Hybrid work formats, inflation, insufficient budgets, sustainability, and the effects of the pandemic have made the event trend landscape more unpredictable than ever. As a result, event organizers and marketers must remake their events strategies to see a return on events while still providing a satisfactory attendee experience. Rather than rely on what’s worked well historically, these professionals focus on innovation and resiliency, shifting their primary focus to flexibility and exploring non-traditional event formats and unique digital experiences to reach their audiences in a personalized way.
Want to learn more about how event organizers and marketers launch new strategies to infuse agility into their event planning calendars and maximize budgets? This blog post reveals 10 event industry trends for 2023 that will frame the coming year.
1. The economic downturn will continue to impact the events industry.
Inflation could have a far-reaching impact on events in 2023 as travel, lodging, and even food costs increase. In fact, the cost of business travel is set to rise significantly through 2023, and because hotels, airlines, and conference venues have increased their prices, conference attendance could likely decrease. Also, with less disposable income, attendees will be hindered in their ability to enjoy excellent conference locations and, therefore, more hesitant to travel.
Take steps to cover rising costs by approaching your events strategy with an eye on the long term. Rather than plan event by event, build an event plan for the year and identify efficiencies and synergies to optimize your budget. For example, a 12-month license for a virtual environment will enable you to host multiple events — in various formats (including webinars). So, rather than schedule two large, in-person trade shows, consider whether it’s possible to achieve the same goals with several smaller, virtual, and hybrid events.
It also helps to evaluate your event pricing structure over the long term and review the ideal attendee profile for each event in your plan. You may have opportunities to increase pricing for some events enough to offset losses elsewhere.
And keep in mind: one of the benefits of viewing your event strategy over the long term is that it will force you to plan well in advance. Nothing kills a budget like a “rush” fee!
2. Remote work is here to stay.
While some companies made headlines in 2022 by requiring their employees to return to the office, data scientists at Ladders claim these organizations are the exception, not the norm. According to their estimates, 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and remote work will continue to increase through 2023.
Although remote work can be advantageous for many organizations, some areas of concern include Zoom fatigue, burnout, and declines in mental health. Consider pivoting your existing virtual event technology to mimic an in-office experience, alleviate isolation, and enable distributed workers to stay better connected. Explore virtual environment solutions to bridge the gap between in-person and remote work experiences for widespread corporate use. Using the technology’s highly customized design features, you can recreate your actual physical office’s exact layout and furnishings in a virtual environment. From the conference room to the kitchen, employees can visit any location in your company’s headquarters or satellite offices anytime, moving through the space at will and utilizing a chat feature to communicate. The virtual environment can be used for events such as regularly scheduled department meetings and happy hours, with the benefit of still being able to host traditional virtual and hybrid events such as webinars, user groups, and more.
3. Events will embrace a wellness culture.
Driven by millennials and generation Z and influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, wellness is entering the workforce in big ways. The Global Wellness Institute projects a 21% annual growth rate for wellness tourism through 2025. According to their 2021 Global Wellness Trends report, the demand for events that foster healthy bodies and minds has grown exponentially. Event planners and virtual event planners have had to shift their job responsibilities.
Choose event venues near spas, thermal/mineral springs, and popular outdoor recreation sites to market the staycation value of your event. You can also incorporate some of these elements into the event, such as serving locally sourced food and beverages or partnering with a spa to offer relaxation treatments, massage stations, meditation sessions, and/or team-building activities.
4. A cookie-less future is heading our way.
Privacy concerns and evolving regulatory restrictions in the U.S. and other countries mean lead generation strategies will change. Email marketing and online advertising will become more complicated to execute. Therefore, event marketing will take center stage, as events are one of the best ways to gather first-party data.
Regardless of event format — in-person, hybrid, or virtual –you’ll need to leverage event technology to easily gather first-party data. According to Accenture, 83% of customers are comfortable sharing their data to create a more personalized event experience. The right event technology will automatically capture first-person data when an attendee registers for an event. Then, given advancements in event technology such as digital badging, QR codes, and event apps, the attendee’s behavior throughout the event can be tracked: session attendance, booth visits, networking “matches,” and more. This data can uncover valuable insights and accelerate the sales pipeline by quickly identifying potential leads and where they are in the buying cycle.
5. Events will be climate conscious.
The events industry greatly influences the ecosystem, and the pandemic exposed many of the benefits of virtual and hybrid events, including sustainability. Now, more event attendees are sensitive to the adverse environmental effects of in-person events, such as waste, travel-related carbon emissions, and more. Businesses, too, will be looking for ways to align themselves with sustainable initiatives as a competitive differentiator.
