Prevue asked its Editorial Advisory Board members to chime in with their thoughts on what’s on the horizon for events and meetings in the coming year.
This year has been a challenging one in many ways. While in-person meetings and events are back to — in some cases, already exceeding — pre-pandemic levels, there still are challenges to overcome, from rising event-related costs to economic uncertainty to a potentially disruptive presidential election. Prevue asked its Editorial Advisory Board members to weigh in with what they predict we’ll be facing as we round the corner into 2024. Here’s some of what they had to share.
What do you think the next year will look like for meetings and events?
“I think that 2024 will ‘cautiously’ continue to build on the success of 2023” and overall group business will grow, at least somewhat, says Doug Wheeler, Principal, Summit Performance Group LLC. He also predicts that the biggest growth will be in senior/baby-boomer FIT travel. Due to “the looming election, the end of the post-COVID euphoria and the uncertainty of the economy, businesses are being more cautious,” he adds, saying, “We have a number of clients that have decided to defer their 2024 programs and move to 2025.”
Steffi Kordy, CITP, Owner, Cocoon Incentives, adds that “2024 will be more back to normal as the last two years were transitional years after COVID, supply chain and labor issues and inflation adjustments,” she says. “Some clients did not venture out too far this year fearing yet another set-back, but I think they are ready from here on out.”
Sherri Lindenberg, SKLD MarComms, LLC, thinks the outlook will be even rosier than a return to pre-pandemic normal. “From talking with other event professionals, I think 2024 is going to be one for the record books when it comes to volumes of events and related spends,” she says. “While expense pressures remain high, the demand for high-quality and engaging events of all types continues to increase. Employees have pent-up demand for in-person connections — for training, networking, and rewards. While many of us love working remotely, we also realize how much we value the in-person experiences and it’s up to the event professionals to make those experiences meaningful and valuable.”
“I feel like we’ll have an even busier year ahead!” agrees Lisa Shingleton Palumbo, Founder and Chief Strategist with Tampa Bay Social, LLC. While she doesn’t see much wiggle room happening when it comes to contracts and negotiations in 2024 — especially in food and beverage minimums and strict cancellation terms, she predicts we will see more regional events as companies become more open to adding meetings back into their business structure. And that short-term booking most have been experiencing coming out of the pandemic should begin to ease, she says. “I feel that for large events, locking in dates three to five years out will become standard practice again.”
Palumbo also thinks that many of the trends already under way will continue, including hybrid events. Because they allow organizations to have a broader audience reach, “I feel that hybrid events are here to stay,” she says. Eco-friendly events are also here to stay, she predicts. We’ll see a “continued focus on reducing environmental impact, increasing eco-friendly practices, and continuing to not only promote social responsibility but finding innovative ways in which to do so.”
Other trends she sees as continuing include increasing personalization of the event experience through the use of data analytics and personalized tools; increasingly sophisticated networking platforms to connect attendees, exhibitors and sponsors; use of outdoor venues and unique, non-traditional spaces; and “events that may foster more global collaboration, allowing participants from different parts of the world to engage and contribute,” she says. “This could be facilitated by advanced virtual communication technologies.” She also thinks event planners, having learned from recent experience, will be placing a greater emphasis on crisis preparedness and contingency planning to address unforeseen challenges and disruptions.
David Stevens, Consultant, Olympian Meeting, says he’s really hoping there will be fewer overlapping events for meeting professionals in the coming year. “It seemed like SO many industry conferences overlapped which led to missing out on things. Let’s hope there’s some space to breathe in there.”
How do you think 2024 will compare to this year?
“I think and hope that hotel rates and services charges will be corrected downwards again as it feels that many operators upped their rates and came up with additional charges that you can get away with in a sellers market,”says Kordy. “While companies are OK adjusting their budgets with normal inflation rates, I think they are either adjusting their budget by lowering their head count or days of travel to counter rates should they not come down.”
She adds, “Companies might also consider other destinations outside the U.S. where rates are lower and service fees do not consume a quarter of the budget (such as Europe, Central America, almost anywhere really). For the U.S. market, I also sense an upswing of all-inclusive to keep budgets in check.”
While Lindenberg predicts meetings and events will be returning to, and surpassing, their pre-2020 levels, she also thinks there will be some differences. “I’m hearing about tighter agendas with more free time, shorter programs overall, more engagement activities — including community social responsibility and sustainability programs — and more personalized experiences, from breakouts and customized agendas to gifting and food and beverage.”
Artificial intelligence, or A.I., also was a hot topic with Prevue’s planner board members. “A.I. is already making significant impacts on the events industry, and its role is likely to expand further,” says Palumbo. She sees it making inroads in everything from event planning and logistics to facial recognition, security and data analytics, content creation and curation, language translation and networking/matchmaking.
What are you most looking forward to professionally as we move into 2024?
Not surprisingly, learning more about how to harness the power of A.I. is one thing many of Prevue’s board members are planning to do in the coming year. Palumbo says she’s looking forward to “learning as much as I can about A.I. I’m personally very curious to see A.I.–driven avatars, interactive virtual environments and augmented reality elements within the physical event spaces.” Also on Palumbo’s 2024 agenda: “more strategic business partnerships/clients and more collaborative efforts with like business owners.”
Kordy also is looking forward to learning more about A.I., as well as being involved with her SITE board and “Not having to deal with so many last-minute requests and to keep exploring new destinations.”
Wheeler says he is looking forward to transitioning from working 43 years in hospitality, travel and the meetings industry to professionally mentoring others and sharing his knowledge with future generations entering and growing within the event planning profession. On a more personal basis, he’s looking forward to “traveling extensively to fulfill my bucket list of destinations. To date, I have completed trips to Bali, Egypt, bike riding down the Florida Keys, hiking the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain and visiting Portugal. Next up is Australia/New Zealand, Greece, Turkey, Croatia and Italy, France and Spain again, Morocco, etc.”
Lindenberg is anticipating a year of change as she starts working with a new employer. “I am excited to get to work with a new team and new projects.” She says she’s also looking forward to learning new skills and “better understanding how artificial intelligence can positively impact our industry and how to successfully leverage these tools to work more efficiently and creatively.”
Stevens says he’s looking forward to speaking more and helping drive wellness implementation to the next level. “I have committed to making this my full-time mission and I’m excited to see more people adopt these practices and help their attendees leave their events energized instead of exhausted. Once more step closer to it being a normal thing instead of experimental.”
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