The last couple of years have seen drastic changes in how we envision and execute conferences and corporate events. From shifting virtual events to hybrid to hoping for a return to in-person networking, organizers and event marketers have needed to find new ways to engage conference attendees in meaningful ways. However, as in-person conferences and events are set to make a comeback, organizers and marketers are looking for ways to set corporate events apart, make them more engaging, and cater to evolving attendee expectations. Well, we have just the right plug-in for your next conference.
Read on to explore the case for in-person conferences, attendee expectations in 2023, and the secret ingredient to set your conference apart.
Are people willing to return to in-person conferences and corporate events?
The pandemic brought in-person conferences and corporate events to a halt in early 2020. Since then, virtual and hybrid events have gained popularity and become the norm. However, studies and surveys reveal that people are willing to return to in-person conferences in 2023. Nearly 50% of those surveyed in a Martech survey responded that they were “extremely likely” to attend in-person conferences and events in the second half of 2023 with some being optimistic about attending in-person events in the first half of the year. (Source). These numbers are highly optimistic compared to last year when health concerns were a big reason for marketers remaining less likely to attend upcoming in-person conferences. (Source)
Two major reasons for this change, apart from improving pandemic conditions, are virtual meeting fatigue and the absence of non-verbal communication. Attendees are tired of staring at screens all day and with virtual socializing limiting networking opportunities attendees are looking forward to physical interactions. If there is one thing the isolation of the pandemic has exposed, it’s that people want to see other people around them, talk, network, even shake hands.
However, willingness to return to offline events does not mean that in-person events and conferences can stay the same as before.
So, what has changed?
Health and safety continue to remain big factors in post-pandemic offline conferences and events. According to event planners, attendees are looking for solid returns on their time and investment for in-person events. (Source). Organizers and event marketers have to account for the benefits of virtual and hybrid events and adapt offline conferences to offer similar attendee experience.
There are several factors that define attendee expectations for in-person conferences in 2023:
Climate change is real, and it is here. Growing concerns about the planet have led all industries to prioritize sustainability and environment-friendly practices. According to a survey conducted by MeetGreen in 2019, 71% of event planners are willing to pay more for sustainable event practices. (Source). What does this mean for organizers? In-person conferences and corporate events have to be conscious of their carbon emissions and organizers must look for sustainable alternatives to traditional events (zero waste events, using recycled materials, volunteering to offset the carbon impact of the event, etc)
Did you know? In-person events can generate up to 66 times more carbon emissions as compared to virtual events.
Accessibility and Inclusivity
In addition to environmental impact, virtual and hybrid events vastly improved the accessibility and inclusivity for marginalized and underrepresented communities at conferences and corporate events. Data shows that, for scientific conferences, virtual events saw a 253% and 700% rise in attendance from female and gender-queer scientists respectively.
While focus on accessibility and inclusivity at corporate events is not new, organizers must ensure that in-person conferences build on the inclusivity and accessibility set by virtual formats. This means organizers and marketers have to be cognizant of the design of their events, the themes they choose, the physical, sensory, and cognitive accessibility of the venue, and the social impact of their conferences and events.
The fatigue of a pandemic, a looming recession, climate crises, and the rising awareness of social issues have made social impact and purposeful engagement an integral part of corporate life, including conferences and events. Attendees are driven to events that are not only accessible but also impactful for causes that they care about. A sense of social purpose at conferences and events can help engage attendees while offering a sense of fulfilment at work.
The secret ingredient to transform in-person conferences in 2023? Volunteering for social impact.
It is tempting to revert back to old playbooks when in-person conferences return, but event planning and marketing have changed drastically. One great way to meet attendee expectations and add a fresh mode of engagement for your conference is volunteering for social impact. Volunteering helps contribute not just to social causes but also gives your corporate event the extra edge it needs to set it apart. Here are some reasons to set up a volunteering booth or organize a volunteering activity for your next conference:
- Puts your company’s values at centerstage - Volunteering for a social cause at your conference highlights your company’s commitment to social change. It contributes to and strengthens your CSR and DEI goals.
- Gives a greater purpose and meaning to your conference - In addition to highlighting company values, it also elevates the purpose and impact of your conference. You can pick volunteering activities that complement the theme of your event to amplify impact.
- More people = Larger impact - Any impact you create by volunteering for social causes is directly proportional to the number of volunteers. A conference attendee pool is a great opportunity to use a large gathering of people to create a large impact.
- DEI Sensitization for Attendees - Volunteering to raise awareness for social causes does not only serve the beneficiary community but also helps raise awareness for volunteers and attendees helping you create a more accessible and inclusive event.
Did you know: In 2013, Microsoft’s Convergence conference brought attendees together to volunteer to help rebuild New Orleans
All these factors contribute to the collective ‘feel good’ factor for attendees, boosting their engagement and adding holistic value to the conference. But how can you incorporate volunteering in your next event?
Where does a volunteering activity fit in for your next conference?
Here are some ways to make Volunteering for a social cause a part of your corporate event:
- Offset the carbon footprint of your event: Volunteering for environmental causes can help organizers and attendees raise awareness for environmental causes, offset the carbon footprint of the event, etc to make the event more environmentally friendly.
- Break the ice with social impact: Volunteering activities can be a fun and effective way to break the ice at corporate events while making a difference in the world.
- Align with the purpose of the event: If your event is for a social cause, volunteering activities can align with the purpose of the event or the theme to reinforce the event's messaging and goals. These activities can be centered around that particular cause and organize the event accordingly.
- Engaging/impactful breaks: Breaks can be made more engaging and impactful for attendees by incorporating short volunteering activities. Avoid fatigue and the monotony of back-to-back panels by engaging attendees in fun and impactful volunteering activities.
At Goodera, we help organizers and event marketers design the perfect volunteering plug-ins that cater not only to engagement and impact goals but also to space and time constraints through custom volunteering activity design. Read more about Goodera’s Volunteering Plug-ins for Conferences.