The events industry in 2023: a year of consolidation

I was interested to read the findings in our 2023 Insights Report, which is based on a survey and interviews with event industry experts. We produce the report to help our clients and those interested in working with us to understand the industry landscape better and help them shape their plans for the year ahead.

The first thing that really struck me is how much 2022 was a tale of two halves. There was a long-awaited sense of excitement in the industry about a return to live events, especially for those occasions where the focus is on networking and building deeper relationships through shared experiences.

But, switching back to a pre-pandemic way of doing things brought its own challenges. A shift in audience expectations, the willingness to travel and attend an event in person, industry supply chain issues, the events skills gap and lack of manpower, and global economic uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine all played their part.

For obvious reasons, most organisations are now planning their events with a mix of live, virtual and hybrid formats. What’s interesting is that hybrid is still considered by many to be too complex and too costly in favour of a purely live or virtual event.

Our report also highlights several challenges in our sector, some resulting from the pandemic and others where the industry is not yet fully grasping the opportunity to drive change. Sustainability is hovering on everyone’s agenda but there hasn’t been any meaningful progress in this area yet. The adoption of new technology is not as fast as it might seem, due mostly to a lack of understanding of its potential and wariness around cost implications. The skills gap created by the pandemic could leave the industry exposed unless steps are taken to close it by upskilling and recruiting from a wider pool of talent. Within this, diversity, equity and inclusion have a big and important role to play in ensuring the growth and prosperity of our industry.

But despite the challenges, it appears everyone agrees on one thing: regardless of format, channel or technology, content is still king. Many of our survey respondents rank content as a bigger priority for 2023 than event strategy and logistics.

If 2022 was the year for rediscovering the power of live, 2023 feels to me like a year of consolidation. After a period of reactivity, organisations are now in a better position to make the right event choices for their audiences based on what they want and need.

The lessons our industry has been forced to learn since March 2020 are invaluable in this process. But we’re not out of the woods yet. According to the 2023 Global Risks Report published by Marsh McLennan, the outlook is challenging. The cost-of-living crisis is seen as the biggest short-term risk, which is likely to have a negative impact on sustainable climate action – the single biggest long-term risk and the one for which we are least prepared. Combined with the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and cyber security issues, the next decade is going to be uncertain and turbulent.

As an industry, we will continue to rally. Community building remains the cornerstone of commercial success. Those businesses that design content and develop connections that align with customer needs will thrive.

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