2023 has brought fresh challenges and opportunities for the events industry. So far this year, we’ve observed a growing awareness around sustainability, diversity and inclusion, as well as a focus on creating valuable in-person experiences to make up for two years of disruption.
We’ve had our ear to the ground and have been taking part in many conversations across the industry to understand where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we’re going. In this piece, we’re diving into all the exciting trends that we’ve seen leading the market in 2023, and we’ll share what we expect to see in the rest of the year. From accessibility to event technology, here are our top predictions for corporate events in the second half of 2023!
Our Top 7 Trends
1. Experience-first events
2. Event technology will continue to advance drastically
3. A drive in accessibility and inclusion across the industry
4. Continued drive on sustainability
5. In-person events dominating the market
6. Renewed focus on health and wellness
7. Tighter budgets will require a more strategic approach to event programmes
After two+ years of lockdowns, there has been a huge focus on creating the best possible experiences for attendees in 2023, which in return offer clients tangible ROI and lead generation opportunities. Immersive, experiential events, pop-ups, brand activations, holding events in the Metaverse and the use of social media have all developed as unique methods of attendee engagement. And as we know, engagement is a hugely important metric – according to Markletic, 49% of marketers even said it was the single biggest contributing factor to event success.
We’ve also seen a rise in searches on Hire Space this year for unusual venues, such as immersive gallery Frameless, the iconic Arcelormittal Orbit, and the new, ‘rev’-olutionary F1 Arcade. The fact that these more unique venues are rising in popularity shows again that organisers are thinking outside the box to find new and inventive ways to engage their attendees and bring them along on their brand’s journey.
Hire Space Top Tip:
Try to turn every moment into an experience. You could add elements such as VR games, a digital social media wall, or even a unique catering experience. Event technology is constantly evolving, so use it to your advantage.
Want more inspiration?
Check out our piece ‘The Experiential Imperative: An Integrated Approach To Events As A Core Marketing Channel’ for more insights!
If you’re struggling for ideas on how to take your events to the next level, draft in the experts! Our experienced team will be happy to help, so get in touch.
Event technology will continue to advance drastically
Arguably the biggest trend of 2023, across all industries, is the advance of technology that’s expected to have a transformative effect on our lives. With AR, VR and AI tools starting to make their way into our daily work, event organisers are able now more than ever to create other-worldly, personalised experiences for their attendees, and to do so in less time than ever before. In fact, tools such as ChatGPT are being used across the scope of planning events, from writing business plans and content outlines, to drafting budgets and proposing speakers. Not sure how AI can plan events? Check out this futuristic event planned almost entirely by AI that’s in the works right now!
Keep an eye out for more of our content around the future of event tech, and what we think it means for the industry (teaser: we don’t think it’s a match for human event planners’ insights, but we think it’s time to start getting friendly with the tools now).
However, other areas of event technology have taken a backseat compared to the rush of attention around AI. Despite significant hype around The Metaverse in recent years, there have been few examples of virtual events really investing in the online environment and making it as lifelike and organic as possible. We predict that there will be a slight resurgence of this during the winter months, as colds and adverse weather keep people at home and virtual event platforms have to be more innovative to retain and engage attendees, but it won’t be anything close to the scale the industry had been forecasting at the beginning of this year.
One aspect of technology that has become more essential than ever as we fight to prove ROI on events, is data collection, which can be used to analyse the success of events and make adjustments for future events. Platforms such as Arena, Cadence and Brella can be used to draw insights around audience engagement at virtual events, while for in-person events we’re beginning to see a proliferation of wearable tech like Bluetooth wristbands, and built-in tech such as cameras that track eye movements and calculate engagement with content.
“The fact that so many industry professionals are struggling to gather the right data from their in-person events is a concern – especially given how many respondents highlighted the incredible value they place on data.
Through a more focused approach and the use of integrated technology solutions, planners can better support data capture to deliver robust reporting with powerful insights.” Anita Howard, CEO and Founder of ICE
We’ve put together an in-depth piece on how event technology is evolving, so be sure to check that out for more inspiration on how you can apply evolving technology to your brand to create outstanding events.
A drive in accessibility and inclusion across the industry
One of the most positive things we’ve observed in 2023 so far is a higher priority placed on ensuring events are accessible and inclusive to all individuals. This is reflected in the AMEX Global Event Trends Forecast, where 87% of respondents said their organisations actively strive to incorporate DE&I into their meetings and events.
At recent events, such as the London Christmas Party Show and Confex 2023, we were delighted to see that automatic closed captioning was being used on many of the stages, with quiet sensory rooms being set aside for attendees to use to take a break from the hectic show floors. One of the panels Hire Space hosted delved into the topic of invisible disabilities in events and how we can be more inclusive and supportive of our colleagues and guests whose needs aren’t immediately apparent.
“For organisations to maximise return on investment including attendance, they need to be inclusive and have a clear charter in terms of diversity. It is one of the key criteria that meeting owners and delegates will consider in the future – if they’re not already today.”
Patrick Rush, Senior Regional Director of Asia Pacific, American Express Meetings & Events
It’s essential that planners have the tools and knowledge to be able to deliver events that offer the same opportunities to everyone, no matter the different needs they may have.
