almost 2023, though; despite all our fears, events are alive and well. However, they underwent a few important changes – and they still are. The pandemic has occasioned the progress of a new kind of event industry where in-person and virtual events will become equally common. It's also fast-tracked the evolution of the hybrid event – one in which both in-person and virtual events are collapsed into one. These only represent the bigger changes, though. 

Many other aspects of events are changing on a smaller scale. And as an event organizer, it is important to stay updated on these changes so as to adapt and provide a high-quality experience for your attendees. We at Performedia want to help you do that. So, in this article, we'll explore how the event industry has changed and is changing today. We'll also look at what it means for you as an event organizer and how you can adapt your game to suit the changing tide. 

What The Event Industry Faced During the Pandemic 

So, what did event organizers – and the industry in general – face during the pandemic? We explore what happened here:

  • Physical events drastically decreased

By March 2020, the coronavirus had spread to over 100 countries, forcing the World Health Organization to declare a global pandemic, the first of the century. As a result, several governments declared lockdowns, restricting movement to only essential business such as emergency services, healthcare and other essential services, and necessary errands such as shopping. 

This meant that most events booked prior to the pandemic were canceled, save for a few areas where it was possible to hold events. But with strict social distancing rules in place, those events couldn't have the same impact as the event organizers may have originally envisaged. And as countries ceased international travel, it became the more logical option to cancel in-person events and choose other feasible alternatives.

  • Job security in the industry was threatened 

With several in-person events canceled, the industry's job security took a massive hit. The events industry was valued at over 1.1 trillion dollars in 2019, but the pandemic caused the industry's value to drop by over 200 billion dollars at the end of 2020. This shrink was felt across the industry, from event organizers to event tech providers. 

Additionally, auxiliary industries such as catering, rentals, and logistics felt the blow. Job insecurity led to widespread panic and increased pressure in the industry. According to Vicki Johnson, a veteran event planner, the pandemic had left those in the industry "with a total inability to plan anything."

  • Most events were postponed or went online 

In August 2019, the stock price of online streaming service Zoom was $92. By the fall of 2020, it had ballooned to over $560. While the world of business finance may not interest most event organizers, this radical increase in the stock price of the streaming service represented just how valuable it had become to the world of events and business communications. And it was quite logical. Video streaming services had been around for a while. As businesses canceled in-person events, they still needed to stay in touch with their audience. 

The most obvious alternative, virtual events, was where they went. According to a particular vendor, events on the platform increased by 1000% as industries took their events online during the pandemic. Businesses that could not hold their events online had to postpone until the lockdown was called off.

  • Event staff had to devise new ways to engage the audience 

As events went online, one of the major problems organizers faced was lower engagement. Virtual attendees are more prone to be distracted by noise, family members, pets, or their surroundings, which makes it rather difficult to engage them. Additionally, there's a lack of camaraderie in a virtual event, which is difficult to fill effectively. 

So, event organizers had to ideate, innovate, and implement new ways of engaging the audience. From interactive breakout sessions to virtual polls, surveys, and leaderboards, event planners introduced new methods of keeping attendees engaged even at remote locations worldwide.

  • Organizers faced uncertainty regarding sponsorships 

Sponsors have a primary goal of getting valuable leads from an event. With dropping attendee engagement during virtual events in the pandemic, sponsors felt less need to pay for a sponsorship slot during industry events. This led to lower sponsorship rates, as event organizers struggled to find new ways to deliver value to their sponsors. Today, event sponsors routinely cover both virtual and in-person events. However, this was not so when the virtual event industry began in its new form during the pandemic.

Where We Are Today

We've slowly evolved into a new kind of event industry in 2022. Let's look at where we currently are: 

  • Online events are reaching more people

One of the major advantages of virtual events is the undisputed reach they offer. A speaker may be behind a camera in Stockholm and simultaneously reach attendees across four other continents. This creates the potential for a business to have a global audience and expand its ability to connect with industry leaders and potential customers anywhere in the world. Add that to the fact that 80% of virtual events are completely free to attend, and it becomes obvious why virtual events easily reach a larger segment of target audiences. Attendees worldwide, no longer limited by travel barriers and costs, can now afford to attend top industry events from their homes, learn from global leaders, and network with fellow professionals. 

  • Sponsors are harnessing remote lead generation

With a single webinar having the potential to create over 500 leads according to Zippia, virtual event sponsors have determined that it's critical to harness event sponsorships even more. Today, several lead generation tools are making their way into the industry, allowing sponsors to qualify and capture leads in real-time. And with new technologies allowing sponsors to reach out to potential leads almost as quickly as they've been met, sponsors are now harnessing remote lead generation services more than ever. 

  • In-person events are returning and with a major twist 

While hybrid events are a great alternative to simply holding in-person events for a few attendees, they have their challenges. Markletic reported that, in 2021, 39% of virtual attendees at hybrid events felt excluded. Likewise, 71% of event organizers said that their top challenge during hybrid events was connecting the virtual and live audiences. Despite these challenges, hybrid events are here to stay. According to Statista, a third of all trade shows in 2021 were hybrid events. As event organizers strive to meet industry demands, hybrid or digitally augmented events will become a mainstay in the events industry. 

