Saying goodbye to virtual and hello to an in-person and hybrid future.

Virtual events got the job done and pushed us to completely rethink how we work, meet, and connect in every way. 

But there have also been big developments in the event world recently. Vaccines and testing are making it possible to meet in person again, big events are back on the books, and tons of new hybrid event options are popping up daily. It has been a long road to get here, but it looks like 2022 will be all about saying goodbye to virtual and hello to an in-person and hybrid future.

Two men sitting in a hybrid meeting space, walking to 3 people on virtual screens

Expect meeting spaces to get an in-person/hybrid makeover. 

According to the New York Times, Google is redesigning its offices so employees can work in smaller groups and have access to more hybrid features. 

These groups (team pods) will also include open-top hybrid meetings spaces (aptly named campfires – pictured above), spaces for quiet work, and movable walls and AC vents to meet any team member’s specific needs. 

Google also opened dozens of outdoor spaces with tennis court-sized grassy lawns, wooden decks, tents, and Wi-Fi. These spaces help ensure that everyone feels comfortable meeting in person and has places to get things done outdoors. 

We’ve all gotten used to being able to take a meeting outside or network with someone anywhere in the world, and people don’t want to give that up. The future is all about embracing these changes and using them to create even better meeting and working spaces.

CES stage with LED sign saying " WE ARE CES READY"

Big events are ready to come back. 

CES will return to Vegas in January 2022 as one of the largest in-person technology conferences in almost 2 years. 

On the event’s attendance, Vice President of sales of business development Brian Moon says, “We already have more than 1,700 companies (currently over 1,800 now) committed to exhibit and thousands of attendees registered from around the world. So, it’s looking to be a phenomenal event next month.” 

Vaccination is mandatory for entry, and the event is partnering with CLEAR Health Pass to keep track of everyone’s health status. 

New for this year, CES 2022 will make use of the West Hall Expansion, a 600,000 sq/ft, state-of-the-art meeting hall that is now GBAC certified for the highest level of event safety. There will also be a digital broadcast for anyone unable to be there in person.

While this is not a return to events as we remembered before the pandemic, it does show that attendees and venues are ready and committed to big in-person conferences in 2022.

Woman closing computer displaying virtual meeting with a man

We don’t actually need to be on our screens all the time. 

2021 brought a lot of changes, but the biggest one was that we don’t really need to be glued to our screens to meet with people and get work done as we did a year ago. 

Vaccines and testing make it possible to safely meet in person and travel anywhere in the country. Obviously, things aren’t exactly back to normal yet, but in-person, face-to-face meetings are totally possible this year. 

Voice meeting apps like Spot can even help people take meetings while walking outside, as well as transcribe meeting notes and keep contact info of people they’ve talked with. 

In theory, an entire meeting or event in 2022 could happen with some people in-person, some walking, or however everyone wants to connect.  

The bottom line, the age being glued to the Zoom is over. With the right technology and planning, people can meet in-person or hybrid or in any combination that makes everyone happy. 

Other Worlds Film Festival logo

Hybrid will help diversify content. 

For this year’s Other Worlds Film Festival in Austin, Texas, the organizers only accepted films that the creators were willing to screen both in-person and virtually. 

While that translated to fewer titles from major distributors, it also meant many more submissions from up-and-coming indie artists. Other Worlds senior programmer Dan Repp said the format change even led to “the festival’s best lineup in its eight-year history.” 

The world isn’t going to go back to only in-person or only virtual events, and our content should reflect that change. Embracing a hybrid future can help you pull from a bigger group of creators and presenters and keep new voices in the mix, which is what it’s all about.

GIF of man saying "Let's Talk"

People are looking for more in-person networking opportunities these days. 

Google recently published a company-wide survey on remote work, and the findings showed that while there are some good parts to it – it’s not the answer to everything. 

Many employees agreed that remote work increased well-being and time outside the office. However, “The majority of respondents said they feel disconnected from their organization and co-workers (57%), [and] that limited networking opportunities negatively impact career growth.” 

As much as we appreciate remote work, we do know there are benefits to meeting in person that we just can’t get on Zoom. When we are in-person, we can get a read on people faster, or make connections that might have been lost in translation over a screen. 

Organizers should see this as a sign that when it comes to networking in person and hybrid events are the direction to head in. The formats may not be perfect right now, but they give people an opportunity to get face-to-face and make connections that they’ve been missing.

Hybrid and in-person events will keep us connected long term.

We all learned a lot from working remotely. We know that hybrid and in-person events are what will keep us truly connected and pushing forward in the future. 

Google is already redesigning its spaces in anticipation of a hybrid world where people will want more workspace and connectivity options. Big events are pushing forward with health and safety plans that actually work. And the growing consensus is that a little time in the real world goes a long way for networking. So with that, things are looking much more in-person in 2022.

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