5 State of the Business Events Industry Insights

Freeman’s Ken Holsinger and PCMA’s Howard Givner shared data-driven information about what event attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors want during a recent EduCon session.

Author: Curt Wagner       

2 men seating on stage speaking in front of EduCon banner

Freeman’s Ken Holsinger (left) and PCMA’s Howard Givner present their June 27 keynote about the state of the business events industry at PCMA Educon in Montreal, Canada. (Whatever Media Group)

During their June 27 keynote at PCMA EduCon 2023, Ken Holsinger and Howard Givner had a wide-ranging discussion about the future of business events and how organizations can attract and keep attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors happy.

Holsinger, senior vice president for strategy at Freeman, and Givner, PCMA’s senior vice president of knowledge & innovation, tapped into data-driven research for the presentation, “The Mid-Year State of the Industry: Exclusive Data & Insights on What Attendees, Sponsors & Exhibitors Want, & How to Engage Them.”

Nick Tann, PCMA’s marketing director for digital content, loaded the transcript of this keynote into Project SPARK, a generative AI tool developed by Gevme in collaboration with PCMA. Tann gave the tool a prompt to pick out five takeaways from the keynote.

He gave SPARK a separate prompt to provide quotes from the keynote, and this showed the risk of completely trusting an AI language processing tool: When AI is given incorrect information — like any human who gets bad information — it will reshare that same bad information.

Tann used an AI-created transcript which I discovered was flawed as I was writing this story. The transcription service mixed up the speakers for some quotes, and in more than one case combined quotes from both speakers as one. SPARK followed the transcription AI error and credited those combined quotes to just one of the speakers.

Below you will find the five takeaways, and a related quote that has been human-checked and edited.

1. Engagement Is Evolving

The session highlighted the changing expectations of attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, and organizers in business events. The future of events is moving toward captivation and motivation rather than holding audiences captive.

Related Quote: “Engagement is one of the most overused buzzwords in business events. But what engagement means depends on who you ask.” — Holsinger

2. Attendees Are Getting Younger

The average age of event attendees has dropped by six years in the past 18 months. This shift requires event planners to understand the preferences and values of younger generations and design events that cater to their needs.

Related Quote: “[Event attendees] look different, they’re younger, they are female. In the prior generation about 20 percent of event attendees were female — we’re up to 34 percent … It’s moving quickly. … They think differently, they have shifting and different perspectives.” — Holsinger

3. Remote Work Drives Event Attendance

Remote work has become the No. 1 driver for attending events. As more people work from home, the need for in-person networking and connection grows. Events provide an antidote to the challenges of a distributed workforce.

Related Quote: “This massive group of disconnected workers that are working from home [are] missing the camaraderie, they’re missing the career-building relationships … We offer that at events, but I don’t think we’re marketing our events that way.” — Givner

4. Exhibitor Satisfaction Is Declining

There is a growing gap between exhibitor expectations and satisfaction. This is particularly evident among seasoned exhibitors and new exhibit managers. Event organizers should focus on providing training and support to help exhibitors maximize their experience and achieve their goals.

Related Quote: “The conversation, unfortunately with our industry … is often always quantitative. How many of these things, how many square feet, how many people? All these other things — we all know intrinsically, especially from what we learned during the pandemic, that quality is really what we’re looking for.” — Holsinger

5. An Event’s Last Day Is Crucial

The last day of an event is often overlooked, but it offers an opportunity to have deeper conversations, make quality appointments, and generate leads that are more likely to convert into sales. Event organizers should make the most of the last day to create a memorable and impactful experience for attendees and exhibitors.

Related Quote: “Sixty percent more of the leads generated on the last day converted to sales. That last day, that quietness, is your opportunity to create better appointments. It’s your opportunity to have deeper conversations. … Make that last day count.” — Holsinger

Watch the Session

PCMA EduCon 2023 attendees can view a recording of this session and others on the EduCon Swapcard Platform until Aug. 28.

Curt Wagner is digital editor at Convene.

Become a Member

Get premium access to provocative executive-level education, face-to-face networking and business intelligence.