Avoid dissuading those looking to reduce their carbon footprint from attending an event by failing to provide a virtual or hybrid event option. Furthermore, you should prioritize sustainability throughout an event. For example, consider asking sponsors to sign a sustainability pledge to encourage sustainable practices or facilitate QR code use for badge scans to reduce the use of paper business cards.
6. Virtual event platforms will continue to innovate personalization and engagement features.
In-person events will embrace technology, and regardless of event format — in-person, hybrid, or virtual –there will be a seemingly endless array of digital touchpoints for attendees to enjoy at an event. Advanced personalization based on attendee behaviors and preferences, including content and promotional offers, will become the norm. The menu of engagement activities, from games, polls, and quizzes to digital chats and matchmaking, will grow larger and become more immersive.
Events becoming more digital is a good thing. More digital touchpoints mean more opportunities to engage directly with a target audience and capture valuable data on their behavior. Therefore, you should choose an event technology vendor at the forefront of these digital advancements, with a robust product roadmap and cutting-edge features and functionality that empower you to easily create unique, immersive, memorable events that generate high-quality leads.
7. Hybrid events will be the new normal.
The flexibility of hybrid events can’t be denied. Hybrid events present a large menu from which attendees can order items in any category to satisfy their appetites. For example, if an attendee wants an in-person experience, he or she can attend in person. If he or she wants a virtual experience, he or she can attend virtually. And if an attendee wants to participate in networking sessions in person but view technical presentations in the quiet of a hotel room, he or she can make that happen too. This agility increases event reach and accessibility, making hybrid formats more popular than ever with event organizers and marketers, so much so that 67% of event professionals say hybrid formats will be their go-to event format in the future.
While hybrid events are an ideal way to increase event attendance and engagement, they require specific know-how and skills to plan successfully. From ticketing and registration to pre-recorded broadcasts and live activities, there are many moving parts — and people — in a hybrid event. Therefore, make sure you partner with a proven leader in event technology, so your teams understand where technology adds value and how best to blur the lines between digital and physical experiences and drive traffic to each.
8. Small-scale events will become a calendar staple.
Traditionally large-scale events and trade shows were usually held once a year. However, companies are now getting smart and looking for new ways to engage target audiences yearlong. By hosting smaller events — or micro-events — throughout the year, organizations can, for example, introduce new products and services as they are released or form communities that continuously interact with their brands. Another benefit is that smaller events are less costly to pull off while still generating leads. Some event organizers believe they create a richer and more intimate experience for participants and note they will add “event series” or niche events to their event calendars in 2023 to better position their brands as thought leaders and accelerate marketing pipelines.
Refrain from thinking of your events as purely marketing opportunities and instead view them as opportunities to increase brand awareness and establish trust. Viewed through this lens, an events calendar that features several small-scale events makes sense — and you can use them as an opportunity to get creative with event location, agenda, and sponsorship packages. The key to success is being intentional with each part of the event and ensuring that the experience is short, simple, and personalized from registration to closing remarks.
9. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will continue to grow.
One of the hottest trends in the events industry is advancements in AR and VR. AR can hold interactive product demonstrations, create interactive venue maps, and provide entertainment and opportunities for engagement. VR can transport event attendees to another world and stage virtual tours and games.
While the technology is attractive, it is also complex and expensive for most event planners, organizers, and marketers. Rather than jump into the deep end and create an entire VR environment, start small with AR, and introduce an element or two into your events. For example, up-level a virtual photo booth with AR, allowing attendees to try different face filters and apply funny effects. You can also use AR to hold scavenger hunts to guide attendees to crucial areas or vendors at your event. And remember that while interactive activities and games can be fun, sometimes event attendees want to rest. Meet this need and use AR by displaying a short movie or enhancing a company’s story video in a break area.
10. Cybersecurity will continue to be a priority.
Technology now plays a significant role in the event experience, from attendee registration and behavior tracking to post-event surveys and marketing. But while this technology enhances the event experience, it also opens the door to cyber-attacks, and the risk of stolen data and files increases.
Seek event technology providers with ISO 27001 certifications. Verify that the platforms they use include advanced security controls and settings that minimize personal data exposure and ensure data is accessed as intended, such as firewalls, two-factor authorization, VPN integration, and password managers.
The right event technology
The right event technology platforms and engagement tools will help you leverage 2023 event trends to your advantage, making a huge difference in event planning and the attendee experience next year and beyond. Learn more about these event trends in our new e-book, Event Planning Trends You Should Know for 2023.