  • Proof of vaccination is standard for attending in-person events 

With two waves of the pandemic and at least three major variants of the coronavirus catching the headlines since 2020, everyone is more cautious. This means washing hands, minimizing public interactions, and getting vaccinated. Today, having proof of vaccination is standard practice before in-person industry events. The number of doses required will vary depending on local laws. Either way, today's event attendees must provide proof of vaccination against the coronavirus before attending an in-person event. 

Facing Forward: Changes That Are Here to Stay 

Today's event industry has undergone a few irreversible changes due to the 2020 pandemic. Here are a few of these changes: 

  • Hybrid events will become more common

Today, there's virtually no excuse for an organization to exclude remote audiences from events. Digital technology is commonplace in the event industry. With providers like Performedia, it's become even easier for companies to include their virtual audience by converting in-person events into hybrid events. So, we'll be seeing more hybrid and digitally-augmented events in the future. 

  • Hygiene standards will be stricter

The COVID pandemic, because of its scale, has re-engineered hygiene standards that were more common in hospital wards into the broader society. From the cessation of handshaking to the use of nose masks in public places, regulators introduced new hygiene standards to the world. In tomorrow's events, we won't be any less conscious. It's become common knowledge that a few droplets can transmit infections faster than we ordinarily fathom. So, each event organizer will have to look for ways to minimize possible infection spread at in-person events. 

  • We'll be using contactless check-ins 

Following the minimization of physical contact during events shortly after the pandemic, it's obvious that event organizers must streamline check-ins. Check-ins are one place where touch has historically been an integral part of the process. Attendees picked their lanyards by hand, security staff had to search handbags for objects physically, and event staff physically handed over event badges by hand.

New technology is now accelerating the adoption of contactless check-ins. In the future, we'll be seeing the use of digital badges, on-site printing of event badges, and digital lead generation. 

  • Online formats will make events more accessible

Gone are the days when the only way to join an event with industry leaders was to book hours of flights and spend hundreds of dollars on hotel fees. Today, virtual events are becoming more common with the rise of event apps and tech providers that standardize virtual events. With 93% of event organizers planning to invest in virtual events in the future, virtual events will keep making events accessible. 

  • Digital tools and digital marketing will become even more important 

Event apps and pages have bundled the entire event experience into one — attendees can access registration, scheduling, lead generation, search, and event networking from a single place. No wonder many event organizers are incorporating these tools into virtual and in-person events. Today, 91% of event organizers record positive ROI with event apps. So, there's more than enough incentive to join the train. 

  • Event organizers will receive more hybrid sponsorship offers

Social networks have upended event marketing today. It's now quite common for major industry events to have a Twitter hashtag that allows attendees to post highlights and engage with one another. Also, features such as Performedia's social wall, which displays social media engagement across multiple platforms, help to drive audience engagement with attendees. This has opened new opportunities for sponsorships. With hybrid sponsorships, sponsors can interact with both the in-person and virtual attendees, boosting their lead generation. 

  • Event software will facilitate curated networking 

Networking is extremely important at events, but only if it helps attendees meet their goals. In-person events, previously, have largely left networking to chance: people you met while grabbing a plate at a buffet, your fellow panelists, or people you shared a row of seats with. Event software is effective at matching people with similar interests, making it easier for attendees to form more meaningful connections. 

Staying Ahead of the Curve: Tips for Success in the Post-COVID Event Era 

A lot of change is happening in the event industry, opening up new opportunities. So, how do you, as an organizer, stay ahead and maximize this chance for success? 

  • Harness the online space

Even if you're hosting an in-person event, there's no need to keep everything on-site. From hosting online challenges to sharing pictures of top scenes from the event, you can elevate your event beyond the four walls of its physical venue. This helps to build excitement around your event and is critical for multiplying the effects of your event marketing. And even long after the event, you can still keep engaging your attendees. You can harness the virtual space to keep your organization perpetually relevant by sharing thought leader clips, quotes, and sound bites. 

  • Learn new skills

The use of APIs in event apps, project management software, and hybrid technology were growing slowly in the industry before the pandemic upended the pace. It's not too late, however, to learn. The industry is always in demand for top-notch skills, and it's the best way to stay relevant. Interact with fellow professionals, attend industry events, take online courses, and continually upskill to stay relevant.

  • Train your team members 

John C. Maxwell famously quipped, "Teamwork makes the dream work." As you're continually upskilling, it's also important for your team members to keep up with the pace. With team members who have relevant skills, it becomes easier to deliver a top-notch experience to your event attendees. Recommend training, assign new responsibilities, and help your teammates improve in their roles. This will help you stay consistent and razor-sharp as the industry evolves. 

  • Have a great event provider 

How do you create a great event without a great event provider? Working with an excellent event provider will help you through the difficult technical aspects of the event. With us at Performedia, we work with you from the beginning of the event to determine your goals and proffer efficient ways to achieve them. Boots-on-the-ground also reassures you of our commitment to ensure your event goes without hitches. 

  • Stay positive and flexible

No matter how much planning and strategy you do, it's always difficult to predict the future. So, it's important to stay flexible and proactive. This will help you to deal with new challenges as they come. With a dedicated and experienced event provider and a strong team, you'll always emerge champion. 


As the world emerges from the COVID pandemic, changes are being orchestrated across the event industry. However, new opportunities are arising for those that are proactive and taking steps to stay ahead. It is time to look forward and embrace change to keep delivering consistent, high-quality events to your clients, sponsors, and event attendees.