In March 2020, the events industry, like many others, shuttered due to COVID-19. In-person events everywhere were postponed indefinitely or canceled altogether. Companies of all sizes revised their practices and procedures, shifting to no-contact means of operation to survive. In-person business meetings were replaced with virtual corporate events, training sessions took place over webinars, and many businesses moved to online-only operating modes. Hotels, event venues, and other hospitality businesses adapted their services and offerings to accommodate more remote client needs.
In this post, we look closely at corporate events, virtual and in-person, and how they’re evolving in a tentatively post-pandemic world. What does the end of the pandemic mean for the future of virtual corporate events? Will there be a lasting impact on the group business market? How should hotels prepare for what’s to come? Keep reading to uncover the answer to those questions and more.
The current state of virtual corporate events and how hotels can prepare for the future
COVID-19 and the explosion of virtual events
As a direct result of the pandemic, virtual events exploded in 2020. In a May 2020 interview with Forbes magazine, Ruben Castano, CEO of the virtual event platform 6Connex, reported a 1000% increase in virtual events and sub-events on the platform. Services like Zoom became household names, and more people than ever before began participating in a broad range of virtual events. The number of webinars hosted in 2020 grew by 153.4%, and the popularity of virtual events is increasing.
A 2022 LinkedIn study reviewed the impact and status of virtual events, exploring the benefits and challenges experienced by event planners and organizers. 79% of responding event professionals stated that virtual events supplied unique opportunities they didn’t have access to previously. Additionally, 74% of survey respondents expressed interest in hosting hybrid events, with LinkedIn estimating that two-thirds of future events will include a virtual component.
The future of virtual corporate events
In 2022, live events began to rebound. From the fourth quarter of ’21 to the second quarter of 2022, in-person and hybrid events increased by 255%. The same year, Event Farm conducted an in-person events survey to gauge the status of live events. 93% of responding planners reported planning live or hybrid events that year, a significant increase from the year before.
Although in-person events are back in full swing in the mostly post-pandemic climate, virtual events are more prominent than ever. In the following year, 82% of event leaders plan to continue hosting as many or more virtual events as they did in the last twelve months. Two-thirds of companies intend to utilize a hybrid approach to events, while 25% plan to move to a virtual-only event structure. However, recent data from a survey conducted by Cvent and Northstar Meetings Group found that event planners are continuing to plan events of all sizes in person, so it’s important to remember to be prepared for both types of meetings and events.
The virtual events industry will continue to grow, with industry reports estimating that the number of webinars hosted in 2025 will be 10x higher than pre-pandemic levels. Grand View Research’s Virtual Events Market Size, Share, and Trends Analysis Report projects major growth, estimating that the global events market will expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.7% through 2028.
What do virtual event planners want?
With the projected growth of virtual and hybrid events, many planners look for venues that offer hybrid event services, tools, technology, and other resources, such as:
- Flexibility: COVID is constantly evolving, as are related health, safety, and travel guidelines. Event and travel planners are looking for accommodations that offer flexibility in deposit and cancellation policies. Appeal to planners navigating shifting conditions with generous room block attrition policies and manageable event cancellation windows.
- Variety: Virtual event requirements vary from business to business and event to event. In addition to the size and setup of each event, goals and objectives affect the resources and technology required to host it. Meet the needs of planners by offering a variety of virtual event tools and interactive elements, including:
The more virtual event elements a hotel can provide for virtual and hybrid events, the more virtual event variations they can accommodate. Moving forward, planners will seek immersive virtual studios and venues that can turn tedious old video calls into seamless, engaging events.
- Convenience: Planners are busy, often juggling the sourcing needs for multiple groups or events at once. Improve the planner experience by offering fast, convenient proposal responses that make booking a breeze. Utilize virtual corporate event tools that make it easy for the hotel and planner to track attendance, event changes, attendee requests, and more. Whether organizing a virtual or hybrid event, convenient planning and planner communication tools can significantly enhance the event planning experience.
- Safety and security: Hotel cybersecurity is vital for online events to protect sensitive, valuable, and personal data. Planners and organizers are responsible for ensuring that virtual and hybrid events are secure. If a venue provides remote event services, utilizes virtual meeting software, or stores attendee information online, they are responsible for ensuring that every service they provide is safe and protected.
Post-pandemic group travel trends
Groups’ priorities, like those of individual travelers and businesses, have shifted since the pandemic began. Although price, flexibility, services, and hotel amenities are still important factors when considering a venue, groups are more focused on booking unique, personalized experiences that make their travel count.
In a 2021 Hospitality Net survey of 2,000 Americans, 24% of respondents reported not wanting to return to the same travel habits they had before the pandemic. They prefer more responsible, meaningful travel experiences. As a result, the bleisure travel trend (a.k.a., business + leisure) continues, with corporate travelers and remote workers seeking a between business and pleasure.
Connect with group planners and travel agents via social media. Share engaging and valuable content, and encourage your audience members to do the same. Promote your hotel’s brand identity, which encapsulates what your property stands for and what guests can expect from your hotel.
