New research suggests that event marketers are looking to increase the number of small events they run. They are counting on event technology to help with streamlining and replicating small events that deliver results.
With unpredictable market conditions to strained resources, the many aftershocks of the Covid pandemic continue to provide a wild ride to event professionals. As a result, trying to make suitable investments and host the most effective events continues to prove challenging. Smaller events could be part of the solution.
Event marketing technology company Splash released its 2023 Events Outlook Report on Monday. The company surveyed 670 event marketers and professionals in the third annual report. The findings highlight common challenges and a greater focus on what Splash calls ‘everyday events’.
Overall, the biggest challenges facing respondents are the need for more human resources, budget constraints, and technology that better supports their roles and helps them improve efficiencies.
Overall, the Splash report found that event marketing budgets are increasing. Seventy-three percent of respondents anticipate their budget to grow, with 69 percent reporting that their budget increased in 2022 compared to 2021.
Even though the overall budgets have grown, less than half (41 percent) of respondents plan to increase their investment in event technology. This is down from 59 percent in 2022, but only 6 percent will spend less on event technology.
More Focus on Small Events
The vast majority (81 percent) of respondents said they would hold more events if they had access to event technology that made it easier to replicate events. With more than half of those surveyed hosting small events, there is an excellent case for investing in streamlining.
Splash defines ‘everyday events’ as “an event designed to be replicated multiple times across regions, verticals, formats (virtual/hybrid/in-person), and stakeholders.” The significant advantage of ‘everyday events’ is reaching audiences more frequently. According to Splash, the number of interactions with buyers as part of a pre-purchase journey has increased by more than 60% in just two years.
“Our latest research demonstrates that event marketers are, once again, adjusting their strategies to create more connection points with attendees and positively impacting ROI. And, we’re continuing to see evidence that everyday events — at scale— can drive significant financial impact to a company’s sales pipeline year-round,” said Kate Hammitt, chief marketing officer at Splash.
While ‘everyday events’ are on the rise, some challenges remain. According to those surveyed, the biggest challenge is coordinating across departments (32 percent), followed by building new attendee or invitation lists (27 percent) and creating similar event designs and creative assets (18 percent).
Rethinking Virtual and Hybrid Events
While the concept of ‘everyday events’ includes in-person and virtual events, webinars are a big part of this type of event. From the survey results, 30 percent of respondents said they only focused on in-person events. Virtual events are still part of the overall mix, with 58 percent they will host virtual events in 2023, but this is down from 92 percent in 2022.
With most destinations now able to host events without any Covid restrictions, shifting focus away from virtual events may seem obvious. Still, the report points to other factors, such as the perception of virtual events being cost-effective, which has dropped from 49 percent in 2022 to 38 percent this year.
The decrease is more significant when it comes to hybrid events. Strikingly, only 20 percent of respondents expect to host a hybrid event this year; this number was 79 percent in 2022.
One area of concern for event technology companies is that almost two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents still use the same tools to host virtual events as they did before 2020. Budget constraints are the most significant reason given for this stagnation. The top priority for those looking to invest in live streaming software with mobile event apps close behind.
In Search for Return on Investment
When asked about the key to a successful event program, attracting the right audience was the top response, with 32 percent selecting it, up from 26 percent in 2022. Attracting the most attendees came second (17 percent), and compelling event content third (13 percent). This suggests that event marketers are shifting their focus towards attracting a more targeted audience rather than growing events indiscriminately.
Accurately measuring return on investment came in fourth, with 13 percent of respondents selecting it as the key, but worth noting a jump from 8 percent in 2022.
Regarding event formats, almost half (47 percent) of respondents said in-person events yielded the highest return on investment. The remainder were evenly split between virtual and hybrid.
Digital Revenue Gains Ground
Another event technology company that recently published research is ExpoPlatform, with the 2023 edition of its Event Tech Forecast. The company surveyed around 100 event professionals, most focusing on larger events, including trade shows, and found increased expectations for digital revenue. More than half (55 percent) of respondents said they expect income from online sources to grow, with over a third (36 percent) saying digital revenue will provide 30 percent or more of their predicted revenue this year.
In an interview with Skift Meetings, chief growth officer Luke Bilton suggested that “digital packages will start being sold a lot more alongside the live event.” He also agreed that the expectation of increased digital revenues points to the forming of year-round communities as opposed to running one-off events. Reinforcing this idea, 64 percent of survey respondents see community nurturing as the biggest opportunity for event tech to develop, closely followed by exhibitor ROI (50 percent)
The format employed in this shift is still up for discussion, but the intent comes through in the report. “We’re recognizing that there’s a lot of opportunities in digital and we want to invest there. Individuals may not be charged for the virtual event; they may be charged for content or they may be charged for community,” said Bilton.
Event Technology Wishlist
In the same survey, mobile event apps came through as the top event technology feature, selected by 60 percent of respondents, with AI matchmaking and lead retrieval both selected by half of the respondents. However, in the company’s last report, released in July of 2022, the top result was on-demand content. This suggests that on-demand content is less of a consideration than it was six months ago.
Finally, respondents selected creating a seamless experience across platforms (59 percent) as the most significant challenge when using event technology. Providing a good return on investment for exhibitors, a lack of skilled resources, and integration between suppliers we all selected by more than half of the respondents.