Budgets and creativity will have few limits this year, as companies and organizations meet pent-up demands to gather and celebrate without fear. 

Though things will never look the same again, event industry professionals are looking forward to 2022 as the birth of something new and exciting. Bay Area-based event planners and production agencies with a national footprint finding new ways to dazzle and delight while operating within the confines of a post-pandemic world. 

As when any creative industry faces a big challenge, the result is alway something unexpected and imaginative. Creative outdoor setups, avant garde activations, new ways of catering and hybrid setups will all make events in 2022 a year to remember. 

The event industry is taking (back) off in new and exciting ways.

1) Go Big, Go Small or Go Home

In the world of corporate and private events, there’s no more middle ground—planners are either keeping events intimate and boutique or hosting big, splashy celebrations.

“The thing is, there’s a lot of leftover budget for events from 2020 and people are ready to spend it,” said Jason Pulido of Blueprint Studios, a San Francisco-based event design and production studio. 

Pulido added that companies, in particular, are spending these cushy budgets on big parties that are following a number of safety protocols. They’re changing the menu around how things are done. “They’re shaking up the old formulas and thinking of new ideas that are totally outside the box.” 

As long as there are some Covid precautions—including on-site testing or vaccination mandates—companies are feeling confident about getting back to it.

2) Indoor/Outdoor Everything

While some indoor gatherings are still happening, not any old venue will do. Large spaces with lots of ventilation have become increasingly sought after. Venues like the Midway, which has plenty of modifiable space, and Metro Events, which has two huge event spaces on San Francisco’s waterfront, are where companies will be able to party responsibly without reimagining an entire outdoor space. 

Outdoor venues brought to life with some rentals and a little creative production will remain the optimal option in many ways for hosting events, as our collective cabin fever has drawn most people to fresh air activities. 

Last year’s push to almost exclusively throw outdoor events proved a little challenging for some companies, as the industry experienced a shortage of tent rentals, fire pits and other assets that are needed to make the outdoors as comfortable as the indoors. However, many rental companies have scaled up their inventories and a number of fresh, new options have entered the scene. 

3) Small Plates Only, Please

If there’s anything we’ve learned from the pandemic is how illnesses spread. Many catering businesses have adapted to fit the needs of people gathering in person. The result? More variety, tapas-style meals, small portions, pop-up tents and mobile food options.

As a general trend, parties are moving away from sit-down settings to more airy events with lots of room for movement and mingling. 

4) Interactive Entertainment 

From dance lessons, to on-site henna tattoo artists to TikTok booths, events have fully re-emerged as opportunities to actually have fun and let loose with memorable entertainment options that surprise and awe. 

The past couple of years have been very heavy and very serious, and everyone’s ready to feel alive again. Companies are no longer simply trying to check a box for employee morale, but really going the extra mile to create fun events that celebrate making it to (or at least being able to see) the other side of the pandemic. Think: Art activations, cooking demos, photography classes, tutorials. There’s a huge appetite for events that are engaging and resources abound to make those come to life.  

5) Casual is Cool

Informal gatherings seem to be a natural extension of a world in which everyone got used to working from home in their sweatpants. Casula, event planners, are saying, is now. White tablecloth is stogie.

This all makes perfect sense, considering large, airy industry spaces and outdoor events would make a too-formal event seem out of place. As a mobile food caterer, we embrace the arrival of casual cool. 

6) Hybrid Is Here to Stay

Industry experts across the country agree that virtual events are here to stay, but it’s more likely that they’ll be done in a hybrid way. That is, in-person parties with a virtual component for people who are now remote or don’t quite feel comfortable in group settings.

Technology companies like SassStr were some of the first to embrace hybrid events, and—if we could learn anything from them—it’s that we can and will reimagine in-person conferences and events in a way that’s seamless and effective.