With a fresh new year ahead, event planners around the world have a lot to look forward to in 2023. As the nearly $1 trillion event industry continues to rebound from the pandemic, event professionals are poised for a prosperous future. 

According to a report by Insight Partners, the event industry is going to double in size by 2028, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.1% through the next five years. Undoubtedly, the global virtual events market will play an important role in this process, as it’s the fastest-growing industry vertical. In fact, Grand View Research indicates that the virtual events market is outpacing the rest of the industry, soaring at an impressive CAGR of 21.4% between 2022 to 2030. 

Virtual events offer an opportunity event professionals won’t want to miss. But, capitalizing on it? That’s a different story. To do that, planners need to keep their ears to the ground.

In this blog, we’ll walk you through the virtual event trends you need to be familiar with. From event planning and budgeting to event technology and engagement, expect to see these top event trends in 2023 and beyond.

Let’s start with the big picture and break down some of the most impactful virtual event trends influencing the events industry this year.

1. In-person events are back

Group of diverse people hold plates of food and stand around at event

First, we’ll address the elephant in the room: In-person events are back. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 52% of event marketers expect to invest more of their budget in physical event planning in 2023 compared to last year. Why? Primarily because of face-to-face interaction. The same event marketers also rank the physical event format as the asset that produced the best results in 2022. 

But, does that mean virtual events are out of style? No. In fact, virtual events ranked as the second best-performing asset last year. Despite in-person events making a comeback, 67% of marketers say their virtual event investment will at least stay the same (if not increase) in 2023. 

Key takeaway: In-person events may eat away at some of the space virtual events created in their absence, but there’s still plenty of room for the online format to grow in the flourishing events industry.

2. Virtual event fatigue is real and on the rise

Although the virtual events market is on a trajectory for success, event professionals should be aware that some event attendees are growing tired of the online event format. According to American Express’s Global Meetings and Events Forecast, organizations and attendees alike want to meet in person. If virtual event planners want to hold their audience’s attention, they need to invest in more innovative, immersive ideas. In other words, they need to focus on engagement.

Overall, according to the report, attendee engagement is less of a concern for in-person events. Much of this can be attributed to public and corporate eventgoers being excited about meeting face-to-face once again. However, when it comes to virtual event attendees, engagement is a growing concern. AMEX reports that lack of participation and poor attendance are among the top issues when hosting an online event or virtual conference

Key takeaway: There’s a serious need to invest in solutions that increase virtual attendee engagement, and keep audiences focused and entertained during a live event. Planners should expect a renewed interest in event technology in 2023, with particular regard to a virtual event platform that can engage online audiences from start to finish. 

3. Event spend rises alongside costs

White piggy bank on blue background with gold coins falling into it

According to a recent In-house Corporate Events (ICE) report, event professionals are expected to spend 83% more on events in 2023. At first glance, this may sound like good news. However, the report notes this isn’t necessarily a reflection of confidence in the events industry, but rather an indication of rising costs. Recent inflationary pressures are impacting event budgets across the board. 

In fact, AMEX estimates that the cost per attendee will increase up to 3% for conferences and trade shows and at least 1.5% for other categories like small corporate events. Other sources expect costs to rise even higher. According to CWT’s Global Business Travel Forecast, the cost per attendee is at least 25% higher than in 2019 and may rise a further 7% in 2023.

Key takeaway: With costs rising, planners need to pay closer attention to their budgets. This may mean incorporating more virtual events into their event strategy because they tend to be more affordable than their in-person counterparts. 

Now, let’s take a closer look at the event trends that relate specifically to virtual event planning, audience engagement, and overall event success. 

4. Year-long virtual event calendars

Typically, there are two schools of thought when it comes to event planning:

  • Mega-events: Some event planners prefer to blow their budget on just one or two events every year, making them as extravagant and grandiose as possible. They pour money into a few gatherings, hoping they’ll produce meaningful results. Sometimes this approach works, but it can also be a swing and a miss.
  • Micro-events: Instead of a handful of large-scale events, some planners prefer to host a series of smaller, more intimate gatherings throughout the year. 

More event professionals are choosing the latter over the former. Why? Two reasons: Year-long event calendars allow you to guide event attendees down the sales funnel with more care and attention, increasing your chances of conversion. Think of it like one continuous thread that audiences follow from one event to the next. 

Also, this event strategy is more cost-effective. Hosting smaller, more frequent virtual events instead of one major virtual conference allows you to optimize your budget as you gather feedback and continuously improve the event experience. 

