There are many reasons to be optimistic about the state of the event industry. 2022 saw the resurgence of in-person events, while the increasing digitization of events has offered exciting new opportunities to enhance and extend attendee engagement.
On the other hand, some challenges have emerged, not least the impact of rising inflation and ongoing staffing shortages across the board. Despite this, however, demand for events remains high and continues to grow.
As we look ahead to 2023, here are the top nine trends to expect in the coming year – and how they will impact your meetings and events.
1. Intense Focus On Cost Savings and Efficiencies
Rising inflation, combined with high demand and increased event costs, will mean organizations will need to increase their event spending. A 2022 CWT report estimated the cost-per-attendee for meetings and events to be 25% higher than in 2019, with this set to rise by another 7% in 2023.
With a potential recession looming, businesses will focus heavily on making cost savings and finding efficiencies across their event programs. The need to control costs will also place greater emphasis on event organizers to prove event ROI as it becomes increasingly critical to demonstrate the impact and business value of events.
Top tip: Get visibility across all of your meetings and events to identify where efficiencies can be found and costs reduced. Create standardized processes and use technology to help automate manual tasks and bring down your event costs.
2. Race for Quality Space
In-person events are not only back, they’re thriving. But the return to in-person events is happening more rapidly and at a greater volume than anticipated. Consequently, the spike in demand for venues means that there is greater competition for available event space.
Rising venue costs and the ongoing staffing shortages impacting venues also complicate the search for suitable, quality venues. In 2023, early planning to source the right venues for your events will be crucial.
Top tip: Review your venue sourcing process. Consider using venue sourcing tools to automate and accelerate the process of finding a suitable venue.
3. In-Person Events Embrace Digital Elements
Events post-pandemic have become digital. The sudden pivot to virtual events during the pandemic greatly accelerated the digitization of events, and means that going forward, in-person events will be very different from 2019.
In 2023, in-person events will incorporate more digital touchpoints, supported by technology. This will allow event marketers and planners to capture more valuable insights on attendee behavior and interests to build more personalized attendee experiences.
More digital touchpoints also offer the opportunity to extend the engagement of your event beyond its traditional start and end dates, so you can create always-on, year-round attendee engagement.
Top tip: Plan to integrate digital elements into your in-person events to enhance and measure attendee engagement before, during, and after your event.
4. More Connected Event Programs
The coming year will see organizations focus on delivering a multi-format event strategy. A winning formula will be to use a strategic mix of in-person, virtual, and hybrid event formats to continually engage audiences.
What could this look like? Thanks to their ability to provide deeper engagement, in-person events will be the core of an event program. However, virtual events will serve as the connective tissue between those face-to-face experiences, providing opportunities for brands to engage with online audiences through the repurposing of event content.
Underpinning this strategy will be the use of compelling content, particularly video. With audiences wanting to consume video content on-demand, there is an exciting opportunity for event and marketing teams to collaborate to repurpose and distribute event content before, during, and after the event to maximize engagement.
Top tip: The appetite for on-demand video means you can merge event content with other digital marketing channels. Also, consider creating an on-demand content hub where attendees can access speaker sessions and other exclusive content from your event.
5. More Strategic Use of Event Data
Event organizers can capture more data insights than ever before, thanks to digitization.
The wealth of event data available means that event marketers and planners can gain deeper insights to enhance attendee experiences and increase engagement. Which sessions/content resonated the most with attendees? Did the event lead to new sales opportunities? These are just some of the questions that event data can answer.
Using event data strategically will also help event organizers translate the impact of their events into quantifiable, measurable outcomes that can be shared with stakeholders and decision-makers.
Top tip: To be able to capture the right data, you need the right tools. Ensure you have the right technology in place to see key metrics and inform future event planning.
6. Internal Events Step Into the Spotlight
The pandemic has transformed how we work – and hybrid is here to stay. Nearly half of all organizations have adopted hybrid or remote working, according to the Amex 2023 Global Meetings and Events Forecast.
