Meeting Mentor Magazine

May 2024

Hybrid Events Bridge Gap Between Virtual and In-Person

New trends data from Bizzabo collected over the summer reaffirm that in-person events are coming back in a big way — almost everyone (99%) had at least one event on the docket for this year, and 83% said they plan to host at least three in-person events this year. Almost a quarter are planning to organize at least 10 before ringing in the new year. This is just a bit more optimistic than responses to the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard, which found 70% saying they had in-person events on their slates for the remainder of the year.

And those numbers continue to climb as we go into 2023, with 85% of respondents to the Bizzabo survey planning at least three in-person meetings and 35% saying they have 10 or more in the works for next year. And almost three-quarters of respondents said that in-person events are key to their overall marketing strategy — and almost as many, 70%, say their budgets are increasing somewhat, or at least staying flat. At the top of the event-type list for 2022 were trade shows and expos, at 45%. Industry conferences and private events were right on the tail of trade shows at 43% each, while field marketing events and multi-department meetings were being planned by 32% and 30%, respectively.

But this doesn’t mean event organizers are abandoning the virtual events they relied on to get them through the past couple of years when meeting face to face was difficult to impossible. Bizzabo’s data shows 68% saying they plan to include at least some virtual components for their next in-person event, while PCMA’s research found about half saying they are going hybrid to give those who may have a tough time attending in person to still reap the benefits of the event. A touch more than half, 52%, said they are either “focused” or “very focused” on a virtual events strategy for next year.

This makes sense, because while the Bizzabo study found that 73% of attendees were either “ready” or “very ready” to go back on site, that still leaves out more than a quarter of potential attendees who still are reluctant to go on site, though only 3% of respondents thought their potential attendees just weren’t ready to hit the road, whether because they are reluctant to travel themselves or because of business travel budget limitations. This is reflected in the results for what event organizers think are priorities for their attendees. Topping that list were COVID safety precautions, cited by 46%, and travel considerations, at 44%. Thirty-nine percent said the time investment was key for attendees, while the ability to network (37%) and the cost of registration (30%) also were important considerations for attendees.

In terms of the metrics planners are using to measure the success of their events, attendance still tops the list for 54% of respondents. A third said they prioritized tracking engagement, while 27% said pipeline tracking was a top metric. Overall satisfaction was at the top for 19%, while just 11% said the number of registrations was a key success metric.

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MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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