Demand for in-person events explodes into 2023

The meetings and events sector are channeling upbeat vibes with event management specialists feeling confident about the year ahead. Industry sentiment comes on the back of increasing demand for in-person events and renewed energy from the business sector to reconnect. During the next 12 months, expect a higher commitment to event sustainability and a delegate experience heavily influenced by authentic content, cutting-edge tech and splashes of Viva Magenta.      

Not sure what Viva Magenta is? Have a read of these colourful insights from the talented team at FCM Meetings and Events.

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Katie Fraser, Head of Events

How will live events be different in 2023?

Many events in 2022 focused on connection and getting people back together after all the time spent apart or working remotely since early 2020. It was possible to book events at the last minute because suppliers had the availability and space to fill. This year, we expect companies will have very specific business objectives they want to focus on for their events, and they’ll need to start the planning process much further in advance in light of market constraints and pricing.

What should be top of mind for event planners this year?

Event planners need to be thinking about how they’re going to use an event experience to build and strengthen the connection between employer and employee or an event host and its audience. Employee priorities have changed. Employees are more likely to change jobs if a better opportunity arises, people are busy, and they know their time is a precious commodity. Now more than ever, businesses are choosing to invest in their people with content that appeals to the personal and the professional. Event content around business goals is balanced with the health, wellbeing, personal and professional development of their people.

People gathering in lobby chatting

Most important piece of advice for event planners in 2023?

Plan ahead! Availability is tight and rates are increasing in line with rising demand. Either your dates or your budget will be affected if bookings are left to the last minute.

What do you think will be the biggest factor to influence the events industry in 2023?

I think we'll continue to see a strain on staffing and resources impacting the industry’s ability to meet the demand for meetings and events. Availability across hotels and venues gets tighter by the day, so I think we'll see a ceiling of capacity that we hit forcing people to move their events to different dates and even into 2024.

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Sheri Veenstra, Group Travel National Business Leader

What group travel trends do you expect to see this year?

A return to national conferences and incentives rather than state-based events. I think international events will pick up significantly this year, particularly for our academic and university customers that have been hesitant to return to international travel. I’m also hoping to see a return to more strategic and forward planning for our customer's annual event programs rather than the short lead times we experienced in 2022.

What challenges could crop up in 2023 that travel planners should be aware of?

I have two for you. Limited last-minute availability and the potential for schedule disruptions.

In the past, we could plan and book conferences and groups with short lead times, however we’ve been seeing some major routes sell out of availability weeks or months in advance. So now it’s important to book and hold your airfares as early as possible. The beauty of group travel is that you can hold your inventory 10 months in advance of your dates and then finalise your numbers and attendees 6 weeks out. This not only ensures you get the best possible price, but that your people also get where they need to be!

Last year, we had to manage a lot of schedule disruptions or cancellations, even on the day of travel. I think 2023 will see this reduce, however customers should still be prepared for some challenges when travelling. I am very proud to say that, despite the high number of cancellations and schedule changes we encountered, we still managed to pivot on travel days and get all our customers to and from their destinations.

Panel of people speaking

Most important thing to focus on in 2023?

Education and kindness. As our industry recovers, we are still seeing staff movements and shortages like never before. This year will see many newly staffed positions for our suppliers and our customers alike. We need to take the time to educate each other on this new world post Covid-19, and the complexities that come with the industry rebound. We are all human and have absolutely been through it these last few years so remembering to be kind will be key!

Key trend that will influence the industry in 2023?

Availability and schedules for sure! Airlines are still recovering from Covid, so more routes will come back online throughout the year. However, until then, availability may be limited, which can certainly affect pricing.

Also, countries are recovering from the pandemic at different speeds, and I think this will impact the destinations that are more popular in 2023 and 2024.

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Cathy Broaders, Leader of Creative Services

Key industry trends for the year ahead?

