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Top Event Trends to Watch Out for in 2023

Event profs and industry experts share their thoughts on which trends from 2022 will continue into the new year—and what new things are on the horizon.

Top Event Trends to Watch Out for in 2023
Photo: Courtesy of Unsplash

Last year, in-person events made a strong comeback, with some big trends like the metaverse, sustainability, and bleisure travel dominating the return.

Tamara Mendelsohn, the CMO of global ticketing and events platform Eventbrite, said that the platform “saw a spike in searches for in-person events, with demand jumping from 63% in the first three months of 2021 to 96% in the first three months of 2022.” She added that for 2023, “over half of survey respondents in the U.S. expect to attend even more events this year, and nearly one third of respondents say that spending on live events and experiences is an essential or high priority of theirs.”

So BizBash asked Mendelsohn and other event pros to share their insights on the 2022 trends that they think will stick around in the new year—and what else we can expect to emerge in 2023.

Event Tech
According to research from Forrester Consulting, commissioned by Cvent, in 2022, 57% of marketers increased their spend on event tech—both virtual event technology and tech to support in-person events. And despite crypto’s recent downfall and the seemingly lack of interest in NFTs, tech is still where it’s at in 2023, especially when it comes to location-based entertainment, which is expected to continue to grow in the new year. 

“I believe that information-based technology, specifically [artificial intelligence], will continue to have a major impact on how events and experiences are conceptualized, marketed, designed, experienced, and priced,” said Shawn McCoy, senior vice president at JRA, part of RWS Entertainment Group.

“For example, AI-based design platforms such as Midjourney or DALL-E 2 are being used more and more by designers for early inspiration and ideation of attraction concepts," he explained. "Evolving software systems are helping to analyze guest movements and behaviors within experiences in real time, so that more efficient, profitable traffic patterns can be encouraged. Attractions are being created that learn from and respond to individual guest preferences and emotions; while machine learning is being used to create dynamic pricing strategies that control attraction demand and increase profitability.”

Nicole Falco, the SVP of creative and brand strategy and a partner at TH Experiential, said that the agency is “integrating mixed and augmented reality technologies into the majority of our activations to deliver on key experiential KPIs, including organic content creation, product education, and campaign storytelling animation.” She added that according to a group of Gen Z and millennials that the agency polled, 76% expressed that they want brands to create more augmented reality experiences.

And as BizBash recently reported, big brands like the NFL continue to invest in the virtual space, partnering up with platforms like Fortnite and Roblox, in hopes to win over consumers.

Thomas’ Baked Goods collaborated with Inspira for the second consecutive year to corral nearly 200 volunteers to clean up parks in Pacific Northwest communities with help from local nonprofit organizations.Thomas’ Baked Goods collaborated with Inspira for the second consecutive year to corral nearly 200 volunteers to clean up parks in Pacific Northwest communities with help from local nonprofit organizations.Photo: Courtesy of Inspira Marketing GroupCause-Based Marketing
More and more consumers expect brands to act on social and political issues like systemic racism, income inequality, and climate change. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey, younger generations—Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z—are focused on supporting brands that align with their values.

“Starting with the pandemic, consumers were forced to take a step back and assess their own lifestyle choices, while organizations were simultaneously triggered to question their true intentions and purpose,” explained Jeff Lund, the senior client engagement manager at Inspira Marketing Group. “By weaving CSR and/or sustainability into marketing campaigns, it has since transformed these themes from just ‘the nice thing to do’ to amplifying them as a business staple.”

For example, Thomas’ Baked Goods recently collaborated with Inspira for the second consecutive year to corral nearly 200 volunteers to clean up parks in Pacific Northwest communities with help from local nonprofit organizations. Volunteers were rewarded with a meal prepared and served by local restaurant partners “to help spread brand awareness and exposure to the Thomas’ line of products, while simultaneously supporting the local nonprofits, restaurant organizations, and, of course, the earth,” Lund added.

Over the last several years, the need to promote and encourage diversity and inclusivity at events—as well as within the event industry as a whole—has been a hot topic, with some companies taking the necessary steps. The new year will offer more folks the opportunity to ramp up their efforts and invest in these initiatives.

