Four Key Ways COVID Has Changed Physical, Virtual and Hybrid Events


Mark Roberts, CMO, PGi  

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of how we operate, and we’re probably going to be dealing with these changes for years to come. 

But many people may not realize how COVID has changed events, not just amid the pandemic but for the long term. It’s not an overstatement to say that events may never look the same. 

In-person get-togethers, meetings and conferences will return, but they will look different. Here are four key short-term and long-term ways COVID has changed physical, virtual and hybrid events and trade show and exhibitor booths. 

People have rethought their messages. 

Virtual events call for a different type of preparation, and as many organizations plan and produce an event, they also rethink their messaging. In the current climate, we can’t take people’s attention for granted. We must earn it every time. 

Concurrently, as the world enters the “Next Normal,” audiences will view meetings and events differently. The pandemic brought into sharp contrast how many obligations are unnecessary, and they won’t engage with unrewarding gatherings moving forward. 

Being together in person isn’t always necessary to truly connect. 

While the pandemic may have initially caused in-person events to cease, many organizations quickly realized being together in person wasn’t a prerequisite to making real connections. Our client say that when in-person events return, many will opt to include virtual components as they allow more people to participate, including those who can’t or won’t travel. 

Early in the pandemic, we worked with Model N, a revenue management software provider, to pivot their in-person conference, Rainmaker20, to a virtual event. The event, with two days of webcasts, garnered 27% more registrants than they expected for the in-person event. 

People value their personal connections more. 

According to a new survey conducted by APCO Insight, more than eight in 10 Americans (83%) working from home because of the pandemic say they miss in-person meetings and conventions. The result is many people place an increased value on personal interactions. 

All too often, teams lamented at gathering in a conference room. Now they miss the personal interaction. 

When the world returns to in-person events, I believe attendees will appreciate the opportunity to attend in a new way. They will expect event organizers to make personal connections a more significant part of any gathering. 

One large event is no longer the rule of thumb. 

Many sales events had morphed into expensive affairs where everyone from the company and many clients traveled somewhere exciting for a massive gathering. Given that many companies will keep a closer eye on their spending in the near-term, large national events may be out for some time. 

Instead, many organizations may look to hold regional events, which offers several benefits. For starters, it can lessen travel costs for attendees, and smaller events may allay fears about larger gatherings. 

While change often seems like a hurdle, we need to change how we view it and see the opportunities it affords us. I believe we will emerge stronger, and how we communicate and collaborate will improve.

About the Author: Mark Roberts serves as PGi’s CMO responsible for all marketing operations worldwide, driving growth opportunities and building brand recognition for the company within the communications market.