If you feel like you’re doing a lot more with a lot less — you’re right. Event expectations remain higher than ever, but many event professionals grapple with limited staffing and budget resources. Knowing how event technology and a superb content strategy transforms event experiences, I like to view the glass as half full. There’s an upside (and opportunities) to the downside. 

Webex Events partnered with Event Marketer on a State of the Events Industry Snapshot report, which revealed key learnings on how timelines, budgets, and expectations have shifted over the last few years. Based on the findings, lean into these opportunities to sharpen your event strategies.

1. Maximize your event program with strategic thinking

74% of event marketers report having less time to plan their events than in 2019. Many respondents noted planning windows have shrunk to weeks for a program that would’ve required months to execute in the past.

With less time, event professionals must think strategically about how they can reasonably execute a successful event program that provides value for attendees and sponsors. For instance, we’ve seen many event teams complement their large flagship event with several smaller virtual events throughout the year.

When doing more with less, repurposing is the name of the game. Identify the key themes from your flagship event, then expand upon them during your smaller touchpoint events for a year-round interconnected event content program

And remember: content feeds events, and events feed content. Remain in lockstep with your marketing team, which is likely developing rich content — blogs, reports, guides, videos — you can repurpose into event content, and vice versa. 

2. Leverage event tech to promote connection and enhance in-person events 

Inflation continues to impact the events industry, and with less money in their pockets to travel, attendees expect modern in-person events to include virtual elements. This enhances the on-site experience and allows for in-person and virtual attendees to stay connected. Luckily, event marketers are ahead of the curve with 63% embracing virtual platforms to connect digital experiences to their in-person events. 

Event professionals should leverage event tech to connect virtual and in-person audiences, increase engagement, enhance the experience for all attendees, and include more ways for both sponsors and attendees to participate — something we’ve all become accustomed to over the last few years. 

Ideas and opportunities include:

  • Registration: Create customized registration pages as a way to collect even more data about your attendees. 
  • Mobile event app: Digitally connect attendees to each other and event content, in addition to offering sponsors more exposure in the form of gamification, banner ads, and push notifications.
  • Virtual/augmented reality: Truly immerse attendees by allowing them to engage with the content in new ways, like participating in AR scavenger hunts or seeing interactive data visualizations during presentations.
  • Live display: Publish event content to digital displays that update in real time. Include a social wall to encourage attendees to engage and see their posts on the big screen.
  • Virtual classes/activities: Create experiences that make your virtual guests feel truly appreciated, like virtual cooking classes for networking or remote fireside chats. 
  • Video breakout rooms: Bring your virtual and in-person attendees together into virtual breakout rooms.

3. Host smaller, niche events to reduce organizational costs and boost interest

Even with more than 80% of event professionals expecting their budgets to stay the same or increase for the year, they report inflation, staffing shortages, and supply chain challenges hold them back from producing events at 2019 levels. The prices of food and beverage, venue rentals, and shipping and logistics continue to rise. 

Rather than hosting large-scale events that address numerous topics at a high level, consider smaller, niche in-person events to offer a focused deep dive on a particular topic of interest. This allows planners to cut back on event costs and incorporate more immersive experiential elements. 

4. Educate internal teams and executives on the value of events

Only 20% of event marketers reported that leaders understand the challenges they face, which points to gaps between expectations and industry realities. Dig into the data to educate leadership and stakeholders on the ROI of your event program, and the potential to generate even more value for stakeholders with a well-designed sponsorship strategy that spans virtual and in-person events.

5. Transform your events team into a group of digital-savvy experts 

While many event marketers report staffing shortages as a major pain point, rebuilding their event teams presents an opportunity to invest in digital-savvy professionals who can use technology not only to engage virtual attendees, but to level up in-person events

According to our survey results, virtual platforms get the most use as hybrid experiences attached to in-person events, as mobile apps for in-person events, and as platforms for internal events. With attendee expectations at an all-time high, now’s the time for event professionals to level up and deploy digital engagement tactics that keep attendees engaged and connected before, during, and after the event. 

2023 outlook remains optimistic

Event marketers are no strangers to thinking creatively while working with lean budgets and fast-paced timelines. When the industry switched gears in 2020, they innovated like never before and came out stronger with a refreshed outlook on event possibilities. Equipped with those learnings, there’s an immense opportunity to transform their teams and event programs. Like I said, the cup is half full, so let’s raise a virtual toast to the 2023 events season. Cheers!