Global Event Evolution: 11 Unforeseen Trends Shaping the Future Landscape

Industry Watch | December 27, 2023 | Feature

Global Event Evolution Trends

As we reflect on the conclusion of the year, BizBash reached out to its readers to gather insights on unexpected trends and moments within the event industry in 2023. Despite concerted efforts to predict the future, the industry has demonstrated a remarkable ability to anticipate the unforeseen. Here are some of the key responses from readers, as reported by the trade media platform dedicated to offering information, innovations, and insights into the execution of events.

1. The quick embracing of AI

‘The event industry was all over AI this year’, mentions Kendra Kop, private event sales manager for the Golden State Warriors NBA team. "From the ethics of AI to the optimisation of S.O.P.s to streamlining our workloads, it’s been this buzzy topic that came up at all the industry events I went to—literally, I think every industry event I attended had some educational discussion about AI."

Despite understanding the aspiration to stay ahead, Kop expresses surprise at the relatively lower prioritisation of specific AI-related aspects in these discussions. "Specifically, why didn’t we talk more about the economic impact of AI and what that means for workforces? The topic of AI brings with it a sizable amount of uncertainty about the future of job longevity and skill resilience. I want the industry to look closer at what pivots we need to be ready for and what event aspects will be/have already been changed because of AI."

Nick Bacon, the founder and managing director of video agency Mainstream Media LLC, is a bit watchful about the speedy hold of AI. "We struggled with the human connection so much during the pandemic, that still feels like the biggest problem that needs fixing," he says. "AI not only doesn’t address it, it exacerbates it."

2. Elevated emphasis on personalised experiences

One area where AI has aided? "The evolution of personalisation in events at the intersection of personal data and AI was an unexpected development," points out David Grass, senior director of client strategy for creative agency Wilson Dow Group. "AI now drives real-time feedback loops, offering personalised recommendations based on attendee behaviour. This approach transforms the event experience into a tailored journey, suggesting specific connections, content, and areas to explore, leading to continuous attendee value. The shift from ‘hoping’ for event success to actively engineering it through understanding persona data and AI reveals a significant leap in how we cater to individual attendee needs."

3. Obstacles in handling venue RFPs

“A surprising and challenging development has been the declining response rates and quality of proposals from venues," brings out Wendi Freeman, founder and CEO of Be Bright Events. "Response times have increased, and more than half of the received proposals are incomplete. Once-effective negotiation tactics are now met with increased resistance, indicating a shift in venue flexibility and compromise. Navigating these changes has become a crucial aspect of successful event planning.”

4. Sustainability: To be or not to be

While significant advancements occurred in sustainability, Nataly Horan, Executive Vice President of eGroup & The X-Change MICE Conferences, maintains there's still room for improvement. "I’m amazed by the amount of waste that is still created by the jumbo trade shows," she states. "Are we seriously still installing carpet in every booth and then tearing it out three days later?"

5. Surge of regional micro-events

“2023 was the year of roadshow events," asserts JR Sherman, the CEO of event marketing platform RainFocus. "As the surge of in-person events grew across industries, a surprising trend occurred with event teams augmenting and extending their bigger conferences into more regional micro-activations—enabling organisations to tailor their target audience and achieve a greater emphasis on content within local communities."

Sherman observes a lot of positive results related to the mounting trend. "By integrating marketing and sales technologies, marketers could harness the potential of global roadshows to engage and accelerate sales, turning them into a powerful component within an event portfolio mix," he says. "The success of roadshows lies in using data intelligently, integrating technologies seamlessly, and prioritizing the audience's needs by reinforcing the ‘customer 360’ strategy. 2024 will highlight this trend as organisations seek to match their event strategies with fluctuating economic market conditions and heightened personalisation at scale.”

6. Clients steering clear of traditional norms

Mandi Young, proprietor of Juniper Gardens, a Missouri event venue, observes surprising shifts in preferences among her wedding clientele. "The rise of dry weddings has been huge in 2023, and will likely continue into 2024," she notes. "With that, having cool alcohol alternatives like mocktails, ice cream sundae bars, and s'mores stations."

Other wedding trends she is enthusiastic about? "Couples are crafting more intentional and thoughtful moments for themselves as a couple. This may look like taking 15 minutes in the getting ready suite without photographers, or having a private dance together at the end of the night after the guests have left." Young also perceives portrait photos as a popular wedding favour, and an emphasis on lifestyle and candid photography—particularly film photography. "Couples are craving the authentic moments and are shying away from more posed photos," she says.

7. Escalating prices for specific services

“The pricing dynamics in the in-house AV services sector have been notable," notices Freeman. "The disappearance of pricing lists and the introduction of overpriced proposals, coupled with substantial service fees, prompted me to explore third-party AV vendors. The cost savings, superior skill sets, and higher quality provided by external vendors have consistently proved to be a more economical and advantageous choice for my clients (even when there are additional costs associated with travel and lodging).”

Freeman has also been stunned by a rise in internet and power drop fees. "Negotiating substantial reductions—often exceeding $5,000—underscores the inflated nature of these services," she comments.

8. Increased focus on ROI

"One trend that caught me off guard was how demanding clients became due to factors like inflation, fears of a recession, and their need to justify spending," tells Rory Adams, a writer, creative consultant, and the founder of Book a Magician. "As someone who's planned countless events, I'm used to meticulous checklists and big budgets. But the pressure to prove an event's worth grew exponentially. It drove home how much strategy data and ROI proof are now required upfront."

9. Influence of social media

“Harnessing the power of organic social media, particularly through direct messages, has proved to be a game-changer in ticket sales," affirms Freeman. "Personally inviting potential attendees has significantly boosted early ticket sales, resulting in a more discerning and engaged audience. This strategy not only elevates the quality of attendees but also positively impacts enrolment numbers for events selling high ticket offers to their attendees.”

Adams had a similar opinion. "I didn't foresee how profoundly social media would influence planning," he says. "It's one thing to write viral hashtag campaigns for my shows. It's another to single-handedly engage thousands across a dozen platforms. Clients expect incredible content, polling, Q&As—the full interactive shebang now. Between meticulous checklists, personal service, and robust social strategies, it's a wonder any of us planners get to sleep!"

10. Extended lead times make a comeback

Owner of Promenade Speakers Bureau LLC, Mike Taubleb, witnesses a favorable shift in keynote speaker inquiries, citing a return to extended lead times of six to nine months. "While last-minute bookings remain common, this welcome counter trend has improved planning efficiency, slowed down fee inflation, and lowered risk," he notes. Furthermore, he has witnessed an increased appetite for complimentary value-added services from buyers of keynote speakers, encompassing later-date webinar appearances, participation in pre-event podcasts, and more.

11. A soar in mobile technology adoption

“In 2023, I noticed a significant uptick in clients embracing event apps that not only facilitate streamlined event management but also empower attendees with all the necessary information at their fingertips," brings out Freeman. "The ability for attendees to connect and communicate through these platforms has added a valuable layer to the event experience. Beyond the operational efficiency, the cost savings from reduced printing and the positive environmental impact make this shift even more commendable.”

As we reflect on the conclusion of the year, BizBash reached out to its readers to gather insights on unexpected trends and moments within the event industry in 2023.

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