How to capitalize on post-pandemic opportunities
Though the effects of the pandemic still loom, with new variations evolving and affecting industries globally, businesses have learned to exist and operate with restrictions. Prepare for group travel and events in a primarily post-pandemic world with these helpful hotel tips and tools.
1. Extend virtual and hybrid event services and offerings
Start offering virtual services for meetings, events, and groups if you haven't already. Identify the best opportunities for your hotel to capitalize on the growth of virtual events. Invest in modern meeting technology that makes connecting remote and live event components easy. Supporting high-quality streaming services for large audiences may require upgrading hotel Wi-Fi capabilities, so review the hotel’s budget and installation options early.
2. Establish virtual event SOPs and thoughtful cancellation policies
Only 22% of planners report feeling genuinely satisfied with the proposals and responses they receive from venues. Think about that: on average, three out of four planners are disillusioned with the policy and rate proposals they receive from hotels and other event venues. Due to uncertain travel plans and shorter lead times, planners are organizing events in less time than ever before. In fact, over 60% of RFPs are eventually awarded to one of the first three respondents—events are moving faster than ever. Help make planners’ lives easier and close the satisfaction gap with expansive cancellation windows, loose attrition policies, and clearly outlined virtual event procedures.
3. Boost the quality of virtual events with engaging tools and services
Create an engaging virtual event experience that captures your audience’s attention and holds it throughout the event. Incorporate high-quality and valuable content, include a blend of live and recorded content, and add interactive tools, like chat boxes or message boards, which allow virtual corporate event attendees to participate. Pair virtual event services with the hotel’s mobile app to maximize virtual corporate event offers.
4. Target corporate event planners
Advertise your hotel as the go-to option for all events: in-person, virtual, and hybrid. Reach planners across the Cvent Supplier Network through attractive meeting room advertisements, display ads, and powerful retargeting campaigns. Showcase hotel facilities, packages, and event services, and capture the attention of eco-conscious decision-makers by promoting the sustainability of virtual and hybrid event packages over traditional meeting services.
5. Collaborate with remote event planners in real time
With event diagramming software, hotels can streamline the process of planning live, virtual, and hybrid events. Live messaging and interactive floor plans enable hotels, planners, vendors, and other stakeholders to review event plans, make updates, and see their changes reflected in real time. Whether working with live or remote planners, live communication tools make event planning a breeze.
6. Develop meaningful group travel experiences
Capture more leisure and corporate group travel by developing meaningful and memorable hotel experiences. Offer private event space for groups to gather, promote local attractions, or supply transportation to notable locations nearby.
7. Offer digital group management solutions
Enhance the booking experience for travel planners and group contacts by offering access to powerful room block management tools, like Cvent Passkey, and creating custom microsites. Passkey gives planners complete control over their rooming list, streamlining room block management and freeing up the sales team to sell.
The Cvent Passkey™ Planner Portal makes it easy for planners to integrate hotel bookings and event registration, enabling attendees to book everything in one step. Through custom group microsites, attendees can make reservations directly inside the group’s contracted block. Planners receive email updates with valuable registration statistics and automatic alerts as their block fills. And all of that has an important secondary effect: it saves planners and hoteliers time and headache when it comes to maintaining room blocks.
Frequently asked questions about virtual corporate events
If you have other questions about planning or hosting virtual corporate events, keep reading for more information.
- Which types of virtual corporate events are the most common?
Virtual meetings, event debriefs, training sessions, networking events, webinars, and team-building events are popular amongst businesses and corporations. Companies may host virtual events to attract new clients, improve sales performance, boost team morale, encourage professional development, or achieve other goals and objectives.
- How long do virtual corporate events last?
While expert opinions vary on the ideal duration of virtual events, the consensus is that virtual events should be short, with frequent breaks scheduled throughout. To maintain optimal attendee retention and engagement levels, avoid planning virtual events lasting more than three to five hours. If more time is needed, consider breaking the event up to take place over multiple days. Break each virtual event agenda into multiple sessions lasting between 20-30 minutes, with a short break scheduled between each session.
- How long do virtual corporate events take to plan?
The length of time it takes to plan and organize a virtual corporate event depends on the style of event you’re hosting, the material being covered, the number of attendees, and other variables. Simple virtual events may come together quickly—some in just a few weeks. Adversely, creating a particular virtual environment for an event takes time, with planning often starting two to three months in advance.
Now that you have a clear picture of where the virtual event industry is headed, your hotel can start preparing. Meet with the sales team to review virtual and hybrid event services, remote demand, and upcoming marketing strategies. Determine which types of virtual corporate events are best suited for the hotel and its customers.
Get ready to host more hybrid and virtual corporate events!
Up next, we explore 37 virtual event ideas and examples you can use to take your virtual and hybrid events to the next level. Discover inspiring virtual event strategies, powerful event platforms, engagement ideas, brand incorporation tips, and so much more.