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Business talk: corporate events and the cost-of-living crisis

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Events are firmly back on the table. As the recent AMEX Global Event Trends Forecast reported, its recent survey reflected “booming optimism and focus on in-person meetings and events”, while event and venue marketplace Hire Space has observed a 25% increase on budgets in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

But rising prices across goods and fuel are leading to budget pinches, which will inevitably have an effect on businesses’ ability to put on events. For PAs and corporate event organisers, it’s crucial to stay on the pulse of where events are heading in order to be strategic about event spends. The talk of the coming months will inevitable be about corporate events and the cost of living crisis.

Industry leaders discuss the outlook for corporate events and the cost of living crisis

Hire Space spoke to Anita Howard, Founder of In-House Corporate Events (ICE), Michael Hirst OBE, Advocacy and Government Relations at UK Events, Kerrin MacPhie, Chief Executive of the Meetings Industry Association, Sophie Beasor, General Manager of Events Marketing Association (EMA), Richard Waddington, Chair of the EMA, and Sasha Frieze, Founder of The Business Narrative to get their insights on the outlook for events. Here’s what they had to say:

Organisers will have to be prepared for higher costs

Operating costs are rising steeply – up to a third higher than in recent months, according to the Meetings Industry Association – with many venues and event operators having to raise their prices to stay afloat. This translates to higher venue and supplier fees, which will be passed on to event organisers and businesses, putting budgets under more strain.

Event spend will have to be more strategic than ever

With businesses feeling the squeeze, it’s important for PAs and event organisers to be mindful of where money is being spent. Businesses will need to be more strategic about their spend and objectives when planning events, which may mean being more selective about which events to put on, or investing in creative solutions that achieve the same results for less money.

As Sasha Freize, founder of The Business Narrative told Hire Space: “Inevitably, businesses are more aware of budgets and spending their budget well… [This] means making sure events have a real purpose and absolute clarity on what the next steps are.”

She suggested that companies are starting to focus their event budgets on fewer, larger events rather than multiple smaller ones. This is supported by Hire Space enquiry data: the number of attendees quoted on enquiries rose by 14.86% between Q2 and Q3, while per-head budgets have decreased, suggesting that companies are looking for more value for their money. 

Considering delegate experience will be increasingly important

Rising travel and accommodation costs means that delegates and clients are likely to be more selective about the events they choose to attend, and event organisers will need to be aware of this when planning their schedules. Even if an event is within budget, it may not be worth the investment if attendance numbers are low.

There is a lot of pressure on businesses to save costs at the moment, but this doesn’t mean that events need to be stopped altogether. Instead, planners need to be more strategic about where they invest their money, and look for ways to add value rather than simply trying to cut costs. 

Event planners will have to look at making investments into events that are likely to bring returns, such as providing exciting event experiences, and unique content that really draws audiences in. 

Hybrid events may fill an essential gap

Hybrid events have boomed in popularity since the pandemic, and there’s evidence to suggest that this trend will continue. Tighter travel budgets, concerns over sustainability, and greater access to widespread audiences are all motivators behind hybrid events becoming more ingrained in event calendars.

For businesses looking to reduce spend on venues, catering, and delegate travel, providing an option for attendees to turn in remotely may save considerably compared to the cost of international travel and accommodation. However, a strong hybrid event requires a considerable amount of tech and event management, which can be costly, so should be considered carefully. 

How to make events do more for your business

Revise previous year’s calendars

In today’s climate, event planners cannot rely on previous years’ strategies to be effective. It is essential to re-evaluate which events will contribute most to the company’s goals and be selective with the events that receive time and resources. If this means fewer events, than those events will need to be all the stronger. 

Embrace creativity and innovation

In times of upheaval, doing something new and different can be the key to success. This means looking for new opportunities, formats and experiences that will inspire attendees and drive business. Connecting with others through associations and forums can be useful for sharing ideas and finding creative solutions, as well as support.

Double down on purpose and measurable returns

In today’s climate, it is especially important to be able to measure the success of an event against key performance indicators to ensure that the event benefits the business.

Tracking each event against these KPIs will allow you to determine whether or not the event was worth the investment, based on factors such as financial return, number of leads generated, or size of the audience in attendance at sessions. For in-house events, feedback from attendees can also be a metric in itself.

Bring in flexible event support

The pressure to deliver high-standard events with stretched budgets and teams can be daunting. If you’re looking for a solution that can help you with the full scope of your event delivery, Hire Space 360 provides strategy support, procurement and contracting services, and extra hands for event delivery, at a fraction of the cost of an additional hire. 

Events will be more important than ever

The power of events to foster colleague and client relationships, cement brand loyalty, and inspire productivity means they will continue to play a key role in driving business growth.

However, as budgets are tightened, event planners will have to tighten their grip on event measurements to make sure events are purpose-driven and have a clear case for being in the calendar. 

The silver lining of this is that events, and those involved in planning them, will come out of the mix stronger, more strategic, and more essential than ever.

You may also be interested in reading our exclusive interview with Kerrin MacPhie, Chief Executive, The Meeting Industry Association.