In-Person Events in 2021: What to Expect

This time of year, the lack of in-person socialization hits harder than usual. With the inability to host or enjoy in-person holiday parties, companies are relying on outside-the-box, and largely virtual, solutions that allow for festivity with a lower risk of coronavirus transmission.

This adjustment brings up the question that’s top of mind as we look toward 2021: when exactly will in-person events return? While we don’t have the answer to that just yet, we’re outlining what some are predicting — and how to make it through the transition from sole virtual connectedness to hybrid gatherings when the time comes.

The Tentative Timeline

The coronavirus vaccine timeline is what the events and entertainment industries, as well as companies who plan to host conferences, are largely relying on to determine whether — and when — in-person gatherings will take place in 2021.

While we know that vaccines are slowly rolling out, it is expected to take months before most Americans are inoculated. According to the Center for Disease Control’s website, “all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021.” Without a concrete date, however, experts are simply unsure as to what this means with regard to timing. What this does mean is that face-to-face events likely won’t resume until at least the second half of the year.

event management prediction with covid 19 for 2020 and 2021

That said, we are hopeful that 2021 is a year of transitions back to some sense of pre-pandemic normalcy, including in-person group meetings, concerts, and conferences. When a vaccine is effectively distributed and confidence in travel and being around others rises, face-to-face events will likely be scheduled once again.

But in order for this to happen, a few things must synchronize:

  • Employees must feel safe traveling and/or attending in-person events
  • Companies must be able to afford travel expenses and event-hosting expenses after a difficult 2020
  • Event planners must mitigate risks and adhere to national and statewide guidelines regarding the virus

Even with a vaccine in place, it may be a while longer until these elements completely line up. In the meantime, we predict that the future of gatherings in 2021 will be hybrid. Smaller, optional, socially distanced events that integrate technology are what we see on the horizon for next year. Below, we’re outlining what companies should know to prepare.

Hybrid Events in 2021

Fast, reliable technology is of the utmost importance.

Running virtual events
Image from Brain Trust Summit

If hybrid events are the norm in 2021 (and potentially into the future), companies will be forced to adjust their event planning in a similar manner to the way they did in 2020. Hybrid events will likely serve as a bridge of sorts that connect 2020’s sudden plunge into sole virtual work with a pre-coronavirus “normal.”

This means that technology will be just as important as it has proven to be during the pandemic. During this transition time, hybrid events will of course require planning for both the in-person elements and virtual elements of the event. Seamless presentations featuring engaging content that can be viewed on a screen will continue to be important. Companies will transition to relying on production teams that specialize in the virtual aspect of events as well as the in-person parts. And with options like rentable 5G hotspots and solid streaming and video equipment, organizers, presenters, and attendees can get the most out of hybrid presentations, no matter the size of the company or event.

Outdoor events with strict sanitation procedures will be the norm.

social distancing, in-person events, outdoor

Domino Park in Brooklyn, New York

Since Covid-19 is unlikely to disappear completely, in-person events will continue to practice stringent sanitation and socially distanced procedures, especially during 2021. Being outdoors and enforcing mask-wearing is a safer plan for in-person attendees than anything hosted indoors, but this brings its own challenges when it comes to technology. Again, portable WiFi is helpful in this instance. Most hybrid events will also have a capped capacity for in-person guests so that measures like wide spacing can be effectively enforced. And we expect that sanitation stations, temperature checks, and mask mandates will be here to stay.

Engaging virtual content will be in demand.

Green Screen content for live stream event
Image from Bangkok Post

By this point, employees in almost every industry are used to a virtual workday; after a long 2020, it’s no longer novel. This means that online content for events and conferences must be engaging in order to encourage active participation from virtual viewers.

High-quality production value is now expected, and with tools like the new iPhone 12, companies can deliver. For businesses or teams who host occasional events but don’t require an ongoing production or events team, there are plenty of options that will still help create strong, engaging events, shows, and conferences.

While we don’t know the exact date as to when events will be truly safe, things are looking up for most industries in 2021. We’re hopeful that safety will increase and allow for people to meet in person again. Until then, hybrid events will bridge the gap from totally virtual meetings to a pre-2020 normal.

About eTech Rentals

eTech Rentals is a national technology solutions provider located in Southern California specializing in rental technology integration. eTech is committed to long-standing client relationships and consistent, reliable local service, trusted by expert event planners, film and entertainment production companies, and businesses in California and nationwide.
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