To learn more, we spoke with Isaac Harvey, content creator and disability awareness advocate on how we can all help make the events industry more inclusive. Whether it’s avoiding unconscious bias in the speaker selection process, ensuring your chosen venue is truly accessible, or being hyper-aware of the language used in communications, there are so many areas we can improve on to facilitate better experiences for everyone.
As well as inclusive events, we’re also starting to see more of a focus on ensuring recruitment processes offer equal opportunities to all, and that there is diverse representation across businesses and events teams. This is something we predict will become more ingrained in events going forwards, and it’s high time event organisers became the driving force for change in businesses.
« There isn’t an end destination with accessibility. It’s a journey, realising we’re always going to be learning, making mistakes, and getting better. » Isaac Harvey
Continued drive on sustainability
The past coupe of years have seen the climate crisis and sustainability soar to the top of the agenda for the events industry, with ICE’s 2022 report showing that sustainability was the top challenge reported by respondents. No longer just a ‘nice to have’, the industry is making huge leaps towards making events sustainable for their clients and this will continue to be a huge driver this coming year.
It’s no easy feat, though: according to GBTA’s June 2022 Sustainability Report, 90% of organisations said they required professional guidance in their sustainability journey.
However, as Mark Bannister, Technical Director of COP26, shared with us at his talk at EventLAB, there are so many small things that we can all do as event organisers to reduce the impact events have on our planet. From plant-based menus to making venues more sustainable, there’s plenty to be done.
“For venues, if you’re not sure where to start with sustainability, start with your staff. Make sure you’re empowering the people in your team to make the decisions that matter.” – Kate Simpson, Business Design Centre
Need some guidance on making your businesses and events more sustainable? We’ve put together a whole content hub with practical tips and advice, from the best sustainability tools for eventprofs to how businesses can set measurable objectives around sustainability for their events.
In-person events dominating the market
In line with our forecasts, while we’ve seen a few examples of virtual events this year, in-person events have been overwhelmingly the preferred option for businesses. According to Meeting & Group Business magazine, 2023 was set to be the in-person events market’s « strongest year ever », and the 2023 AMEX Global Event Trends Forecast reported « booming optimism and focus on in-person meetings and events ».
That said, hybrid events have still kept their head in the door, especially as events with a virtual option can increase brand reach significantly and allow international attendees to avoid the hefty travel costs we’re seeing in the current economic climate.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen many venues become hybrid-ready for this very reason. Having spoken to many of our London-based hybrid venues, it appears the market’s appetite for meeting in person, with the option of tuning in virtually, has been huge in the first half of this year.
It seems most people would still prefer to attend physically though. According to Markletic, 72% of respondents said they’d get more value out of attending a hybrid event in person. In addition, 78% of marketers surveyed by LinkedIn reported that they want in-person events to return to a primary role, even if these events leverage virtual elements in some capacity
Renewed focus on health and wellness
After a tough few years, there has been a huge shift on improving employee wellbeing, as well as improving the wellbeing of our delegates at events.
We’ve been finding that packed-out event agendas are largely a thing of the past, and instead, there are more breaks scheduled as well as a renewed focus on healthy food that fuels attendees’ energy levels during the event. Our clients are also focusing on team-building activities, and bringing teams together to inspire, motivate and energise employees.
We’ve also observed that the demand for employee benefits that supports wellbeing, such as access to counselling, more days off, flexible working, and healthcare packages, has gone through the roof. The Great Resignation has meant that employees demand more from their employers, and as a result, businesses need to keep up with providing benefits that people really want and need. Companies like Life Wellbeing and Be In Your Element provide tailored wellbeing experiences for businesses that can take place at events to uplift guests.
Tighter budgets will require a more strategic approach to event programmes
With event costs rising by 40-60% across catering and more, it’s no secret that thanks to the cost of living crisis, budgets have been under the microscope in 2023. In fact, it’s estimated that the average cost per attendee is now 32% higher compared to 2019 levels. When it comes to venue pricing, a strategic approach is crucial:
« Pricing is going to be the key metric in 2023. Prices are going up a lot, so financial discipline will be crucial next year: there will be no shortage of enquiries and demand, but the question is whether venues and operators will be able to be profitable. They will likely need to put their prices up, but if they put them up too much they could risk losing business. Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity! » Peter Heath, Founder & MD, Venue Performance
When it comes to making a case for events to stakeholders, businesses will need to ensure their events are aligned with their company objectives. It’s become more important than ever to prove genuine ROI from events as cost vs return remains a large concern for the sector. Read our piece on corporate events amidst the cost of living crisis for more insights from the industry.
Hire Space Top Tip:
If you need some help with developing a bespoke events programme that aligns with your company goals and generates tangible ROI, Hire Space 360 is your one stop shop. We’ll take care of everything, including consolidated billing, digitised contracting, venue and supplier sourcing, and full-service event management, so get in touch to chat to our experts today.
We believe these trends will continue to drive our thriving industry and we’re feeling optimistic about the future. And it’s not just us: according to the 2023 AMEX Global Event Trends Forecast, 75% of event professionals rated their optimisim levels at 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10, which is an increase from 2021 (59%). It’s reassuring to see we’re heading in the right direction following a tough few years.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on other top trends and predictions you may have for this year. Be sure to follow us on social media to stay part of the conversation as we navigate the rest of 2023 as a more cohesive and inclusive industry together.