January 19, 2024
By Victoria Akinsowon

If there's one thing we can count on, it's that the meetings and events industry is constantly changing. And 2024 is no exception, as we see the rise of AI, a greater demand for experiential events, and a renewed focus on inclusivity and sustainability.

But there are also challenges to consider, such as rising costs and the need for event, marketing, and hospitality teams to do more with less.

Read on to discover the top 10 meetings and events trends to watch out for in 2024 – and how they’ll impact your strategies in the coming year.

1. In-Person Events Dominate, but Virtual is Here to Stay

Undoubtedly, in-person events will be at the heart of most event and hospitality programs in 2024. Face-to-face experiences provide more opportunities for deeper engagement, networking, and interaction, making them business-critical.

According to data from our Cvent platform, 86% of event programs currently include in-person events. And in a commissioned study conducted by Forester Consulting on behalf of Cvent, 89% of global event and meeting strategy leaders say in-person events are important or critical to increasing revenue.

But while in-person events are critical, virtual and hybrid experiences are valuable and here to stay.

Our Annual Planner Sourcing Report (Europe Edition), which surveyed 635 European planners, revealed that 24% are already planning virtual events for 2024, whilst 41% are planning hybrid formats (an 8% increase from 2022). Similarly, 45% of event programs on our platform contain virtual elements.

Why are virtual and hybrid events still so valuable? They help broaden the reach of your event and provide attendees with greater flexibility – not to mention the sustainability benefits. 

💡Top tip: Investing in the right technology to execute all types of event formats and seamlessly integrate into your CRM and other MarTech systems will be vital for your strategic success in 2024 and beyond.

2. Venues Must Support Experience-First Events

As attendee expectations continue to rise, there’s added pressure for event organizers to find unique venues that can support immersive and interactive experiences. 

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that attendees are looking for five-star extravagance. According to the North American edition of our Planner Sourcing Report, 35% of respondents say they’re looking for a unique aesthetic when it comes to venue selection.

When choosing a non-hotel venue, planners prefer convention centers (53%), restaurants (50%), and other venues offering unique experiences.

North American Cvent Planner Sourcing Report Venues Graph

Source: Annual Cvent Planner Sourcing Report

Despite budget restraints, event organizers remain determined not to scrimp on the experience. And they’re looking for unique venues that can support them. 

💡Top tip: For venues and hotels, showcasing how your venue can support the interactive experiences is crucial. For event organizers, thinking outside the box is necessary. Consider non-traditional locations for your events that allow you to create experiential events that engage attendees.

3. AI Experimentation Grows

AI was one of the hottest topics in the industry last year, and with good reason. The rise of generative AI tools like ChatGPT has provided event planners and marketers new ways to automate time-consuming tasks and focus on more creative and strategic endeavors.

In 2024, we’ll see more experimentation with AI across the industry. ChatGPT and other generative AI tools will become more sophisticated and proficient in helping to develop event and campaign content

Hotel group sales managers can use AI to bring in more business travelers by using predictive analytics to forecast future demand for group sales, target potential business travelers, and anticipate changes in demand.

💡Top tip: While AI can bring significant benefits, it's important to consider the risks. Don’t treat any AI tool as a single source of truth – check any information it provides. Additionally, don’t share confidential or proprietary information with any AI tool. 

4. Finding New Ways to Reimagine Engagement

With attendees bombarded with more content than ever, event planners and marketers must find creative new ways to engage with their audiences

Attendees expect to be fully immersed in the content and event design in return for taking the time and effort to attend an event. 

An event’s ability to capture the attention of attendees increases the likelihood of them leaving satisfied, engaging with your brand’s content year-round, and returning to future events. 

In 2024, we’ll see more focus on crafting compelling content and breakout sessions, wellness spaces, and greater networking opportunities. Plus, follow-up webinars and repurposed and on-demand content will help foster community engagement year-round. 

💡Top tip: Events are arguably the most effective engagement channel, and they provide an increased number of engagement touchpoints. So, having the right event technology in place will be critical to capture and analyze this data and build engagement scores for individual attendees. 

5. Technology Unites Planners and Venues

The hospitality sector has faced ongoing staffing shortages in recent years, while marketing and event teams have been asked to do more with fewer resources or less budget.

In 2024, technology will be an important solution to these challenges.

Why? Technology improves collaboration between event organizers, suppliers, and venues. For example, venue diagramming tools can help event teams share design room layouts and seating designs with a chosen venue in real-time, improving communication and helps build closer working relationships on both sides. 

💡Top tip: Event planners should consider using single-platform and cloud-based technology to store all previous bids and contracted rates. This will make it easier to negotiate with hotels and venues to get the best deals.

6. Accessible, Sustainable Events Reflect Brand Values

Consumers increasingly expect brands to demonstrate their commitment to social issues like sustainability and DE&I. As an extension of a brand, meetings and events must follow suit.

Sustainability 

Sustainability is on everyone’s mind. In one survey, 78% of respondents said their organizations plan to have net zero goals by the end of 2024.

