Meeting Mentor Magazine

July 2024

5 Game-Changing Event Planning Trends

Check out where meeting and event planners are seeing the most growth, what their top priorities are, and why it pays to be an early adopter of event tech.

The current state of meeting and events is trending so positive, you may want to grab your sunglasses before you dive into the results of the latest survey data from Community Brands, a software and services provider. The company commissioned Edge Research to conduct the online survey of 541 business meeting and event professionals who plan at least five events per year, and the topline takeaway is that we are officially out of the post-pandemic slump.

Here’s a breakdown of the top five trends identified in the survey:

1. Growth is up across the board. Planners reported growth in multiple areas last year and are predicting even better performance as we move through 2024. More than half, 57%, said the number of attendees at their events was up last year, and 55% reported the same for their event revenues. Fifty-two percent also said the number of in-person events they planned also was on the rise in 2023. Fortunately, the same percentage, 52%, also said their operating budgets were keeping pace with the growth in attendees, number of events held and revenues. When asked how they anticipated these trends to continue into 2024, the numbers were similar, with well over half expecting continued growth in the number of attendees, revenue and operating budgets, and number of in-person events.

Sponsor and exhibitor numbers also were mainly positive as well, though not as strongly as the top factors. The percentage of respondents who said their sponsors were up was the same as the percentage of those who said it stayed the same — 46%. Another 41% said their exhibitor numbers were on the rise, while half said they hadn’t seen the needle move on this key area lately. The number of speakers, paid staff and abstract submissions stayed about the same for more than half of respondents, with just 39%, 38% and 30% saying they saw growth in these areas, respectively. Again, the trends for 2024 were similar for these areas as well, with most predicting growth in all areas except for the number of abstract submissions.

2. Attendee experience is the top priority. With more people coming to in-person events, planners said their top priority was ensuring their experience while on site was a good one in terms of attendee satisfaction, experience, trust and engagement. Almost 60% said increasing attendee satisfaction was at the top of their priority list last year, and 57% said their focus was on providing a memorable attendee experience. Interestingly, while event attendance quantity was up — something respondents were happy about — they said they were a bit less satisfied with the quality of attendees they were pulling in last year. Nipping at the heels of improving the attendee experience was, not surprisingly, increasing revenue, something 55% said was a top priority for 2023.

When asked what their top priorities were for this year, again, the percentages were very similar, with increasing attendee satisfaction coming out on top at 58%, followed by providing a memorable attendee experience (57%), increasing revenue (55%), building trust with attendees and community (53%), increasing attendance (52%), improving attendee engagement (52%) and increasing exhibitor/sponsor satisfaction (49%).

So how what tactics do they plan to use to increase attendance? Attracting more first-time attendees, creating unique attendee experiences, using new/more marketing channels, targeting professionals who are just starting out in their careers, and re-engaging past attendees topped the list. Other tactics on the table include expanding to new markets, offering more exclusive networking opportunities, and expanding globally. 

3. Sponsor and exhibitor satisfaction also tops the priority list. Especially given that many are experiencing stagnation in the sponsor and exhibitor areas, it’s not surprising that just shy of half of respondents said increasing sponsor and exhibitor satisfaction was in their top 10 list of priorities for this year. This includes helping sponsors and exhibitors increase their ROI. Another top priority in this area is increasing the number of exhibitors and sponsors, including attracting more first-time sponsors and exhibitors, as well as providing unique experiences they can buy into as well as more enticing packages. In terms of the quality/quantity question, the results were the exact opposite of what they are seeing on the attendee side — most are pretty happy with the quality of their exhibitors and sponsors, even though they anticipate working on getting the numbers in this area to increase.

4. It pays to be an early event tech adopter. One interesting result of the survey was that planners who say their organizations are early event tech adopters also reported stronger growth in almost every metric, from number of attendees to event revenues and operating budgets to number of in-person events they planned. Those most likely to say their organizations were early adopters were those who work in larger organizations of more than 100 employees, organizations that had an organization-wide attendee engagement strategy, event planning companies and those who already were using innovative tech. While almost half said incorporating new event tech was a top priority, the percentage is even higher for those who said they work for early adopters and those that have an attendee engagement strategy.

But whether their organizations are early adopters, laggards or somewhere in the middle, almost half said incorporating new or better event technology is a top priority — but figuring out which is the right event technology for their specific needs is also one of their top five biggest challenges. Those who are investing in new event tech said their top areas for technology investment this year would be in the areas of data analysis, mobile event apps and event registration systems. The most-used event tech they already had in house were event registration systems, mobile event apps, data analysis systems, exhibitor and sponsor management tools, and session scheduling/agenda building systems. 

5. The AI bots have landed. Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer something on the outer fringe of event and meeting planning, the survey found. Almost half — 45% — said they were already using or planned to use AI this year to help plan and manage their events. This is a 12% jump from the results of last year’s survey. As to what types of organizations are most likely to take a leap into AI, government organizations topped the list at 57%, well ahead of associations and nonprofits (49% each) and corporations (48%).

Some of the key ways they plan to use AI overlaps with their other event tech priorities, such as using it for data analysis. Other top ways they are using AI is to analyze the buzz around their events and to customize and personalize the event experience for attendees. Virtual reality is still in the visionary stages for two-thirds of respondents, with only about a third saying their incorporating virtual reality solutions. Another 25% said they were adding immersive experiences, while 27% said they were using or planned to use augmented reality for their events. 

Top Challenges for 2024

Of course, there are still challenges to overcome to achieve event goals. Among the top concerns were inflation and supply chain issues, tighter budgets, economic downturns and finding the right event tech for their needs.


Free Subscription to
MeetingMentor Online


About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

Design by: Loewy Design