When I sat down to write this post at the start of December 2022, it was supposed to be titled “Event trends 2023” or “What’s next for the future of the events industry?”
But I’ve found myself at a loss.
After an entirely wild and unpredictable three years for the events industry, the only thing that feels precedented about these times is how repeatedly unprecedented they are.
As the director of a proudly small and enthusiastic events agency, I’ve often wondered what sort of authority I am on such topics anyway. Instead of making a bunch of un-researched predictions, or purporting myself to be someone that knows what’s around the corner, I’m going to take this opportunity to reflect instead.
Here are some reflections on trends and patterns that I’ve experienced for myself this year, and my thoughts on why they’re occuring.
Timelines are shorter
The decision from clients to host an event is coming later and later in the day, squeezing planning timelines like I’ve never known it. While in previous years clients might have rebooked an annual event straight after their previous event or made early enquiries with an agency about potential events months and months in advance, now it seems that clients are coming to the table with briefs much later.
Perhaps this speaks to increased uncertainty within organisations about what budgets can be committed, or maybe the possibility of needing to cancel due to covid has become too much of a risk factor and clients are more cautious before committing to a budget now.
I also think that during the covid-years the events industry did a brilliant job at being reactive, turning events around very fast and creating digital and hybrid versions of events at the drop of the hat. I wonder whether we were too good. Clients have seen just how quickly we can work, and just how responsive we can be when a brief hits our desk. The bar has been raised, and the timelines subsequently cut.
Budgets are tighter
The events industry is no stranger to experiencing budget cuts. Global recession forces companies to rethink how they are allocating resources, and events are often the first to go. If it’s between a Christmas party and redundancies, it’s a no-brainer, right?
The events that do make the cut are being heavily scrutinised in terms of budget and there’s an expectation to do more with less. Factor in the rising cost of materials, fuel, staff etc and you’ve got a challenge on your hands.
I’ve spent this year getting very creative and pitching more variety of choices to clients, who might like to see off-brand and DIY options alongside high-end or bigger name options so they can make an informed choice of where to invest.
Quality over quantity
Following on from this, I have seen a number of cases of companies choosing to prioritise quality over quantity at their events. This might involve scaling back the event in terms of entertainment or attendee size, but focussing more on ensuring that what is provided for those who are attending is of good quality, memorable and overall adding value to the experience. Sometimes less can be more.
There is more focus being placed on the “why?” of an event, and ensuring said event delivers against any agreed measures of success. These days an event for the sake of it isn’t enough and focusing on achieving specific metrics at a targeted event is more important than having a huge event with little purpose.
Experiences over things
More often than not these days I see clients pursuing creative event concepts that prioritise experiences over things. There has been a move away from producing a bunch of branded mugs and keychains to hand out to employees at events who throw them in the back of a drawer immediately. Instead, companies are investing in experiences for their teams that create memories, forge bonds and bring a brand to life for an individual.
Together is better
Alongside an uptick in return-to-the-office policies being instated comes a move towards ditching virtual and online events where possible in favour of getting together in person. That goes for international teams too in my experience this year. Companies are embracing and making the most of the opportunity to get everyone together in person, and are re-investing in the live aspect of events to create moments in time for their teams.
This is all the more important for growing businesses that might have grown tenfold in the last three years. For many companies, this year and next presents the first opportunities to meet as a company since recent growth and expansion and is a seminal experience for any growing business wanting to create a true connection between its teams.
These are my experiences and thoughts. I’d love to hear yours.
What have you seen this year and do you think the new year is going to bring a new beginning for the industry?
Comment your thoughts below 👇