Event Marketing: Past, Present, and Future



To anyone who’s been paying attention, it’s obvious that event marketing has gone through some drastic changes in the last few years.  

We’re all tired of talking about the pandemic at this point, but its impact can’t be ignored. From mingling in person, to events being canceled, to going remote, to baby steps back into the in-person events world—the evolution of events marketing has been swift and in constant flux. And that is a clear indication of how important events are. 

Even in the most challenging of circumstances, we’ve taken whatever steps necessary to continue holding events. And the data shows that this focus on events will continue, with the global events industry expecting to surge at a growth rate of 11.2% over the next six years.

Today, we are navigating a new landscape that continues to evolve as we find more ways to market and sell events and improve the overall experience of attendees. Let’s take a look at events from the not-so-distant past, the present, and our predictions for the future. 

the evolution of event marketing

The Ghost of Events Marketing Past

Tradeshows, conferences, summits, roundtables—events in the not-so-distant past were a common part of any company’s marketing strategy. Events were used not only to launch new products and engage with prospects, they were also used to create industry connections, build relationships and partnerships, and to cultivate internal company culture. 

Related reading: How to Market a Conference: The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Event a Success

From multi-national companies to local markets, all businesses that relied on in-person meetings were staggered and faced heavy losses. As a consequence of the pandemic, the idea of gathering hundreds of buyers, brand representatives, and other industry leaders into a single room to show off new products and services has gone from a common marketing tactic to an unthinkable—and in many parts of the world, illegal—concept. But, back then, it was what people wanted and looked forward to. 

Our New Normal

Fast forward to the present, current event marketing tactics are significantly different from those that were in place before the COVID-19 pandemic. Simply put, the virtual trend is here to stay and will remain in place indefinitely until consumers decide to move on to something bigger and better—but they probably won’t, and not just because of public safety concerns. Taking events remote gave event marketers access to a broader audience. Online options help reduce limitations like distance and funds for attendees, and they don’t require expensive venues, caterers, and travel accommodations. 

Virtual events and remote conferences have emerged as the go-to safe solution to keep event marketing going during the pandemic. Webinars are the standard choice for virtual events as they are straightforward, relatively easy to put together, and are proven to be effective. 

Going live—which is to say, livestreaming on social media—is another way to hold a virtual event. Livestream events can be impromptu—planned just moments before, or they can be planned in advance. Livestream podcasts have made a space in the marketing industry. They are ideal options for thought leaders who want to provide valuable content with a regular cadence. 

While virtual events are also much easier to reschedule, adjust, and even cancel outright than live events, they just can’t replace in-person events. 

People are excited to connect and network in person as COVID-19 infections drop significantly and governments ease travel restrictions. With a hybrid event model, attendees can attend events virtually, from multiple locations in-person, or both. The ratio of one audience to the other doesn’t really matter because a hybrid event is created to connect multiple audiences to one event.  

And that’s just the tip of the events marketing iceberg!

The use of virtual events can extend the shelf life of your branded content and circulate your business throughout different consumer groups, especially when it’s marketed correctly. Exploring B2B influencer marketing in tandem with your event marketing to generate buzz around your events can work wonders for your business. 

This is the idea behind the Zendaya Method—where, instead of companies using their events as the primary experience, they view events as tipping points. 

People should already have an idea of who you are when they attend your event, and their experience should make them want to know more. 

The Future Is Bright

Among the many lessons to emerge from the pandemic is the potential for virtual platforms to bring people together. But that doesn’t mean in-person events are going away. According to the DBC Industry calendar, ad industry events are now more commonly held in person than as exclusively virtual happenings

And the B2B exhibit industry cancellation rate shows that no-shows are ready to show up:

  • Q4 of 2020 – 97.9%
  • Q4 of 2021 – 12.5%

As social beings, we all desire in-person experiences, and experiential and events marketing will continue to be a part of our future. 

While the past year has taught us that predicting the future is an exercise in futility, all signs point to the emergence and dominance of the hybrid model.

The switch from a physical to digital space has not only been essential for preventing significant financial loss, but also for proving the agility of marketers in times of crisis. Virtual events, as well as hybrid events that mix virtual and in-person components, tend to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly than solely in-person gatherings. But still, they lack the “togetherness” that in-person events have. 

This is where VR is making a play for the middle ground between in-person and virtual. Yes, we’re talking about exploring the Metaverse and using virtual reality to host events and connect with peers, partners, and prospects on a new level.

Before you call us crazy, let’s talk about it for a second. 

The metaverse is a virtual world where users can socialize, work, shop, and do so much more through the avatars they create. Metaverse marketing provides opportunities for brands to create highly engaged communities and provide experiences you most likely won’t find anywhere else. Companies can generate a wealth of knowledge from the data-heavy metaverse and tie avatar behaviors to the real people that use them. For marketers, this will expand your reach even further and open up new doors to promote your brand’s content.

Related reading: Metaverse Marketing: A Brave New (Virtual) World – Zen Media

The metaverse is only in its infantile stage, so there’s a lot more to learn about its capacities and limitations or lack thereof. This gives event marketers the perfect opportunity to do their research and learn all they can about marketing their brand in this new space. 

While nothing is ever certain, this time of constant evolution guarantees that to keep up, you have to be agile and willing to adapt. Whether you took your events online in 2020 and back offline in 2022, whether you’re considering an impromptu livestream event or scheduling a hybrid product launch, whether you’re designing an avatar for your metaverse events or scheduling an in-person exclusive—be flexible, listen to your audience, and make sure your event is just the tipping point—not the whole strategy. 

Need help planning your event? Let’s get in touch.


Don’t miss!

Expert-level insights direct from our CEO’s desk.


Explore the latest in B2B PR and marketing

ultimate guide to pr trends to know in 2023
After 2020’s massive shake-up, followed by a still-unpredictable and capricious 2021 and a looming recession in 2022, PR pros across all industries have had to adapt, evolve, and pivot to get their client brands in the spotlight. Here are the Zen Media team’s predictions for the PR trends we’ll see this coming year. 

Let’s talk.

Our clients are smart, thoughtful, & forward-thinking.

Sound like you? Get in touch.