As 2024 unfolds, Axl Rose's iconic question from the Guns N' Roses anthem, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine, ’ resonates strongly - within the B2B events industry.
And it's more than a lyrical curiosity; it's a pivotal inquiry that aspires to understand an industry that's evolving faster than ever.
If 2023 was like a rock band's journey through exhilarating highs and transformative changes, 2024 places us at an exciting crossroads, ready to embrace the new while honoring the time-tested.
To understand what shaped events in 2023 and gain insight that will help us decode 2024, we surveyed leaders and practitioners from core functions.
In 2023, event programs were primarily led by small teams, with 75.4% of organizations having teams of 1-5 members. This trend highlights a shift towards smaller, specialized teams for efficient and flexible event management, often driven by the need to manage costs effectively in budget-constrained environments.
In 2023, ROI for event programs varied, with about 44% of organizations seeing a moderate 1X-2X return. Meanwhile, 35.1% achieved a higher ROI of 3X-5X, demonstrating that significant returns from event investments were attainable even in challenging times.
In 2023, around 35% of event budgets were primarily spent on venue and F&B, emphasizing their role in improving attendee experiences amidst rising costs. Additionally, technology essential for engagement, delivery, and analytics, accounted for about 20% of the budgets.
80.7% of event marketers cited engaging attendees as their top challenge, with 69% of Gen Z preferring more engaging experiences. Budget constraints impacted 75.4% of organizers, while 40.4% struggled to find quality speakers. Logistical issues were also prevalent, with 36.8% facing difficulties in venue selection.
In 2023, for the surveyed organizations, 65% of events were in-person, showing a clear preference for traditional face-to-face interactions. Virtual events accounted for 20%, valued for their accessibility and ability to reach wider audiences, especially when attending in person is challenging.
83.9% of event marketers prioritize lead generation as their top goal, using events as a key demand generation channel. Additionally, 71.4% focused on customer engagement, while 64.3% aimed to boost brand awareness, reflecting diverse strategic objectives in event marketing.
76.8% of event marketers prioritize pipeline creation as their key KPI, with leads collected (66.1%) and revenue influenced (60.7%) also being crucial metrics. This emphasis highlights events' vital role in lead generation, customer acquisition, and revenue growth, aligning them closely with business goals and outcomes.
“Monitor customer engagement: Track website traffic, app downloads, and purchases made by attendees after the event. This can show if the event generated lasting interest and action.”
Over 50% of marketers expect budget increases, signaling cautious optimism in the event industry. This anticipated growth allows for exploring new technologies and engagement tactics, and expanding event formats, aiming to enhance their overall quality and impact.
64.9% of organizers rank social video snippets highest for post-event engagement, capitalizing on their reach and Gen-Z audience interest. Following this, 59.6% prioritize sales enablement materials to repurpose event content for sales teams.
“If you can connect your events into a broader strategy then they don't live on islands, they become meaningful touchpoints in that broader mission.”
Organizers are prioritizing engaging, career-value content to attract and retain attendee interest. Personalized outreach and targeted campaigns are key in pre-and post-event strategies. The focus is also on interactive sessions and quality speakers, essential for engaging and capturing potential leads.
“We're focusing on brand-level activations for events. Smaller, intimate and exclusive event within an event offers.”
This forecast shows a trend: online communities are becoming trusted professional networks, offering meaningful engagement and complementing traditional methods like email and social media.
Salesforce dominates in tracking attendee engagement, while Google Sheets is favored for its ease of use. Organizers are also adopting advanced platforms like Power BI and Alchemer for deeper data analysis. This reflects a growing need for comprehensive attendee lifecycle data, enhancing behavior and preference analysis.
The potential resurgence of an epidemic and renewed U.S. mask mandates emphasize the need for prioritizing health and safety in event planning. The pandemic's unpredictability requires adaptability to evolving health guidelines. While 22.8% have prepared, like buying virtual event tools, many still face uncertainty or lack solid plans.
Event marketers are focusing on accessibility and inclusivity through virtual platforms, diverse speakers, and ADA-compliant venues. Key strategies include closed captioning, multilingual options, inclusive communication, and flexible scheduling. Collaborations with advocacy groups and staff inclusivity training are also prioritized.
“We always include questions around accessibility needs in our registration process for in-person events.”
As per the survey, 34% of event planners plan to make sustainability an integral part of their event program. Their strategies include hosting virtual events, selecting green venues, local sourcing, and using reusable materials. Sustainable swag and eco-conscious food choices are also key focuses. While this number is low today, more planners are joining the sustainability initiative.
2024 places event marketers up front and center - at the crossroads where the traditional in-person format continues to dominate but objectives, expectations and aspirations are modern.
Event marketers will strive for a deeper understanding of the importance of impactful, value-driven content in driving both attendance as well as achieving key event KPIs. The preference for in-person events, complemented by the strategic use of virtual and hybrid formats, will help event marketers move forward consciously by factoring in inclusivity, accessibility and sustainability.
At the outset, events in 2024 are set to further their reputation of being a core revenue-driving channel that more and more companies pro-actively will invest in.
It is with these educated insights that we can address the uncertainty that Axl Rose pertinently highlights up top and navigate through 2024 while staying agile and adaptable for anything that comes our way.