With tighter budgets, smaller teams, and rising event costs, event planners are facing no shortage of challenges in the current environment. In connection with our Hire Space 360 service, we've been digging into the trends impacting the industry to help our clients navigate the road ahead.
On Wednesday 3rd May, Hire Space 360 hosted ‘The Events Outlook: Optimising Business Event Programmes For 2023 and Beyond’, at Convene, 22 Bishopsgate, one of the most sought-after venues for business events in central London. The event brought together event planners and market strategists to discuss the road ahead for strengthening business events, and give attendees guidance on:
- The changing landscape of events in 2023
- What current trends tell us about what’s next for business events
- New tools and ways of working to reflect the changing industry and maximise resources
We welcomed senior planners and market research experts from across the breadth of the business events sector to share their insights, including:
Craig Bennett, General Manager at Convene
Nicki Macmillan, Head of Events at New Financial
Kate McLachlan, Events Manager at Kennedys Law
Chloe Richardson, VP of Senior Corporate Relations, Explori
Eliot Sargeant, Head of Business Development at Hire Space (moderator)
Read the key takeaways from the panellists below, or listen to the audio recording to catch up on the event.
About Hire Space 360
Hire Space 360 is an enterprise events service designed to streamline internal inefficiencies and help scale event programmes. Developed in consultation with corporate event planners, it provides time and cost savings across sourcing, contracting, onboarding, and event delivery. Find out more here.
The key challenges for event planners in 2023
From budget cuts to catering costs, our panellists shared the key challenges that have been impacting their teams.
Hybrid events aren’t all we were expecting them to be
A hybrid approach to events was met with enthusiasm initially, but implementing them successfully, and avoiding a two-tier audience of in-person and virtual attendees, is an often costly challenge. Senior management often see having online attendees as a free bonus, rather than an investment in itself, adding extra strain to event teams.
The flaky factor looms larger than ever
Prior to Covid, events tended to have around a 70% attendance rate on the day. Currently, however, we’re seeing an average of 35% attendance across the board. Event etiquette around non-attendance has shifted since the pandemic, which has significantly impacted the planning process for event professionals.
Working habits have also shifted, which means certain days of the week (namely Tuesday to Thursday) have more competition for attendance as these tend to be when most people are working from the office.
Event costs have risen dramatically
We're seeing that event costs have increased significantly since 2021, with overall event spending rising by over 100%. This is largely due to the fact that events were greatly reduced due to Covid caution during 2021, but catering expenses have surged from pre-pandemic levels by 40% to 60%, while travel and venue costs have also increased - in some cases by as much as 40% to 60%, leaving event organisers wondering what’s going to give.
Sustainability is missing the investment it needs
There’s more of an expectation on events being conscious than ever. To stay ahead in the competition and meet the needs of Gen Z (who are a growing demographic in our workforce), it’s essential to put money where the market is - such as getting carbon footprinting reports on events. However, this puts a further strain on event budgets, with many event planners reporting that their businesses aren't currently investing extra funds towards making events sustainable.
Expectations on event planners have increased
All of the above shows that expectations have never been higher of what people expect to get out of an event, even if the budgets are reduced dramatically. Burnout and stress is higher than ever among event professionals, with real pressure on event planners to ensure continuing standards with tighter resources and smaller teams.
Where are event programmes heading in 2023 and beyond?
With the squeeze on teams and budgets, it’s a time to reevaluate where events can have the most impact and be the most valuable to the people who attend, and how we can make sure that they are a concrete, irreplaceable part of the marketing mix.
As Chloe Richardson told the audience: “It's a really exciting time for us as event organisers because at last we can say to our stakeholders that the only opinion that really matters is our audience.”
Quality over quantity
Organisations are now realising that they need to shift their focus from quantity of events to quality. With revised budgets, instead of running the same annual events out of tradition, event strategy needs to be called into review, to make sure that every event is aligned with the company’s objectives.
It's a good time to reevaluate the events that have been running for years just because the president is attached to them: cutting down on events-for-the-sake-of-events means you can redistribute that budget elsewhere and focus on the events that are really important to your key stakeholders and to your audiences.
Sustainability and DEIB
ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), and DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) are acronyms that have been thrown about in businesses for years, but they're becoming increasingly essential to retain employees and audiences. The panellists saw an increased investment in sustainability being a key driver over the next few years, which businesses will need to get behind to stay current.
