Broadway’s reopening today— with vaccinations and masks required— signals a glimpse into the future of events, with a mix of strictly-regulated in-person, hybrid and virtual events continuing.
The summer’s peak in vaccination rates allowed in-person events to take place again and gave organizers time to establish health and safety guidelines, providing confidence for the months ahead. Crowds are returning to concerts and sporting events, with Lollapalooza recently drawing a 385,000-person turnout over four days, and the US Open, NFL and college football opening at 100% capacity in stadiums with varying policies and protocols.
But with a rise in cases and hospitalizations due to Delta, some are weighing the optics and the return on investment of in-person events this fall. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival rescheduled for October was canceled for the second year following an uptick in cases in Louisiana. The International Auto Show was also scrapped in the face of changing regulations in New York City, saving automakers uncertainty and expense.
In the case of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly, many countries are expected to decide their in-person attendance closer to the week of the general debate—including the US, which called for the events to take place virtually.
The benefits of virtual events have become abundantly clear over the past eighteen months, offering flexibility, accessibility and reach.
More in-person events will take place this fall, alleviating some virtual fatigue. But there will still be cancelations and pivots—and plenty planning for virtual or hybrid events from the start.