Opting to hold live, in-person events will be the trend in terms of engaging your event audience in 2023. Even though technologies have improved and morphed at speed, nothing yet can replace face-to-face interaction. Virtual components will continue to be part of events, they still offer good ROI opportunities, and for some event types, it’s safe to say they have proven to be better than live.

Delivering more sustainable events is an absolute must-have in everyone’s psyche and is in the top 3 when it comes to event objectives. Event planners and producers ought to be using sustainability as one of the lenses through which every event element is viewed. Having an environmental coordinator assigned to event teams will become more prevalent this year.

What creative themes are you expecting to come to life in 2023?

For design, we’re expecting more ‘authentic’ photographic branding - it adds a human element to the design. This trend started in 2022, probably as an outcome of the restricted connections we all had in previous two years. In the design world, we will begin to enhance this reality with 3D elements, liquid gradients, blobs, flared fonts and distorted type, maybe sci-fi elements as we head into the metaverse.

Earthy shades from the ‘red family’ will also feature across design this year – with ‘Viva Magenta’ (18-1750) as Pantone’s 2023 Colour of the Year.

For the digital experience, we’ll see increasing requirement for more powerful and engaging digital platforms. Clients are time-poor and are looking for a single-point solution for online registration, travel, accommodation, personalised communications, and event apps with interactive floorplans, self-check in and attendee interactivity.

Digital swag bags will also be all the rage for attendees so that event footprint can be reduced.

Most important thing clients should focus on in 2023?

Focus on the event attendee, map their event journey and deliver meaningful experiences at every step. Each experience should be on-brand, authentic, fun, and have elements of surprise. Finding more ways to personalise the experience is key to making event attendees feel valued.

People sitting in a crowd clapping and smiling

Biggest factors to influence the industry in 2023?

2022 was a year that tested our patience, our resolve, and our resilience...but we got through it! I think events in 2023 will be influenced by the global rise of service and product costs, the continued necessity for face-to-face connection, and balancing the expectations of bang-for-buck budgets. It will test our determination and our ability to be even more innovative. It will be the year that sees our confidence rise as the events industry returns to strength.

So, if 2022 was the year of recovery, I think 2023 will be the year of confidence. It’s time to fasten your seatbelts, we’re in for a fast and wild ride!

Andrew Yell Headshot

Andrew Yell, Head of Product Supply and Strategy

What are the industry’s expectations for the meetings and events sector in 2023?

Our industry partners are expecting that demand will be very strong and availability will be tight. Our partners are already seeing plenty of future bookings so the advice we’ve been given is to plan and book as early as you can.

Do industry partners expect to see any dramatic changes in 2023?

We’ve heard that local industry partners feel confident there will still be a strong appetite for domestic meetings and events, simply because international airfares are expensive and group inventory is still hard to get due to reduced capacity. However, most partners are confident that service levels should return to a more normal level in 2023.

Biggest factor to influence the industry in 2023?

Personally, I think the biggest challenge will be in finding the right number of staff and then training those people so that the customer experience throughout the travel process is still great. Unfortunately, the industry lost a lot of amazing people through the pandemic, which has created a huge skills shortage. We’re going to get back there eventually, but it’s going to take time and energy.

Brendan Valmont headshot

Brendan Valmont, Regional Product Manager

How do you see digital products evolving in 2023?

Digital transformations through automation, machine learning, and AI will play a big part in the evolution of digital products in 2023. I think we’re likely to see a moderate decline in virtual and hybrid products as the world reopens and people crave the in-person connection and networking opportunities which the virtual experience doesn’t provide well.

However, saying all of that, a potential global recession could see a re-uptake of virtual products to keep costs low. Businesses that are keen to keep costs under control will be looking for strategic meetings management digital products that will provide cost control, reporting and insights.

Most important thing to focus on in 2023?

The importance of sustainability will continue to grow. We saw it last year and it’s gaining more velocity now. Companies want to provide clear and transparent information on how they are upholding sustainability efforts when it comes to their meetings and events.

Thinking you need to get a move-on to lock in key dates for your 2023 / 2024 meetings and events schedule?

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