Trend Watch

Five Movements Driving Us Forward in 2023

Five Movements Driving Us Forward in 2023

Forecasting key trends in business, marketing, and events.
Events are more valuable than ever, and quickly becoming recognized as critical tools for KPI achievement, growth, and marketplace relevance.

According to Forrester research, 74% of global event leaders say that events are the best way to deepen relationships and are their most important demand-gen activity. 

While 2022 was the year of the Reunion Tours, 2023 will be the year of the Great Recharge. At work and at home, marketers and business leaders will all use the halo of the recession to regroup, simplify, and focus. This is the year when less-is-more, small-is-big, and go-to-the-people will reign. 

Let’s look at the top five trends for 2023 — and how they will impact event strategy.

1. Reconning With Focus

Over the years, event portfolios have had wide-ranging strategies influenced by many internal stakeholders. In the wake of a looming recession, we expect brands to step back and refocus their event strategies this year. Event leaders will continue to explore questions as fundamental as, “Why are we doing this event?” and “Why does this need to be in-person?” and “How can we make digital events more impactful?”

With brand-side teams having to do more with less, they have begun working with third-party vendors, partners, and agencies in new ways. Many are outsourcing specific functions and counting on their partners to be fast, flexible, and adaptable

The “optic of frugality” is a critical factor for planning events in 2023, and the need to Do More With Less will force brands to closely manage investments and, especially, the optics of their spending. This year, event professionals will lead ROI discussions with stakeholders and use data to build business cases for their events.

2. Reimagining Portfolios

More than ever, event leaders are open to reimagining their portfolios. Brands are exploring alternative approaches for flagship events, with some going to an every-other-year model. Additionally, some brands are decentralizing their flagship events and exploring more global models that move the flagship from North America to EMEA to APJ on an annual rotating basis. 

We see a return to tours and roadshows for prospective and pipeline events. Field marketing and industry events are holding firm with their flagship investments and are still investing in their Tier 2 and Tier 3 sponsorships.

We’re also finding that mid-size internal events are beginning to look more like in-person offsites and retreats, but larger internal events like SKOs and leadership summits are going virtual. 

Additionally, the concept of “Total Experience (TX)” — an idea that unifies customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX), digital experience (DX), and brand experience (BX) — is coming into the business lexicon and strategic playbooks.

3. Championing Sustainability and Corporate ESG 

The leading corporate framework, Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG), will remain a top priority for brands in 2023. Some elements within the ESG framework will come to center stage.

According to the 2023 AMEX Global Meetings and Events Forecast, 80% of survey respondents say their organization considers sustainability when planning events. Of those, 76% say their organization has a defined sustainable meetings program strategy. Beyond net-neutral goals, some brands are committing to climate positivity for their event sustainability designs.

That means event professionals will be the ones to manage sustainability concerns to ensure measurement and tactics have a positive impact on the overall experience while also addressing stakeholders to ensure alignment with C-Suite level sustainability officers.

Other elements within the ESG framework will also gain attention as they are related to meetings and events. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 61 million (26% or 1 in 4) adults in the U.S. live with a disability. As such, our industry will continue to address accommodations, many of which are likely to focus on mobility, cognition, hearing, and vision.

4. Adapting to Workforce Dynamics

Into 2023, peoples’ relationships with work will continue to evolve. The “quiet quitting” and "rewirement" trends of 2022, Gen Z’s trepidation about joining the workforce, and the celebration of businesses’ successful adoption of the four-day workweek have forced a sea change in people’s workplace expectations. 

In the events industry, hiring managers are looking at new backgrounds and talents to bolster the workforce. Experience in design, technology, marketing, EDI, and dozens of other areas are filling new positions throughout the industry, and the industry is richer for it. Early-career event professionals are seeking out learning tracks and certifications, and teams across industries are expecting more from their employers.

While some companies are requiring RTO (return to office), many are embracing the remote lifestyle. Through this shift, there will be changes to the in-person employee experience, and we’ll see a rising demand for solidifying a segment of event marketing: the offsite experience. 

Teams, especially those that work remotely, will have a decreased appetite for boardroom meetings and will embrace in-person experiences more akin to incentive trips where they can build deeper relationships. 

5. Embracing the Rise of the Stakeholder Economy

Recent events and innovations have fueled the rise of the individual and collective stakeholder mindset. These stakeholders, including consumers, employees, and the community at large, are holding brands accountable for their decisions more than ever. From socio-cultural pressures to technological advancements, anyone with a phone or a computer has the power to influence brand perception. 

Stakeholders expect to invest — their time, focus, energy, personal brand reputations, and money — and they expect a return on their investment. They want a say in the evolution of the brand. More so than ever before, people expect to be seen, heard, and valued by brands.

The next generations of successful businesses, brands, and experiences will embrace a fundamental shift in their strategic designs. They will move beyond thinking in the active-passive terms of audiences and participants and shift their mental models and design processes to start with inclusive stakeholders. The result will be transformed industries, the development of new categories, and critically, formed and fueled brand movements.

The Big Picture for 2023

Today, brands need to meet people where they are. Small will be big. And local is key. Roadshows, tours, pop-ups, field events, and third-party sponsorships will be preferences for brands in 2023. 

Throughout the year, much of the industry buzz will look familiar. Top of mind for brands to explore and celebrate: sustainability, inclusivity, and stakeholder relations. Some familiar challenges driving these trends will include inflation (and budget pressures), airline disruption, staffing shortages, compressed runways, and evolving business practices. 

This year is when brands will take the time to refocus strategies, reimagine portfolios, and rewrite the playbook for today’s remote workforces. Following the Great Recharge of 2023, we foresee the arrival of a new wave of innovation, a new era of exploration, and a next generation of event-driven business success. 

The 2023 realities and trends are already fueling a groundswell for an incredible wave of opportunity. With optimism and curiosity at our core and world-shaping brands as our partners, the teams at Opus Agency are ready to explore.

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