Key takeaway: Expect event professionals to spread their events out throughout the year, with more intimate gatherings instead of enormous one-off events. 

5. Attendee-first event planning

A crowd gathers outside at an in-person event

About half of event marketers agree that audience engagement is the single most important determining factor for virtual event success, according to Markletic. The only problem? It’s also one of the biggest challenges.

That’s why more event planners are putting the attendee experience first, ahead of ROI, brand awareness, or lead generation. Many event organizers are realizing they can boost metrics if they increase engagement. Thus, it’s no surprise that more events are taking personalization and experiential marketing seriously.

Virtual event technology offers organizers easy access to attendee data, which can be used to customize experiences. Therefore, many are leveraging event tech to their advantage and focusing on unique, immersive experiences that hold the audience’s attention: interactive workshops, Q&A sessions, gamification, etc.

Key takeaway: If attendee engagement is your goal, consider finding a virtual event platform that offers a holistic view of customer data. In turn, you can leverage these insights to personalize and improve the event experience.

6. Eco-conscious events

Recycling containers for glass and plastic with out of focus event in background

According to the most recent ICE report, 59% of event businesses believe sustainability is a key challenge in 2023. With more consumers favoring environmentally friendly businesses, there’s mounting pressure to make the event industry more sustainable. 

Fortunately, that’s one of the key benefits of virtual event planning. When you host an online or hybrid event, you have the flexibility to redirect at least a portion of your foot traffic to the virtual event platform. Being that travel is often the greatest source of carbon emissions in the event industry, this greatly reduces total environmental impact. 

Key takeaway: Expect more planners hosting virtual and hybrid events as they try to offset carbon footprints and appeal to environmentally conscious attendees.

Virtual events wouldn’t be possible without event technology, which is why it’s important to stay abreast of the latest innovations. Here are some of the major event tech trends helping level up virtual event production:

7. Increased use of event tech post-pandemic

Two people wearing event lanyards  look and point at cell phone screen

A recent Skift Meetings report revealed that 78% of event professionals are using more technology today than they did before the pandemic. The vast majority of planners are incorporating innovative solutions into their event strategy, often with positive results.

For instance, virtual event platforms are helping organizations increase flexibility and inclusivity at their events. Skift’s report indicates that 70% of events have the option to attend remotely versus just 20% that don’t (and 10% of respondents that weren’t sure).

Key takeaway: Thanks to event technology, virtual event planners can welcome a wider audience and create more accessible, inclusive events.

8. Virtual and augmented reality

Closeup of bearded young man wearing virtual reality goggles in modern coworking studio. Smartphone using with VR headset. Horizontal, blurred

As previously mentioned, event organizers are focused on improving the attendee experience. Many are adopting new, innovative ways to reach event attendees and immerse them in something they’ve never seen before. 

Take virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), for instance—one of the world’s fastest-growing industries. In fact, the worldwide market for these technologies is expected to nearly quadruple in the next three years, according to Business Wire. Planners already implement AR/VR tech into their content, such as through virtual product demos or showcases. 

The metaverse—an offshoot of virtual reality—is also gaining traction as a potentially fun and innovative event experience. Imagine combining the accessibility of a virtual event with the in-person look and feel of a physical one. That’s what the metaverse has in store for the event industry, maybe even as soon as 2023.

Key takeaway: Don’t be surprised to see events incorporate VR/AR into their content. You may even see events hosted entirely in the metaverse. 

9. Live translation

Desktop computer screen displaying live captions and translations event software

Virtual events allow you to host a global audience, but that means some attendees may not speak the same language as one another. In a bid to make events more inclusive, many planners are looking for event tech that can translate language in real-time.

With the right virtual event platform, you can easily do exactly that. For example, Webex Events offers a live translation tool that can automatically convert audio into the attendee’s preferred language. This allows audience members of all backgrounds to enjoy a seamless experience without ever missing out on the fun.

Key takeaway: Live translation tools not only make events more inclusive but also less expensive. Instead of costly translators, anticipate more planners relying on artificial intelligence to automatically translate audio on the fly.

10. End-to-end event management platforms

If anything is certain, it’s that planning, managing, and marketing events is getting more complicated. Even the most experienced organizer can get lost in the chaos. 

That’s why end-to-end event management platforms are key to event success in 2023. 

Manage your virtual events with Webex Events

A solution like Webex Events offers event professionals everything they need to simplify the process from beginning to end, including:

Key takeaway: Event platforms are key to taking your virtual events to the next level in 2023.