January 17, 2024
By Paul Cook

Corporate event planners face critical challenges this year: tight budgets, sustainability issues, offering attractive remuneration and clarity on job roles. The fourth annual report from the In-house Corporate Event (ICE) community, produced in partnership with Cvent, contains valuable findings that can help planners identify and tackle these issues. 

Based on data from over 130 planners across the UK, Europe, and North America, the report highlights key takeaways to help event professionals navigate industry challenges and trends.

From the report, it’s clear that corporate event planning is evolving. For example, there’s a notable shift towards events aligning with marketing functions, not to mention the new ways in which event teams are using technology to manage and streamline their events. 

Read on to discover some of the key highlights; namely the lack of standardisation in job titles, challenges with sustainability, and the need for event professionals to have a seat at the table.

There's a lack of standardisation in job titles

One of the biggest findings in the report was the surprisingly wide range of job titles used across the industry. They found 91 distinct job titles and 9 levels of seniority. The range of job descriptions covers events, operations, conferences, engagement, campaigns, and sponsorship.

The lack of standardisation in job titles across corporates and their event teams is the root of a range of problems, because it: 

  • Causes confusion about roles and responsibilities
  • Creates difficulty in benchmarking against peers
  • Makes career progression ambiguous
  • Means stakeholders don’t understand the various roles of an event team 
  • Makes recruitment processes more inefficient

Whilst the events profession may be new compared to, say, the insurance industry, the fundamental tasks associated with producing events have not changed since Roman times. However today, event professionals have additional layers of complexity to deal with, like data protection, event inclusivity, and doing more with less.

To make matters worse, event professionals could be diluting their worth. The research uncovered that, in addition to the tasks included in their job descriptions, event profs also do the following: 

  • Event strategy (47%) 
  • Content creation (74%) 
  • Delegate marketing plan (81%) 
List of event planner roles

There’s little doubt that all corporates would benefit from addressing the lack of standardisation in job titles. It would be that much easier to recruit staff if everyone understood the set of skills and experience needed for the job. This clarity would also help employees as they could develop a plan to move more easily between the job roles. 

One thing is clear, addressing the lack of standardisation is crucial for the sector’s growth, impacting job satisfaction, progression, and the industry’s professional reputation. 

Sustainability is a priority, but there are still challenges

Creating eco-friendly events remains a priority for events professionals, and here there has been some progress. However, there are also ongoing barriers identified in the report, like cost (40%), resource constraints (23%), and knowledge gaps (15%). 

Event sustainability challenges responses
The top challenges event professionals face when it comes to sustainability

Event teams are nothing if not creative in their thinking and we can see this in some of the sustainable implementations which the report shares. Going paperless on-site, using vegetarian menus, and working closely with sustainable suppliers were just a few of the examples. 

But making events sustainable is an issue for the wider organisation and this leads to some important questions that need to be answered. What are the sustainable practices already in place that event teams need to align with? Conversely, what innovative ideas and initiatives can the event team bring to the company to help it achieve its sustainability goals? 

Event teams can offer new suggestions to the board to help them understand the new opportunities available. Questioning, in a consultative way, whether asking staff to travel long distances to a single conference is the best use of resources and then offering an alternative would be a useful way of opening discussions.

Event professionals could propose alternative event formats such as regional hub events, rather than a single conference. The alternative formats would need to be costed, and comparison pricing offered for the ‘existing event’ format for the stakeholders to enable a decision to be made on the way forward. 

For an event team to be successful with sustainable measures, the more proactive they are the better. It’s critical to keep up to date with requirements and think about using the wealth of technology and event formats at their disposal to make the biggest impact for their stakeholders. 

There's a communication gap between event teams and stakeholders

It’s vital that event teams are involved at the highest strategic levels in organisations. Unfortunately, not all internal stakeholders understand the value that events bring. 

For example, the 2023 report shows evidence of a significant communication gap between event teams and stakeholders. A substantial 50% of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement: “Stakeholders understand what our event department delivers.” 

