The Future of Live Events

As 2020 comes to a close, many of us are wondering when life will return to normal, or what our “new normal” will become—especially when it comes to live events.

A recent article in Forbes suggested we’re in the middle of a major transformation, much like the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. But many of the great shifts in our history were the product of years of change. This one has happened almost overnight—because, in large part, we’d already been working for decades on building a new, virtual world.

Now the way we work, learn, play and connect will have fundamentally changed, even after the threat of disease recedes.

Certainly, embracing the idea of moving forward can be energizing, especially in hard times (and it echoes our HRSouthwest Conference , Embrace the Future). Getting down to brass tacks, though, what do these changes mean for the future of live events? Let’s take a look at some emerging trends and thought leadership from the event planning industry.

Smaller gatherings for the time being

Of course, the pandemic is still at this point very much part of our present and the foreseeable future. With mass gatherings the vehicle for transmission, the emphasis for at least some months to come may be on smaller gatherings with more limited numbers of attendees. These gatherings are likely to adhere to emerging medical guidance, enforce health practices like mask wearing and sanitizing protocols, and be held outside when possible.

Virtual elements are here to stay

These smaller gatherings may also be supplemented by virtual elements—held before, after, on-demand, or simultaneously. This hybrid approach will probably be our normal for some time to come. In one approach, some attendees may watch live while others watch video feeds. Changes to registration protocols, including print-at-home badges, touchless registration, health screening and temperature checks, will alter how people are greeted at events. In addition, live event catering will almost certainly change, at least until the threat of the coronavirus recedes.

A dual approach

Research from PCMA, the industry association for event planners, revealed 77% of professionals are interested in learning more about virtual events and 70% are eager to learn more about safe, live events. We simply don’t know what the future holds, so this dual approach makes sense.

Virtual events come into their own

This year has required ingenuity and flexibility from everyone. An unexpected benefit, though, is how far virtual events have come, and how much attendees have come to value them. By the beginning of the summer, virtual events were up 1000% according to Forbes. And according to marketing research firm imarc, the digital events sector is poised to post double-digit compound annual growth rates (CAGR) from 2022 to 2025. Certainly, virtual events are here to stay in some form.

HRSWC 2021

We don’t have a crystal ball into which to gaze and see where the world is in October 2021. But we do have the experience of having produced a successful virtual conference that engaged attendees and drew rave reviews. We’re hopeful effective vaccines and therapeutics will be available before next year’s conference. In the meantime, we are planning a dual approach, exciting hybrid event for 2021 so no matter the outlook, the 80th HRSouthwest Conference will commence October 10 – 13, 2021.   

Look for registration to open in the second quarter of 2021 and take advantage of the low introductory  rates. We hope to “see you” in Fort Worth, October 10 – 13, 2021.

DallasHR is the third largest SHRM affiliate chapter in the nation. With more than 2,300 engaged HR professionals, the Chapter has been Advancing the Value of HR since 1939 through cutting-edge education, fun networking events and opportunities to share best practices with others in the field of HR. The Chapter powers The HRSouthwest Conference, one of the largest regional HR events in the U.S. hosting more than 2,400 attendees in Fort Worth annually. DallasHR events are held in both Dallas and Collin Counties. Visit us at to join or to register and follow us at #DALLASHR, #HRSWC.