I’ve learned my lesson about gazing into the crystal ball. None of us truly know what to expect from the event industry in 2023 — but I do have some educated guesses based on recent experiences, and Sequence’s 11+ years in business.
Our team recently took a look back at the lessons they learned in 2022. Now, I’m offering my big-picture view of the state of events in 2023. Here’s what I’m seeing now.
1. Event attendees will be even more discerning about what they attend in person.
My bold prediction for 2023? It’ll actually be harder to get event guests in the room. Let me explain. In 2022, after two years of being cooped up, attendees were eager to get out and about — and simply the act of being face-to-face in a room was enough for many. Good production was icing on the cake.
But in 2023, expectations are rising — and I expect that guests will be more discerning, and eager to attend the events that really emphasize the benefits that work best in-person: real connections and unique, memorable experiences.
All that is to say I think we’ll see a push for more intimate events this year. While this doesn’t work for every gathering, of course (imagine if CES was just 100 people in a room?), it can be a smart strategy for many. How do we create intimate experiences that facilitate a true sense of community, to make sure each and every person walks away with an impactful experience? That’s what will help move the needle.
As an added bonus, smaller events can be friendlier on the budget, and also a better option on the safety front — because as we’ve learned, we never know what’s coming down the pike.
2. Event producers will continue using all the tools in their toolbox — and that includes virtual events.In 2022, I’d estimate that our work was 70% in person, 25% hybrid, and 5% virtual — which reflected the in-person renaissance after the previous couple years. But I predict there will actually be a bit of a hybrid and virtual resurgence in 2023. As we’ve learned, virtual and hybrid events can be a powerful means of delivering content, and a great way to accommodate attendees with limited travel budgets and time commitments.
Ultimately, it’s all about meeting the audience where they are, and customizing the experience based on their specific needs. The goal isn’t to approach things as, “Well, we’ve always done an in-person event in the past, so let’s do it again.” Now, it’s more about identifying: “What exactly are we trying to accomplish? What’s our purpose, and what’s the best format to accomplish those goals?”
It’s about starting fresh, identifying the overall goal — and then figuring out the right medium to drive that experience.
3. Some lessons from the pandemic will linger.
We’ve learned a lot about attendee engagement over the last few years — and I’ll be taking those lessons in 2023 with me, regardless of event format. One standout example? The need for shorter content sessions. We’re continuing to see a TED-style approach, where speakers take the stage for 10-20 minutes, max. This is good for attention spans, and it also gets a variety of people speaking — which leads to diversity in perspective, adding further touch points to keep your audience engaged. Win-win!4. Budgets concerns will continue impacting the industry in major ways.
And now, for the serious stuff. Some of the more negative aspects of 2022 — particularly budget issues and a looming recession — will likely continue into the new year, and will surely impact our decision-making over the next 12-18 months.
Here at Sequence, we plan to navigate it the way we always do — by leaning into the strategy. It’s all about the why: Why are we doing this? What are we trying to achieve? To me, those questions are even more critical during challenging times. We’re getting back to the baseline of what we want to accomplish, and asking ourselves if each line item is a good use of money and the most creative way we can accomplish our goals in a realistic way. If we keep those key questions as our endgame, it drives us to do the right things for the right reasons.5. Continued shorter planning timelines will require strong communication.
Navigating the risks of a COVID resurgence led to some truncated planning windows in 2022, and I believe economic challenges will lead to more of the same in the year ahead. Budgets will be tighter, which will translate to more arduous approval processes — which will ultimately leave less time for production.
The key to overcoming this obstacle will center on communication — setting expectations with clients (and vendors), and preparing them for potential challenges from the onset. Being proactive and communicative about what milestones need to be hit to pull off a certain vision will ensure everyone is working off of the same script.6. Those that stay focused on the power of face-to-face connections, above all else, will succeed.
The industry found a tremendous amount of positive momentum in 2022, which was so overdue for event professionals. I strongly believe that momentum will continue — if we stay focused and flexible.
At SEQ, we realized pretty early on that COVID wasn’t going to be a two-week thing. That allowed us to keep moving forward. We leaned into virtual, with the confidence that in-person events were going to come back and be just as good, if not better, than before. And we were right.
People need that face-to-face connection. And to me, that’s the takeaway moving forward. Regardless of what happens with the event industry, the economy, or the world, people want to be in person. They want to be at events. They want to be face-to-face. That’s been reinforced over the last few years, and I know it will be the case moving forward.