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Top Event Industry Trends of 2024

Each year, agencies, suppliers and associations race to get out their predictions for what will shape the industry in the year ahead, however not all get the opportunity in the busy months that follow to take a pulse check on how those predictions are shaping up..

In this blog, we’ll take you through an assessment of what we’ve seen so far in Q1 this year, and what trends are looking to impact the industry in the coming months.

AI to streamline operations

If you’re still coming to grips with the world of artificial intelligence and its possibilities not only for our industry, but for society as a whole, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by author and philosopher Yuvan Noah Harari is a great place to start. Harari’s ideologies creatively explore the scope of the tool, and since the book's release in 2018, we are now seeing the technology unfold in our workplaces.

What we’ve seen so far from successfully integrating AI within event operations is its strong ability to automate mundane processes, analyse data, manage budgets and produce a variety of content. 

A prevalent use of AI we’ve seen is in attendee management, particularly in “Live Chat” tools. By feeding data such as FAQ responses or detailed information about your event, you can take heat off of email enquiries, solving simple queries without sacrificing valuable employee hours that could be best used elsewhere. Even when looking at instances requiring email responses or pre-arrival information needing to be shared with delegates, AI is a strong tool used by many to draft professional content using just a few key messages or bullet points. 

Digging further into the content portion of event operations, software platforms such as ‘Jasper’, can even plan a fully fledged social media campaign and content calendar for your event marketing strategy using given prompts and the tools built-in, royalty free, AI image generator. Whilst this isn’t something yet commonly seen in our industry, there is certainly room for this functionality in event marketing, particularly for smaller businesses.

Considering developments in project management software, looking into the not-so-distant future, research from Gartner predicts that within this decade, we will see 80% of project management tasks run by AI tools. However, this is certainly not to mean we’re out of the job, as there is a huge amount to the events profession that simply cannot be automated. It is likely that skills in creativity, stakeholder management and relationship building will take to the forefront and strengthen in importance, not to mention the growing need for skills in AI usage and prompting. 

Wellbeing / Inclusivity

A woman looks over hills under a sunset.

As our physical world is becoming more integrated with technological developments, it’s no surprise that wellbeing issues are on the rise, with the number of people accessing NHS mental health services rising each month since 2021, up to an all-time high of 1.8million in January 2024. According to Statistica, the most common cause of stress is work-related, and so how is our industry tackling and diminishing this problem, rather than adding to it in 2024? 

Interestingly, what we’ve seen a lot of in Q1 is an inwards-first approach, where agencies and suppliers are looking to either improve their internal policies around employee wellbeing and inclusivity, or simply sharing what they’ve been doing all along. As these components gain more attention from a socially sustainable standpoint, and as more clients are rating this quality higher when searching for a partner to produce their events, it’s increasingly important for businesses to be transparent in how they operate. It’s likely to become more common to see questions around company culture, flexible working options and hiring policies in RFP’s when competing for business, and organisations need to be ready for this. 

The focus on looking after not only your workforce, but also your event attendees and the community that an event creates, was a prevalent discussion point at Confex 2024 and looks to be at the top of agendas for the remainder of the year. The wellness and inclusivity trend spans so many touch-points, and organisers now need to carefully consider things such as:

  • Are timings of the event inclusive to all audiences such as those with children or those observing religious holidays?

  • Is the language used in content and registration questions welcoming to people from all walks of life?

  • Does the programme and agenda of speakers represent a diverse audience?

  • Are activities and schedules inclusive to all, or do people have a choice?

  • Do we have space to offer quiet rooms or rooms for religious needs?

From a logistical standpoint, event briefs will continue to expand the scope of asks to venues to ensure inclusivity, such as just how accessible is the ‘accessibility access’, does this include all available spaces, and not just the plenary?

Shortened Content Sessions and Longer Networking

A large group of people network at a business event.

We’re also seeing an increase in wellbeing being promoted through the design of events, including shortened content sessions and longer time for networking. Research and studies into the ideal amount of focus time the human brain is capable of has produced various statistics over the years, and whilst it certainly depends on the individual, it’s widely accepted that anywhere between 10-52 minutes offers a peak level of performance. This is slowly being adopted into session length times seen at events, and keynote sessions now seem to be kept around the 40-minute mark.

This is a welcome change for audiences and speakers alike, so as we see 40 become the new 60, it’s looking like we’ll see more organisers open to exploring different presentation styles and engagement elements within their content sessions too. 

Whilst session length may be decreasing, it’s unlikely that organisers won’t still want to maximise their investment in an event and invest that lost time elsewhere, and that place looks to be networking. Back in November, a survey conducted by the ExCeL London found that event attendees ranked networking as the number one most important factor when attending an event. Interestingly enough, this was the same answer that organisers gave when asked what they believe to be the top motivations for their attendees, and so those who are looking to get the biggest return from their investment should be implementing what their audience prioritises. AI tools are again being utilised here to facilitate networking, as algorithms can compare profiles and interests collected at registration, and match the best suited profiles or suppliers. 

AI or not, factoring in opportunities for delegates to make beneficial relationships is a trend we anticipate to grow further. Events looking to stay ahead of the trends will use the networking opportunity to improve wellbeing, for example, networking sessions that are designed to include walks, time outside, or mindful activities.

Reduced Travel

Again another trend that below the surface, can too be attributed to the wellbeing of event attendees, though there are also financial gains to be had for organisers.

RFPs are increasingly looking for venues either close to company HQs or in a central location between multiple different company offices where the majority employees are located. We’ve seen a return and modernisation of the ‘roadshow’ format with global businesses holding a small number of satellite events across various destinations as well. There are many benefits to this growing strategy which can include:

  • Reduced costs in transporting attendees

  • Reduces need for overnight accommodation stays

  • Positive impact on carbon emissions from event  

  • Considers those with of out-of-work responsibilities that may have to be rearranged whilst away from home bases

  • Reduced time spent on travel within company time

It is likely that inflation and an increase in operational costs is playing a factor in this upwards trend, as fares on planes and trains continue to rise, however the silver lining is no doubt the reduction in business travel emissions. 

The trends that we are seeing taking hold in 2024 are closely interconnected in a way that puts sustainability at the forefront of event design across all elements. It’s no question that this trajectory will continue to grow and here at Zentive, we can’t wait to see more of it.


About the author:

Olivia Salvage is a content writer and sustainable event manager. It didn’t take long until Olivia saw the wasteful nature of events in everything from food to printed collateral, and she began educating herself on sustainable solutions and practices to implement within her projects. Having since completed sustainable certificates, Olivia now considers sustainability a true passion and continues to research ways to bring positive change to her roles.


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