But with a distributed workforce comes new challenges. Connecting, training, and motivating distributed employees will become crucial to maintaining a strong company culture. And with many workers now expecting hybrid as a standard, embracing flexible ways of working will be necessary for companies wanting to attract and retain talent.
That’s why 2023 will see a renewed focus on internal meetings and events. While they may not generate leads or drive revenue directly, they will play a vital role in keeping employees engaged, satisfied, and motivated.
Top tip: The shift to hybrid and flexible working means that meetings and events professionals will need to think strategically about which event formats – in-person, virtual, or hybrid – will be most effective for your teams. Some meetings, such as hands-on training, will need to be in-person, while virtual meetings can work well for routine training. Alternatively, hybrid may be essential for events like SKOs, where virtual access is possible for those working remotely.
7. Events Designed with ESG in Mind
With ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) policies demonstrating a company's commitment to key issues like sustainability and diversity, these factors will become even more important in every aspect of event design.
Sustainability is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. In one survey, 80% of respondents said their organization takes sustainability into account when planning meetings and events. Of this, 76% have implemented a sustainable meeting program strategy.
But while a priority, sustainability remains a key challenge. The 2022 ICE benchmarking report found that 59% of event planners see sustainability as a challenge for their businesses.
To tackle this, event organizers will be looking to focus on measuring and reporting on the impact of their sustainability efforts. This will include setting measurable goals and tracking their events' carbon footprint through factors like catering, energy consumption, and the distance traveled by delegates.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
We've seen an increased effort to improve DE&I initiatives within the event industry and this will continue to be a priority in 2023.
Championing diversity and inclusion will also mean a concerted effort to host events that are more inclusive and accessible to all. This is multi-faceted and comes in many forms.
For example, it could include selecting venues that are 100% accessible or gathering relevant information, such as accessibility requirements, from attendees during the registration process, so you can accommodate these during the event planning.
It could also mean making sure that speakers are selected from a wide range of diverse backgrounds, offering attendees the ability to attend an event virtually, or ensuring that inclusive language is used throughout all event communications.
Health and Wellness
It's no secret: the stress of the last few years has led to many event organizers feeling overwhelmed and overworked. And like many others, the event industry also experienced the Great Resignation.
To mitigate this, there has been a shift to focus on the health and well-being of employees within the industry. In 2023, organizations will need to demonstrate their commitment to building a healthy company culture. With employees demanding more from employers, businesses will also need to prioritize key benefits such as flexible working, offer better compensation packages and deliver opportunities for career progression.
The other side of the coin is an emerging focus on the well-being of delegates at events. For example, there is greater recognition of the need to provide downtime for delegates during busy events - the introduction of quiet rooms or 'wellness hubs', is just one example.
8. Rebuilding Partner and Supplier Relationships
The event landscape is changing rapidly. Faced with staffing shortages and a more complex set of event requirements, event organizers will need to rely on extended teams of suppliers and partners to help execute their events.
This will mean working with the right partners to source venues and building relationships with both vendors and technology providers to deliver engaging event experiences.
Top tip: In this complex landscape, ongoing training and education will be key to staying ahead of the curve and leveling up your skills.
9. Technology consolidation will be necessary
To achieve greater efficiencies, reduce costs and increase visibility across their meetings and events, companies will look to consolidate their technologies by integrating their tech stack.
An integrated tech stack means you can house your event data in a single source of truth. It also facilitates the flow of data between internal systems, such as Marketing/CRM, HR, finance systems, and more.
Not only does this provide a holistic view of your entire meetings and events program, but it also allows you to standardize and enforce global policies across your organization and improves reporting.
Top tip: Ensure that 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.
2023: An Optimistic Year for Events
2023 looks set to be a promising year for meetings and events. The strong return of in-person events, combined with opportunities to leverage data and digitization to improve efficiency, means event organizers are better equipped to deliver engaging events that prove ROI.