November 11, 2021 | By Warwick Merry

Last week I hosted the Future of Speaking event for speakers in the events industry. While it was focussed on speakers, there were some very interesting comments that others in the industry would value.

We showed back in 2015 how bad we were at predicting five years into the future, so this time, we  asked speakers just to look into 2022 and share the future of speaking as they see it now. The speakers were current chair of Meetings and Events Australia (MEA), Nigel Collin CSP, the fairy Godmother of speaking, Leanne Christie from the House of O, and the power couple of speaking, Donna and Gerry Morris from Book Speakers Direct (now Presenters for Events).

So what does the future of events look like? Is it good, bad or ugly?

The good

We are coming back! So many venues are booked out for March and April 2022. The absence of face-to-face events means demand for them is high. Speaker bureaus are experiencing a large increase in enquiries and bookings.

International events are also back and happening. Several speakers are getting enquiries to deliver content face to face (remember international travel?).

Clients are also keen on getting the exhibiting element of their events back too. Sponsors are chomping at the bit to get some return on their sponsor dollar and face to face is better for them.

Economically, history shows time and time again that after a big dip – think the Spanish Flu a hundred years ago, both World Wars and the more recent global financial crisis – there is typically a period of significant economic increase for six to nine years. There are some strong indicators that this will be happening again in 2022. So it is looking like a boom time for events.

The bad

We are not one country at present. National tours are not yet possible and due to the uncertainty of some states, they are not being planned until much later next year. It’s not all bad though as this gives us a chance to create state tours in lieu of national ones.

As has been said, there are knowns, unknowns, known unknowns and unknown knowns. Basically, there is still an element of uncertainty. Some risks are still too high for many operators. Insurance companies have clamped down on certain elements – like cancellation due to a COVID-19 outbreak) and this makes planning larger events a bit of a challenge.

Risk mitigation has always been an important part of our events and in the current environment it can be very challenging. 

The more complicated

Hybrid events are a challenge, there is no doubt about it. But it is what we will need to do for some of the larger international events for a while. Hybrid can be really good but it costs a lot to do well, so it is only really viable for larger events. An alternative can be live plus broadcast. While it is not a true hybrid event, everyone can watch the event so there is consistent messaging and information flow happening.

More effort needs to be put into creating hybrid and hybrid-like events that engage and educate the delegates. Effort from speakers, organisers and the tech companies is needed to ensure no audience segment misses out and we can take advantage of the extra abilities that hybrid can deliver.

What’s next?

Combine all of this with some fantastic COVID Safe protocols that event professionals are creating and following, and we have a very optimistic future. It’s about time.

2022 will be full of face-to-face events and far more online events than we had pre-COVID. The inclusiveness of online events and their removal of geographic constraints makes them a valuable tool in our event arsenal from now on.

While 2022 may not be all sunshine and rainbows, our high vaccination rates combined with excellent COVID protocols and a desire to reconnect with others means 2022 really is looking good. So take a break when you can – you are going to need a lot of energy for when we hit the ground running. Our future is bright.

Warwick Merry is a certified speaking professional, dual certified virtual presenter and past national president of Professional Speakers Australia. He hosts online and face-to-face events globally.