According to Forbes, in-person events increased by 255% from the 4th quarter of 2021 to the second quarter of 2022. Still, as we move into 2023, more and more companies announce layoffs, spending freezes, and low metrics. And these are just a few of several trends in events to keep your eye on. In this episode of the Event Tech podcast, Will and Brandt discuss current event industry trends and the future of events. They’ll also share two helpful tips for navigating the choppy waters ahead.
Trend #1: A Return to In-Person
Brandt begins today’s conversation by sharing his observations of the events industry as it is today, “It’s a weird time in the industry right now. As much as I’d like to say we’re reincorporating the in-person audience, there’s definitely a rush to just do in-person,” he says. “A lot of online stuff is going to the wayside. It’s as if people are saying, ‘Hybrid is hard, so I’m not even going to try. Maybe it’s just the vibe for 2022; it feels like we’re in a bit of an inhale moment. So where do we go from here?”
Will can back Brandt’s observations up with data. “We collect info from everyone who downloads our content through our site. We ask what type of event you’re planning next: virtual, in-person, or hybrid. And I’ve been creating a pie chart report for the percentages of people planning different types of events,” explains Will. “Virtual has been getting smaller and smaller.”
Will thinks the future of pure virtual events is regressing to simple webinars. “It’s easy. Everyone knows what a webinar is. I thought I was going to see hybrid slowly growing. Instead, I see hybrid stagnated, and in-person events are what’s growing. That means people are planning events with no regard for the virtual audience. It feels like we’re letting go of everything we just worked on for the last 2 years.”
Trend #2: Looming Cuts in the Future of the Events Industry
We’ve previously talked about layoffs, economic downturns, and recessions. As we near the end of 2022 and approach 2023, it’s impossible to ignore more cuts in spending and increased downsizing. Will and Brandt see these post-pandemic and pre-recession changes as a sign of difficult times ahead.
“I also feel like there’s this other looming trend in events,” says Will. “When it came time to rush to virtual events, people were like, ‘I was going to do this in person, I have millions to spend, I have to spend it.’ Then they realize attendance is down after returning to in-person this year, and engagement feels much lower. I’m starting to fear that if you combine that with the potential economic downturn, come Q4, many companies won’t do events. I think pure virtual events were a solution not only for the pandemic but also for an economic recession.”
Brandt agrees. “We’re already seeing layoffs and hiring freezes. As bean counters start to look for other ways to save money, they’re going to look at the 2020 and 2021 budgets, which were significantly lower because we were doing online events. I think once we get past this initial wave of in-person enthusiasm, bean counters will say, ‘That’s great, but we had better numbers when we were doing events digitally, fully online,” he explains. “What can we do to boost that backup?’ I think planners will have to return to being fully digital or some kind of hybrid.”
“That’s an excellent point,” adds Will. “One of our biggest problems is, because the events industry is not data-driven, and most event professionals can’t look at their data and prove true ROI from their events, they will not have an argument to be able to compete with budget cuts to events. From a data perspective, the CFO will have more data to point at. I think event professionals will get strong-armed by the finance department of companies.”
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