This indicates a clear disconnect between the two parties.

Stakeholders understand what  our events department delivers
Q: Stakeholders understand what our events department delivers

In addition to this, the business of managing and exceeding stakeholder expectations is an ongoing challenge for event teams. Not least because each stakeholder has a slightly different view. The research shows that approximately 45% of event professionals manage between 1 and 20 internal stakeholders, while 39% oversee 21 to 50. That’s a lot of people to satisfy. 

Event budgets

When it comes to event budgets, 53% of respondents say that most budgetary responsibility lies with stakeholders. Just 34% reported that the event team oversees budget management.

Event budget responsibility
Q: Who is responsible for event budgets?

It’s clear that there are ongoing challenges with communication between event teams and their stakeholders. Having a seat at the table would certainly help with this. Overseeing the finances would also make a big difference. No one understands events and their business value better than event professionals. There’s no doubt, using that knowledge and expertise would benefit all stakeholders in the organisation. 

Corporate events: How far has the industry come?

This 2023 report is the fourth to be released since the first one in 2019. But what’s changed since 2019?

Getting to grips with sustainability  

In 2019, sustainability wasn’t highlighted as one of the key challenges. That changed in 2020 when 70% felt that it had become significant. Since then, steps have been taken to address ongoing challenges.

In 2020, event planners felt there were some things that they could easily measure such as travel and sending materials and printing etc, by freight. They believed more problems would lie in reporting on the carbon footprint of delegates, power used at the event, and measuring plastic usage. 

What we can say with certainty is that event sustainability measures are not going away. In fact, for some organisations, reporting data on sustainability is part of their ESG activities. But besides an increase in regulatory requirements, what’s created the change in attitude towards sustainability initiatives? 

Shawna Mckinley, Principal at Clear Current Consulting sums it up nicely:

 “In 2019 the thinking within event teams was: do we need a sustainability plan for our event, what will it be, and can we make the business case? The concern was internal, trendy, and discretionary. There was a relative lack of policy or regulatory pressure. In 2024, it’s no longer event teams who are asking the question. Hosts, sponsors, and participants are thinking: do events align with our sustainability commitments? If not, why are we doing them?”

Aligning with stakeholders 

Looking at the relationship between internal stakeholders and event teams a different picture emerges. In 2019, 50% of respondents mentioned that improving the perception of the event team was one of their top challenges. 

When Covid struck, it appears stakeholders understood the value of events more clearly. After all, there was a need for the event team to keep the organisation visible through virtual events. 

However, the latest report shows a significant communication gap between event teams and stakeholders. But it’s not a completely black-and-white scenario, especially when we look at lead times.

In 2023, event planners received more lead time to organise events compared to the previous year. The weighted average notice period rose from around 3.48 months in 2022 to about 5.8 months in 2023. 

This shift indicates a positive trend, suggesting that stakeholders are allowing for better preparation and execution of successful events. 

Next steps

There’s no doubt that event teams and internal stakeholders have challenges to address for them to be in perfect alignment. 

Event professionals need to make clear the value their work brings to the organisation. It's time to unveil the real deal about what the event team does, not what everyone thinks they do. This communication doesn't just go one way – it's a two-way street where the event team gets a backstage pass to stakeholders' needs, aligning with the whole organisation’s objectives. 

Less guesswork, fewer head-scratching moments, and more crystal-clear communication is needed. The more that stakeholders and the event team talk and listen to each other the better results will be for everyone involved.

For more insights on the state of the corporate events industry, download the Fourth Annual Benchmark Report for Corporate Events.

Paul Cook

Paul Cook has been immersed in business events for over 20 years, as a writer, producer, speaker, advisor, and educator. He is the author of three event focused books; Supercharge Your Virtual Speaking, Remotely Engaging and Risk It! Paul is a Past President of the UK Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and he is currently serving as a Jury President for the Eventex Awards.

Fourth Annual Benchmark Report for Corporate Events
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