"I feel like 2023 is about putting our money where our mouths are in terms of some nascent trends we saw from 2022 (and earlier)," said Leah Taylor Dunbar, the creative director of MKG. "Post-2020, every agency and brand rolled out mission statements and new initiatives to tackle diversity and inclusion, but how effective have those been? Have they moved the needle in the industry in a meaningful way?"

“Consumers and clients alike want accountability, and this dedication to DE&I is something that needs to be woven into company and brand culture," she continued. "We know that consumers can spot an afterthought from a mile away. At MKG, this starts with hiring interns, freelance, and full-time employees that bring unique perspectives to our team. And it extends to every element of every project, from finding impactful LGBTQIA influencers and multilingual brand ambassadors to booking Black-owned vendors and women-owned catering teams, and championing these purposeful choices to the client."

Live Music Industry
Last year, concerts and music festivals dominated in the event space—in terms of revenue—thanks to the post-pandemic rise in new festivals, global stadium tours, and sky-high ticket prices. In 2022, according to Pollstar’s Year End Top 200 Worldwide Tours chart, concert tours had a record-setting gross total of $6.28 billion.

“After analyzing the events hosted and attended on our platform, music stood out as the clear lifeblood of American event culture,” Mendelsohn said. (In a recent report, Eventbrite analyzed the platform’s experiences and polled 2,000 Americans to find out how we gathered in 2022.) “During the first three quarters in 2022, 28 million tickets to music events were transacted despite the growing reality of inflation. From 2021 to 2022, live music event attendance grew by 51%, album release parties grew by 54%, and themed music nights skyrocketed by a whopping 130%. With these figures in mind, we predict that events of this nature, and therefore sales, will continue to grow in 2023.”

Despite music having a moment, silent disco might be on its way out. Eventbite found that silent disco events are down 17% over 2021.

Event profs and industry experts share their thoughts on which trends from 2022 will continue into the new year—and what new things are on the horizon.In 2022, meeting and event producer Ember launched a new meetings destination venture called ember escapes. The first property, Quietude, is a mountain retreat in Tuftonboro, N.H.Photo: Courtesy of EmberBleisure Travel
With the rise in remote and hybrid work situations, bleisure travel was on the rise in 2022, with more corporate leaders and employees wanting to combine their professional and personal lives in their business trip itineraries. Chris Gasbarro, the owner and VP of strategy for corporate events production company Ember and co-founder of ember escapes, said he expects the trend to continue in 2023, with leadership teams typically adding time to the front end of trips versus tacking on to the back end.

He added that ember escapes’ marketing strategy is to target “next level leaders—managers of today who are getting their feet wet in team off-sites who will be directors and VPs in the next three years. They’re younger and eager to do things differently.”

Cara Banasch, Omni Hotels & Resorts’ vice president of sales, said that clients are anticipating a “return to travel in 2023 that will be an increase over their 2022 programs.” She added that “while some business travel and meetings may be identified as appropriate for a virtual solution, most recognize that face to face yields better outcomes for client relations, team building, strategy sessions, as well as training and education purposes.”

This investment in travel has sparked interest from remote and hybrid companies in a “subscription-based” model that would provide access on scheduled, predetermined dates, Gasbarro said. Ember escapes’ Quietude property, an Adirondack-style, mountain retreat in New Hampshire, will begin offering that option later this year or in early 2024.

In 2022, both event industry pros and attendees became more cognizant of the environmental impact of in-person events, such as food waste and travel-related carbon emissions.

“While it’s been top of mind for years, it’s become more actionable with material choices and organizational connection to values and empowering people with passion,” Gasbarro said. He adds that a water-centric sportswear client has included a team member as part of the planning process who reviews all single-use plastic choices—from production to hotel material choices. On-site, a “monitor” reinforces compliance in a “passionate and disciplined way.”

Melissa Riley, the vice president of convention sales and services for Destination DC, the official destination marketing organization for Washington, D.C., added that “sustainability is increasingly important in the evaluation criterion for planners. It also goes beyond environmentally friendly practices to being socially conscious and wanting to give back to the local community.”

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