According to Explori’s annual report with ICE, for the last two years, over half of respondents reported that ensuring event sustainability was a key challenge - a trend which will likely be reflected in the 2023 report as well.
From companies bringing in 'Heads of Responsible Business', to events producing impact reports for transparency, this is an area of events that is steadily coming to the fore. Find our advice on implementing sustainable objectives on our sustainability hub.
For this event, we worked with event:decision to create a carbon footprint impact report which we used to shape our catering choices.
Events need new formats to keep guests engaged
It’s not enough to expect attendees to sit through an educational event in silence if you want to keep attendance up - you need to give guests something to make it worth their while. Interaction is now the key word at any event type, whether it’s a conference, meeting, or social event, and every event should have this built in.
Experience has become more essential than ever: check out expert insights on implementing an event with attendee experience at its heart.
How to build a stronger business case for events
Now, more than ever, event planners need to effectively demonstrate that the events function is worth the investment - and an increase in investment.
"Aside from just running events, we are a marketing channel. We are a sales channel. We increase brand awareness and brand perception. We increase customers, we decrease churn, we decrease attrition rates. We support employee retention. We are the most valuable cog in the business's wheelhouse." Chloe Richardson
Here's the panellists' advice on how to go about it.
What are the key metrics that event planners should be looking out for to justify the event?
There are three key types of data that every event planner should be measuring, whether that's an employee event, an external client-facing event, or an exhibit or a trade show.
This covers names, companies, job titles, and all other information about the attendee themselves. Most organisers will already be measuring this through registration.
Engagement data became more prevalent over the pandemic because it's easier to get engagement data from virtual events, on dwell time, where attendees clicked, and how long they stayed for. It's not as easy in person to get engagement data, but it can be done with new technology such as facial recognition.
Whilst it's great to understand who your attendees are and what they want to listen to, the most important thing is to understand how they feel leaving your event. You should be finding out how attendees intend to act afterwards, and how they perceive your brand or your event after having been to it - data which you can get through quantitative or qualitative interviewing, such as surveys.
Showing how an individual's brand perception changed after attending an event immediately shows the impact that the event has had on that buyer or partner's journey.
How to get buy-in on your events
Once you’ve identified the objectives, established what should be measured, and considered how to communicate effectively with your stakeholders, it's time to think strategically about delivery. Consider who your stakeholders are, what formats they prefer to consume data in, and what key headlines will make them take action or get the message.
For some, spreadsheets are the best medium to consume data, but others at the top of the business may want the three key headlines. Chloe recommends viewing it as a “buffet”, to serve your findings in a way that every single person who you want to buy into it feels that there's a dish for them on the menu!
By preparing your data in a way that appeals to everyone across all levels of the business, you can ensure that your findings are well understood and acted upon.
Tools and tips for future event strategies
- Measurement is becoming increasingly critical - invest in tools and processes to measure your engagement and sentiment data.
- Look at the returns on each event to ascertain where savings can be made and budgets redistributed to other events.
- Double down on project planning tools to keep event projects centralised.
- Keep sustainability and DEIB at the fore when planning locations and event - check out our round-up of sustainability resources to help you.
- Look for areas to take the strain off stretched teams. Services like Hire Space 360 offer on-demand support on event programmes, from planning to delivery.
Looking for support on your events?
Get in touch with our team to discuss how we can help you strengthen your events programme.Speak to the team!
Jessamy channels her passion for sustainability and cultural events into shining a spotlight on innovation and inspiration in the events world, and heading up Hire Space's sustainability committee.
Nikki is Head of Events at New Financial, a think tank that focuses on capital markets and DEI in financial services. Prior to that, she was head of events at CISI.
Kate has over 20 years’ experience of co-ordinating events and managing event teams in the law practice industry with in-person, virtual and hybrid events. She is currently at Kennedys Law LLP.
As VP Senior Corporate Relations at Explori and Director of the Event Leaders Exchange (ELX), Chloe champions the impact and value of corporate events through leveraging attendee data.
Eliot is Hire Space's Head of Business Development, with 5 years of experience at the forefront of helping clients navigate challenges and trends in the events industry.
Craig heads up sales production operations for the UK branch of Convene, overseeing everything from venue sales to event production and client engagement.