There’s no question that the meetings and incentives industry has faced numerous challenges in the past few years. However, as we begin 2023, we’ve repeatedly noticed one trend affecting the rest: Connection is key.
Time is the most valuable currency now, and more factors than usual are evaluated when choosing to attend a live event. Event professionals need to maximize the value of the event to attendees, partners and clients. Are the speakers great? Is the learning potential high? Is there a virtual alternative? Because there are so many demands on peoples’ time and attention, there must be compelling reasons for people to attend live events.
Creating context for communication and connection is ultimately what will bring people to your events. Event agencies are no longer just logistics providers, we are connection facilitators. And, designing the experience around the concept of connection is key. Here are three trends for 2023 influenced by prioritizing connection:
Hybrid isn’t an event: It’s a strategy
Having an integrated strategy is key to getting the right audience at your events. In-person events will undoubtedly be a more critical part of business moving forward, but the game has changed and providing options for how to attend is crucial. There are three general areas of “cost” for your audience to evaluate when determining whether to attend your event:
- Time Cost: Work and family don’t stop while they attend an event
- Financial Cost: Do they have to pay, or will they give up time they could be working at a paid job?
- Family/Health Cost: Is their family’s health in question and/or do they need emotional/physical support during that time?
Including asynchronous hybrid strategies are a great approach to capture a wider audience net and accommodate the choice in how someone wants or needs to attend and obtain content. This lets both live and virtual attendees enjoy the event the most, without compromising accessibility or convenience.
Events as Culture Boosters
Although we’re in the post-pandemic era, remote work is here to stay. With a more distributed workforce, holding events live and in-person (perhaps with augmented asynchronous content) are critical to bringing people back together to share their learnings and connect with colleagues. Ultimately, attending in-person is an opportunity for the participant to reconnect to their purpose and their “why” for work. How can these events meet the need for connection?
- Schedule shorter sessions
- Allow attendees to choose their schedule for the day
- Create Q&A sessions that create deeper, more engaging discussions
Use your post-event communication plan to keep the conversation going – create on-demand content of the in-person sessions and use email campaigns to promote next year’s event. Connecting with your audience in intentional, engaging ways will build loyalty and likely boost in-person attendance too.
DEI isn’t a trend: It’s a fact
As companies get laser focused on their corporate initiatives around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), remember to work all those best practices into your event design. What are the similarities in your audiences, and what are the differences? Pre-event polls and surveys can garner useful feedback when considering how to plan with diversity in mind.
- 30% of individuals are neurodiverse. They might prefer less bright lights and back-to-back content. Providing a virtual option would also be valuable for them.
- Are people allowed to select their preferred pronouns? To the community this is an important indicator that your event is a safe place for them to attend.
- Are your speaker panels diverse?
Being intentional takes a bit more thought and planning effort, but your events should be a welcoming place for people. All people.
Connection is a powerful tool that can make a huge difference when it comes to engagement. Understanding that the members of your audience are people – not just attendees – will make a world of difference in your approach. By taking steps to incorporate these trends into your planning strategies, you can work towards connecting in more meaningful ways and maximizing the value of your upcoming events.