How should we approach engagement at events and among people in 2023? It’s a question the team at Snapbar asks regularly. Our business depends on the right answers.
It’s not ‘fresh news’ that the past few years have been marked by extreme change (some might liken it to whiplash) in events and the workplace at large. Thankfully, things seem to have settled down.
Even so, it’s probably fair to say we all expect some kind of turbulence in 2023. What will that look like? How can we plan for it?
Snapbar has been creating engaging experiences in events and in the workplace for over 10 years and we’re always working hard to prepare for the years ahead.
As a result, our team scoured the web and has put together a list of predictions, stats, quotes, and research from a handful of influential organizations in the industry. Let’s dive in!
1. A significant percentage of the workforce will remain remote, or at least hybrid + companies will explore new ways to foster team-building and employee engagement.
According to Lattice’s 2023 Report: State of People Strategy half of those surveyed expect to maintain a 50% remote workforce, while another 23% expect to be over 90% remote. These numbers are unprecedented and show just how deeply the workplace was affected by changes made during the pandemic.
In the same study, Lattice found employee engagement to be another significant focus for 2023, with “over 40% of HR leaders [naming] engagement as their top-rated People strategy initiative.”
These stats highlight some of the challenges (and opportunity) remote work can create for building team morale. It also highlights the challenges and opportunities events have to fill this need.
Events are opportunities to bring people back together. They foster team building and engagement. People like events and they especially missed the in-person elements of events during the pandemic. Why is this good news? Because it means that event organizers (and managers of people for that matter) will continue looking to the expansive events industry for solutions to problems that arise when more and more people are working or gathering remotely.
🎬 In action: This case study we created with Old Navy shows how their clever use of short-form video aligned with an internal holiday activation. The activation drove tons of engagement and gave Old Navy brand new ways to align their stores, managers, and employees.
2. Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay and are expected to be a component of the majority of in-person events.
If you prefer infographics over long-form content, you will love Bizzabo’s State of In-Person Events visualization - which presents a staggering statistic: 68% of event organizers surveyed are expecting to incorporate a virtual component at their next in-person event.
Here are a couple more stats that hit on this point from Bizzabo’s Event Technology Guide:
- Technology can have a significant positive impact on event success, according to 90% of event professionals
- Networking opportunities are one of the most challenging aspects of virtual events, with nearly 70% of event marketers stating networking is more challenging for virtual events than in-person ones
What does this mean? In part, it means that some of what we learned about engaging people online (whether in events or the workplace) will continue to impact the future now that remote work and virtual events are common options.
The second bullet above might seem obvious, but the shift away from many of the things the pandemic forced us to do was pretty extreme in 2022. Most event platforms conducted layoffs and business was down for everyone who’d seen massively inflated demand for the previous 2 years.
But despite that decline in demand, many virtual and hybrid elements persist. What’s more, we're seeing a reckoning with some ‘ways of old’ - wasteful grab-bags of giveaways traded for business cards (called networking), free drink tokens and happy hours (also called networking), and massive rooms filled with booths hoping to catch the attention of at least one relevant new contact (also called networking). All are looking in the mirror trying to imagine how they can reinvent themselves going forward.
The fact is, new technology offers unique ways for people to engage with each other in a more targeted and impactful way. Implementing digital components at in-person settings can help connect audiences in ways that foster more networking and discovery. We discussed some of these ideas in our blog post, Experiential Marketing in a Hybrid World.
3. Attendees want to choose their own adventure, and thoughtful, bespoke, experiences will enhance event value.
Borrowing from The Vendry’s 2023 Industry Trend Report, if 2022 was about reuniting people at events, 2023 is the year of giving attendees the power to personalize their event experiences.
Event organizers expect smaller group sessions and breakouts, highly focused topical discussions, and a general openness to share and learn from each other, to be tactics used at the most successful events.
Here are a few favorite related quotes we found from some prominent event pros:
- "When it comes to trade show/industry conference event portfolios, I really believe we should rethink how we’re showing up. Instead of a booth on the show floor, try a retail pop-up. Try a high-touch party, something experiential, or test out guerilla marketing. This next year is a great opportunity to experiment since the audience hasn’t been at live events for so long."
–Charlie Eder, Senior Director, Global Events and Experiential Marketing, Unity Technologies
- "The way we spoke to ROI pre-pandemic is no longer resonating. We have to think bigger and differently. Why is it important to continue to invest in solutions to help us do what we do well? It’s not just about hard dollar costs. It’s about operation efficiency, value to human beings, cultural continuity, and persuasion."
–Megan Henshall, Global Events Strategic Solutions Lead, Google
- "Mental health and sustainability will be the two top conversations in 2023 for the events industry."
–Connie Cay-Santos, Director of Engagement Strategy at Quest Audio Visual + Chief Experience Strategist at CAY VII INC
What do we do with all of this? First, consider who your events are for and ask why that group has any reason to attend or participate. Next, ask: how do I provide them with as much value as possible between content, networking, and experience?
Once answers start to emerge, we can proceed to seek out the technology or tools needed to accomplish those goals. Case in point: the platforms we’ve highlighted and quoted from here all offer some fantastic tools for events of all sizes.
💡 Pro-tip: an easy win here is to help give people a persona when attending virtually or networking online. There’s nothing like grey avatars or blank profile pictures to make connection feel impossible. New technologies have removed the need for in-person photographers and one of Snapbar’s key focus areas is helping events capture great headshots or profile photos before events even get started!
4. While event budgets are recovering, costs are also up significantly and this is unlikely to change.
Sustainability and cost-efficiencies are huge themes of events in 2023, and this was before a potential threat of recession or dampened economic activity we’re as likely as they are now. Inflation, while retreating from it’s red hot levels, is still having a significant impact on costs.
Ballooning costs create significant challenges for many event-planners or people managers. The challenge will force innovation and streamlined event experiences. Companies both participating in, and attending, events want to see measurable value come from their spend.
What’s more, travel is being cut back as budgets tighten and carbon emissions caused by events are under scrutiny, so event attendance (at least in-person) is bound to have a rough year, especially for the vast majority events: the mediocre ones. As stated in The Vendry’s Industry Report, “the days of purchasing a ticket to an event, shuffling to an assigned seat, and being talked at are all but gone.”
These four themes or trends all point back to creating events, large or small, in-person, virtual or hybrid, that create real value for the intended audience. At Snapbar, these trends influence our view of the future, our product development, and the bets we’re making for how we can keep growing into the future. Learn more about how Snapbar products work for events here.