In a year of seismic changes and challenges, virtual and hybrid events are emerging as a vast growth category – and a source of job creation. For event planners, what will be the new opportunities and where do they lie?
Startups, platforms and all kinds of niche solutions have sprung up this year to meet the boom in demand for virtual and hybrid events with many gaining phenomenal momentum and growth.
For context, the global virtual events sector was estimated – back in 2019 – to be worth $94bn this year, according to data from Grand View Research. With the unprecedented situation of 2020, its value has surely accelerated beyond this figure and, its predicted size of $404bn by 2027, may now be too conservative.
A company that perfectly illustrates the sector’s rapid rise is Hopin, a UK-based virtual events provider, which has astounded the industry by raising $125m from venture capitalists leading to a £2bn valuation. The startup, which counts the United Nations, Apple and Spotify among its customers, allows meeting attendees to network online in new ways, exchange virtual business cards and receive a summary of their new connections post-event. The business began 2020 with six employees and, within a month, had 5,000 users. It will close the year with almost 250 staff and more than 3.5 million users.
The tech explosion
And Hopin is not alone. Mmhmm app has attracted investment of $21m. Run The World has secured $15m. While Zoom, the platform nobody had heard of pre-2020, is adding 100k users a quarter pushing revenues to skyrocket by 355%.
“Hybrid and virtual events are becoming a multi-billion-pound market and we are only at the beginning of the revolution,” says Vincent Bruneau, CEO of audience engagement platform, Sparkup. He is one of many tech leaders on a major recruitment drive. “Inbound demand for our product is up by 346% year-on-year and, to keep up, we have expanded the tech team and are seeking more sales staff,” he adds. “In 2021, we expect income to triple and our employee base (currently at 25 people) to double.”
Similarly, virtual and hybrid events software company, InEvent, has experienced its biggest year for growth. The company’s CEO, Pedro Góes, says profits have shot up by 1100% and headcount has gone from 20 staff to almost 80 this year. Brella is another virtual event platform provider seeking new candidates to meet rising demand. Jyrki Paananen, COO of Brella, reveals customer-hosted events increased by 1000% and active end-users by 500% compared to last year. The job roles up for grabs are mostly developers, designers and quality assurance specialists. Cyber security professionals will also be a higher priority in the events world going forward.
New event roles
Techie jobs aren’t the only roles on the rise. Once the business events industry settles and planners embrace new meeting models, there will be a spike in the number of events being delivered, particularly if monetized effectively. The sector will expand significantly and there will be a surge of various new roles and jobs.
Claudia Stephenson, managing director of INVNT Group EMEA, explains: “As hybrid events cater to two different yet interconnected audiences and settings, there’s a careful balancing act at play here. With this in mind, we could definitely see roles like hybrid event producers, technical directors or creatives emerge – they’ll have a unique background that combines both live event and TV production experience.
“Meanwhile others may choose to specialise in in-person or virtual experiences only, and they’ll collaborate with their respective counterparts to ensure elements like brand messaging and look and feel are aligned across both the in-person and virtual environments. There will be increased opportunities to invest in the tech, meaning demand for specialised, tech-savvy talent will rise.”
Ben Chodor, president of Intrado Digital Media, agrees: “The biggest growth area is going to be project management. Big brands will never opt to self-serve – they want their events to be produced. More hand holding will be required and teams will need people who can project manage across both virtual and physical events. There will be new roles for sales, too.”
Other new roles could include engagement specialists and experiential officers who will work hand-in-hand with creative directors to deliver two different experiences for the two audiences. Digital event professionals will comprise a variety of roles from online chat moderators to tech professionals for online events. Positions in production will feature live streaming specialists and producers, video directors and video editors. There will also be a greater need for experts in digital marketing, communication, sustainability, health and safety, partnerships, data collection and management, and ROI.
“Going forward, companies will look to up-skill their staff and will only hire meeting and event planners with capabilities in both online and physical events, or who have a certificate in virtual events,” says Chodor.
Tony Lorenz, an event industry leader and founder of Headsail, sums up the future outlook for us: “A great degree of opportunity will be available to event professionals who apply themselves in omni-channel delivery. Additional bandwidth in digital delivery of events is needed now and this need will grow significantly over time.”
As the industry powers forward into the future, new trends will emerge and the role of the events professional will evolve. The need to adapt to the changing event model will be key for all involved in the event ecosystem to survive and thrive.