But while a priority, sustainability remains a challenge, with cost being a major concern for nearly 40% of respondents in the Fourth Annual Benchmark Report by ICE, in partnership with Cvent. 

💡Top tip: Embracing sustainable initiatives doesn’t have to be costly. Start small by prioritizing sustainable venues and suppliers, opting for locally sourced food options, and reducing single-use plastics at your event. 

Accessibility

Some 16% of people worldwide have a disability, according to the World Health Organization. Across the US, this rises to 1 in 4 adults, or 27% of the population.

Put simply, ensuring your events are accessible and inclusive to all is fundamental. Plus, if your events aren’t welcoming and accessible for everyone, you’re likely missing out on the opportunity to reach a much wider audience.

💡Top tip: Ensuring your meeting or event is accessible includes asking the right questions during the registration process, being intentional about the onsite experience, and providing staff training. For more tips, check out this blog post, Accessibility in Events: Tips and Best Practices.

7. Events Shift to Marketing

ICE's Fourth Annual Benchmark Report observed a significant shift in the organizational placement of in-house corporate event teams in 2023.

Most event teams (71%) now find their home within a company’s marketing function, a substantial increase from the 55% reported in 2022.

This trend signifies a growing recognition of the strategic importance of events in marketing.

Planners are using MarTech solutions and integrating event data into CRM systems, while marketers are building broader campaigns around events and understanding the value that face-to-face activity brings. Events and marketing have become inseparable bedfellows for the future.

💡Top tip: Successful events and event marketing campaigns will require close collaboration between event and marketing teams to ensure they meet objectives. Understanding stakeholders' priorities is essential for increasing the chances of success.

8. Technology is a Key Skill

Technology has become a crucial pillar of any event or hospitality strategy. As a result, more organizations will prioritize technology to track, automate and deliver engaging campaigns and experiences. 

Employers who develop their team’s skills in areas such as AI, data analysis, and automation will pave the way for ongoing career success. 

One sign of the increasing importance of technology is the emergence of a key technology-based role: the event technologist. With 63% of event technologists currently found in the meetings and events department, they provide a valuable resource for combining tech expertise with an in-depth knowledge of the event planning process.

💡Top tip: Technology competency is crucial for all roles, and keeping up with technological advancements, such as AI, will be critical for your success. Not sure where to start? Consider upskilling with relevant industry training and certifications.

9. Cost Control Places a Premium on ROI

High costs continue to challenge marketing and event teams in 2024. According to the 2024 Amex Global Trends Forecast, 67% of respondents predict an increase in overall meeting spend in 2024.

For 36% of the planners who took part in Cvent’s Planner Sourcing Report, cost inflation is deemed the biggest challenge on the horizon. A large majority (77%) believe the cost of holding a meeting or event of the same size and complexity in 2024 will increase by up to a fifth compared to 2023.

Because of the continued uncertainty around event costs, 85% of these respondents said they had built contingency into their budget for 2024. This contingency will see planners find new ways to do more with less by reducing costs and increasing efficiencies. 

Meanwhile, 48% of North American planners say that cost-saving measures will predominantly shape their event planning priorities in 2024. The vast majority (83%) said they’d switch venues for savings of 6% or more, with half agreeing to switch for up to 10% savings. This reflects the challenges all organizations face when balancing budgets against the design experience and event ROI

💡Top tip: With ROI under continued scrutiny, ensuring you have the right KPIs in place for each of your events and buy-in from your stakeholders will be crucial. Use technology to help get visibility across all your meetings and events and identify where you can find efficiencies and reduce costs.

10. Centralizing For Scale

Organizations are now assessing how to centralize their event technology, much like they have centralized their CRM and marketing technologies. Working with a single system reduces expenses and empowers overextended teams to work more effectively.

Consolidation isn’t just about cost and resource efficiencies. Increasingly, organizations are adopting a centralized tech stack to help drive growth. 

centralized and integrated tech stack helps teams better connect with suppliers, spend less time consolidating and merging data, and more time using technology to understand attendee interests and accelerate revenue.

💡Top tip: Ensure your event data isn't siloed from other internal systems. Use a robust event platform that can integrate with your core systems to create a single source of truth and improve measurement.

2024: A strong year for the meetings and events industry

The world of meetings and events is constantly changing, with new trends emerging, such as the rise of AI and the drive to find new ways to engage audiences. Staying on top of these waves is crucial for continued success.

Use these trends to stay ahead of the future of meetings and events and prepare your strategy for 2024 and beyond. 

For deeper insights into the 2024 trends shaping meetings and events, register for our upcoming webinar, the 2024 Event Trends Forecast.

Victoria Akinsowon

Victoria Akinsowon

Victoria is the Team Lead for Content Marketing in Europe at Cvent. She has over five years of experience in developing and executing content marketing strategies that drive growth for businesses across industries. In her spare time, you’ll find her either learning a new language, travelling or reading a good book.

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