It’s a new year and despite some predicting economic headwinds in 2024, we’re seeing another strong year for our industry. As we sprint into 2024, the landscape of corporate meetings and events continues to evolve, driven by technology and continued change in how attendees want to learn and connect. Here, we dive into four trends we’re watching that are shaping the way events are planned and executed this year.
1. Generative AI’s Role in Event Planning
It’s everywhere you read and promises to revolutionize our lives in unimaginable ways, including doing all the heavy lifting when it comes to planning your next meeting or event. Not quite (yet). But we’re getting closer each day. Yes, we believe AI will become an increasingly larger presence in our personal and professional lives, and for event owners, there ARE some useful ways to leverage it to help check some tactical boxes. It’s crucial to view AI as a supportive tool rather than a replacement for human efforts. Here are a few ways to put tools like ChatGPT and others to work today:
- Event Theme Development: It may not come up with the award-winning theme you’re looking for, but AI tools have the power to create event themes based on your key messages, or at least get the creative juices flowing. It’s important to remember that with all AI tools, you get out of them what you put in. Give them clear parameters for what you’re looking for.
- Meeting Agenda Development: AI can analyze your past event topics, attendee feedback, and industry trends to suggest optimized agendas, breakout sessions, plenary topics, and more. Get creative!
- Communication Planning: AI tools can also be a big help in supporting your event communication plan, including helping draft social media posts, event website copy, speaker bios/intros, and even longer form content.
- Budget Savings: Music to every planner’s ears, right? AI can’t replace your agency partners, but it can help make smaller tasks doable with a smaller investment. Examples include tools like Soundraw, an AI music generator that eliminates music royalty fees, as well as Lumen5, which uses AI to create simple videos.
Remember, in-person events still hold the key to authenticity in a digital world. AI acts as an enabler, streamlining processes and enhancing the overall experience.
2. Balancing Content and Networking
Compelling content and opportunities to connect with others have always been what makes live events such powerful experiences. There’s still a continued demand to harness the power of human connection with IRL meetings and events, and our worlds are only getting busier. This is why it’s important to strike the right balance of content and allow attendees to meaningfully connect with others, and it goes beyond the traditional definitions. Here’s what we’re seeing this year to consider in your event programming:
- Content is No Longer King: It must be authentic and relevant, not just content for content’s sake. It also needs to be delivered in a way that’s engaging and memorable. Attendees crave can’t-find-anywhere-else information but also want to connect with others, give back to the communities they visit, and understand the impact your event carries.
- Programmed Down Time: It’s important to build white space into your agenda to allow attendees time to balance their lives back home and network with others. Time to catch up on email, make calls, and find organic ways to connect are all valuable adds to your experience. We’ve seen this since coming out of the pandemic and a need for it in all events.
- Connection With a Purpose: Passive networking at the cocktail hour no longer cuts it. Attendees want an avenue to meaningfully connect. Options like Brain Dates, hands-on giveback opportunities, and offering up different preferences for networking take the guesswork out of making connections for your people.
- Leverage Hi-Tech and Low-Tech: Not everything has to be the shiny new digital tool. Attendees appreciate a good old-fashioned pen and paper at times. Don’t hesitate to incorporate low-tech options that augment traditional networking tools.
3. Continued Budget Pressure
Recession? What recession?! Even the smarty pants got it wrong in 2023, and we all benefited from it. But we can’t ignore uncertainty in 2024. Higher costs will remain this year and beyond, and meeting planners will need to continue to be smart about their budgets and where to plan accordingly. Effectively managing resources and determining success metrics are key to navigating this trend.
It will be important to stay agile and think long-range. This includes contingency planning and even greater collaboration between corporate event planners and their agency partners to maximize resources and expertise. Clearly define the metrics you’re measuring to demonstrate the impact of events and justify budget allocations.
4. One Size Won’t Fit All
This is a trend we’ve seen for some time now and seems to be growing. Attendees value personalized experiences, but also meetings and events that are more inclusive and offer a sense of belonging. Here are a few ways to plan for diverse audiences:
- Leverage Experience Design: Prioritize intentional and immersive experience design to engage participants on all levels. This includes developing audience personas to understand exactly who you are planning for and what their desired outcomes are.
- Personalization: Use data-driven insights to tailor event experiences, from agendas to gifting to networking opportunities. This can be difficult on a large scale, but look for small ways to provide personalized experiences for different groups of attendees.
- Accessible and Inclusive Content: Prioritize inclusive content with closed captions, American Sign Language (ASL), and interpretation services for diverse audiences. This also includes neurodiverse audiences, which sources estimate is nearly 20% of the population. Neurodivergent people include those with autism, ADHD, OCD, and sensory-processing disorders. You can learn more at The Neu Project.
- Mindful Representation: Be aware of language use and imagery to ensure your event is inclusive and representative of a diverse population.
Here’s to a Killer 2024
As we embrace the trends shaping corporate meetings and events in 2024, it’s evident that flexibility, innovation, and a deep understanding of attendee needs are paramount. We also operate in an industry that has remained largely unchanged for decades, which speaks to both a need for optimization and the power of live events that have long been a key driver of engagement and connection. By keeping a finger on the pulse of these trends, corporate meeting and event owners can help drive change, amplify experiences for the future, and create an even greater impact on the audiences they serve. So, get out there and change the world! And if you need a little help, give us a call.