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The Evolution of In-Person Events

The Evolution of In-Person Events

It’s not that long ago when “virtual” was an afterthought in the events industry. But even as in-person events are making their comeback, virtual is still holding steady and — dare we say it — influencing in-person events.

Virtual may have started as a necessity back in 2020, but it has certainly earned its keep, proving to be a powerful budget-friendly tool for ongoing connection, employee engagement, and personal and professional development. While virtual will never replace in-person, many of our clients are now using this medium to host supplemental events that enhance the impact of their in-person events and offer support throughout the year.

Now that our industry seems firmly cemented in this hybrid world, our team took time to reflect on some of the trends we’ve seen emerge across both in-person and virtual events. In a special two-part series, we’ll be exploring these trends plus the innovative ways both our clients and speakers are using each medium to enhance the impact of their events.  

First up — in-person events and how they’ve evolved post-pandemic.

The Rise of the Moderated Q&A

A fascinating trend we’ve seen carry over from virtual to in-person events is the rise of the moderated Q&A. While fireside chats and Q&As are not new, this format grew in popularity throughout the pandemic and continues to do so as in-person events make their return.

Prior to the pandemic, the majority of events we booked had the general format of a 45-minute speech followed by a short Q&A, but this played differently in a virtual space. It still had its purpose, but as our industry became more practiced in the art of hosting virtual events, we saw a turn in popularity towards a moderated conversation.

Screen and Zoom fatigue quickly became an issue during the pandemic. This is when we started seeing that 45-minute keynote become shorter and replaced with a longer, in-depth Q&A. This format seemed to add an extra dash of dynamism and energy to a virtual event and broke the content down into easily digestible blocks.

Today, as we work within a hybrid space, we still recommend fireside chats as much as long-form keynotes, with clients often opting for a 20-minute talk followed by a tailored Q&A, whether the event is virtual or in-person. This is definitely a trend shaped by the success of virtual events.

Fireside Chats vs. Keynote Speeches

A fireside chat format works especially well when clients are looking to book celebrity speakers and/or speakers with a wealth of life experience. It’s a more intimate event that gives a behind-the-scenes look at their life while sharing lessons learned.  

Two examples of this include Toronto Raptors president and vice-chairman Masai Ujiri and CBC Dragon Arlene Dickinson. Both are more than capable of delivering compelling long-form speeches, but they excel in a Q&A format because there is more opportunity for off-the-cuff conversation. It also allows the host to customize the presentation and explore certain areas of their expertise in more depth to better connect with the audience.

And the feedback speaks for itself:

Masai’s session was ranked #1 by our guests! His scores are actually the highest we’ve seen at Facebook for any external speaker. So, thank you/your team and Masai/his team again for the partnership. Such a pleasure.


I can’t tell you how many people came up to me yesterday to tell me how incredible Arlene was. She had such amazing answers to the questions that were asked, and we couldn’t have asked for a better experience working with her.


Long-form speeches on the other hand — our 30-45-minute keynote plus short Q&A — are being used most effectively for technical topics or when there are certain desired learning outcomes. We recommend this format when clients are looking to cover specific subjects such as change management, leading through crisis, DEI strategies, etc.

Ron Tite, a purpose-driven leadership and marketing expert, is one of our most popular speakers. He excels in this format because he combines practical advice with compelling storytelling, strong visuals, and a healthy dose of humour.

Right now, Ron’s most requested topic is “NOW WHAT? Prioritizing Personal and Organizational Growth to Go from Recovery to Reinvention”. Watch him in action in the video below:

Audience-Fueled Performances

There’s no doubt that in-person events offer a different type of energy. Our speakers feed off of audience reaction, which doesn’t exist in the same capacity when you’re presenting to a screen.

This is never more evident than with our comedic talent. While comedians were still in-demand throughout the pandemic and delivered hilarious content, in-person events allow them to truly shine, whether you book them as hosts or keynote speakers.

A hugely in-demand speaker right now is Jessica Holmes. It doesn’t really matter where or how you see her — she never ceases to amaze — but she especially thrives in an in-person environment. The star of Royal Canadian Air Farce and The Holmes Show, Jessica is a mental health advocate who effortlessly weaves comedy into her powerful keynotes on mental health, wellness, and resiliency. She can be sharing a heartfelt reflection on her journey through depression only to incorporate a hilarious impression of Celine Dion one minute later. Watch her in action:

The Immersive Keynote Experience

Lastly, in-person events offer the opportunity for a bigger, grander, and immersive experience. Sébastien Sasseville has incorporated this in his latest in-person offering — The Immersive Keynote Experience. He is an endurance athlete as well as a leadership and change management expert who supports his storytelling with music, sound effects, and lighting to create an awe-inspiring experience.

Sébastien immerses his audiences in projected imagery around the room of the most impressive landscapes and endurance events on earth. He uses this grand-scale event to inspire his audience to take action, set bigger goals, and believe in their ability to succeed.

You have to see it in action to believe it:

Join us for part two of this series that explores the evolution of virtual events now that in-person events are back in action.

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