The Future of Events: Trends and Factors

 

Over the past decade, the event industry has experienced significant changes, with the recent pandemic being a major disruptor. As a professional in the event space for over a decade, I have witnessed firsthand how the emergence of virtual events revolutionized the way we connect and engage.

However, we are now observing a shift back to in-person events (but rest assured, virtual events are here to stay). Through an analysis off our clients, we have gathered valuable insights on trends and factors shaping the event industry, offering invaluable knowledge for marketers, #eventprofs, and event enthusiasts alike. Let’s dive in and explore the exciting transformation happening in the world of events.

Events Are Increasing in Popularity

The pandemic’s aftermath has led to a notable surge in the number of events offered by our clients. According to our analysis, they have increased their event offerings by 31.5 per cent in 2023 alone.

Not-for-profits, specifically associations, recognize the value of organizing networking and educational events as a member service and a recruitment tool. These events provide an opportunity for professionals within the industry to connect, share knowledge, and collaborate. Such interactions are invaluable for building relationships, fostering a sense of community, and advancing professional development.

One of the key drivers behind this increase in event offerings is the growing demand for more engaged interactions. During the pandemic, virtual events became the norm, and while they offered convenience and accessibility, there was still a longing for the in-person experience that fostered meaningful connections. As the world recovers, associations are focusing on delivering events that provide opportunities for face-to-face networking, interactive discussions, and immersive learning experiences.

In-Person Events Increasing, But Virtual Here to Stay

While we are witnessing a growing trend towards in-person events, virtual events are not going anywhere, anytime soon. According to our analysis, in 2023, 67 per cent of associations offered in-person events, while a significant 90 per cent offered virtual events. Comparatively, in 2022, the figures were 41 per cent and 87 per cent respectively, indicating an increase in both in-person and virtual event offerings.

A particularly noteworthy statistic is the 26 per cent increase in in-person events, which is a clear indication of the growing demand for face-to-face interactions. The pandemic has made us all acutely aware of the value of human connection and the limitations of online engagement. Face-to-face events offer a unique opportunity to create meaningful connections with other professionals within the industry, and this is something that cannot be fully replicated in virtual settings.

However, this does not mean that virtual events will become redundant. They continue to have their place in the event ecosystem, providing convenient and accessible ways for attendees to participate regardless of geographical location or time constraints. Virtual events have become more sophisticated, incorporating new technologies like AI to create immersive experiences that rival in-person engagement.

With the world still navigating the impact of the pandemic and remaining cautious of future disruptions, both in-person and virtual events have their place in the event industry and each serves a unique purpose. Associations that offer a combination of both in-person and virtual events can cater to a broader range of attendees and meet the evolving expectations of their members.

Any Difference with Conferences?

Although we have seen changes to one-day or smaller-scale events, how about larger multi-day conferences?

Our clients have observed a noticeable shift back to fully in-person conferences while experiencing a smaller shift away from hybrid events. This shift can mainly be attributed to the cost/value differential associated with organizing hybrid events.

Hosting hybrid events, which combine in-person and virtual elements, can be more expensive due to the logistical complexities involved in managing both formats simultaneously. Not-for-profits often operate with more limited budgets, and the cost-effectiveness of fully in-person or virtual conferences becomes a more favourable option.

However, despite the shift towards fully in-person conferences, many associations continue to host virtual conferences. The lessons learned during the pandemic have highlighted the value and accessibility of virtual events. This trend is likely here to stay as associations recognize the benefits of virtual conferences, such as reaching a wider audience, reducing travel costs for attendees, and accommodating those who may have time or budget constraints.

Moreover, the pandemic has also triggered a shift in the timing of conferences. Associations have reported altering the time of year when they typically host their events. This change allows for flexibility in adapting to evolving circumstances and catering to the preferences of attendees. By moving conferences to different times of the year, associations have the opportunity to experiment with new formats, locations, or themes, generating fresh interest and engagement from their target audience.

To close off this article, the future of events lies in finding the right balance between in-person and virtual formats, providing opportunities for attendees to engage in both authentic face-to-face interactions and convenient online experiences. Associations that can offer a diverse range of event options will be able to provide value to their members, attract new participants, and stay relevant in a changing event landscape.

 

Carly Silberstein, DES, CED, VEMM, is chief executive officer at Redstone Agency. She has years of experience leading marketing and event teams that service corporate clients, not-for-profit organizations, and professional associations in a variety of industries. She is also an active member of the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE), Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners (CanSPEP).

 

 

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