Event Trends for 2023: Mini-Gatherings and Tech Tools – The Recursive

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As people’s excitement for virtual events was dropping, 2022 offered physical events quite a reverent comeback. After a couple of challenging years limited to digital events, and with the recession putting its foot in the door, we take a look at some of the trends that will manifest at 2023 tech events. Spoiler alert: no, Metaverse is not part of them, yet.
Bring your bottle of water to be refilled, “goodie bags” swapped with ebooks as a sustainable memento, show the badge on a smartwatch or recycled paper, scan the QR code to receive a PDF of a company’s overview, business cards are swapped via an all-in-one app, which is also used for networking, and ticketing, are only but a few event trends for 2023.
The global industry market size is set to reach almost €1.5B by 2028, so 2023 is a year that can set in motion a few new opportunities to keep its growth. But, as Ioana Dragomir, co-founder of Tulipr, a digital platform that connects event organizing players, shares, there are also a few challenges rising, like decreased budgets, a diminished lead time as users want things at a click of a button, and a shortage on the staff front too.
“Remote workforce needs a better reason to leave the house, and virtual still presents a comfortable and cost-effective alternative. This translates into lower attendance for in-person events and higher costs for attracting and engaging them. Participants expect a more compelling value proposition and higher engagement out of the events they attend,” Ioana Dragomir comments.
“When you plan a conference, you begin with a minus and many zeros after it, let’s say around five. You have to take a risk, implement a process, and have faith that it will turn out.” – Monica Zara, How to Web
Although this year we experienced networking apps like Finland-based Brella or registering platforms like the U.S. Eventbrite, we want to find out more about event trends for 2023, and other goals, tools, and plans in our region, Central Eastern Europe. So, we sat down with a few regional players organizing events in Romania and Croatia:
Back in the “old days”, there used to be one conference to rule them all in one zip code. But now that more professionals want to join events catered to their needs, with more mediums – physical, digital, and hybrid, come more revenue streams. And the possibility of making every event accessible globally.
Event organizers keep one big physical event and connect with their communities via digital events throughout the year. This offers the opportunity to offer bite-size niched gatherings targeting different professionals – HRs, PRs, developers, or different verticals, like medical or sustainability, and takes the pressure off delivering only one time per year.
Their revenue is based on corporate sponsorships, for which companies get a booth or a panel slot in return, and ticket sales. Universum, for example, also offers event-as-a-service for corporates that are looking to reach out to their network, and tech tools to manage the event.
Tech tools to organize events:
“Events aren’t only ‘a happening’, they are a learning source which can be accessed all the time.” – Alexandru Maxineanu, Universum
The latest opportunity in the medium sphere is the asynchronous model. Now, event organizers either offer the events’ recordings based on a yearly fee or as part of their premium tickets.
This way, people can watch it whenever they want. And it’s part of the event trends for 2023 to keep the community engaged throughout the year.
With more micro-events happening, Alexandru Maxineanu shares that although Romanian people aren’t, yet, used to paying for quality content, he sees more and more companies investing in packages to send their team members to events and get inspired.
This is also the case with How to Web, as Monica Zara says nowadays full teams attend events to broaden their horizons. This is reasoning enough for them to develop around eight types of audiences, and offer specific topics for each one.
The Universum team uses a lot of tech tools to communicate internally and externally. Alexandru Maxineanu exemplifies using the CRM Pipedrive to organize the team, and Monday to collaborate with partners. He has also noticed a shift from email communication and Google Drive to WhatsApp messages, blurring the barrier between professional and personal.
The Infobip Shift team has switched to Airtable for project management and Notion for documentation. But they also shared that walkie-talkies are still a hit when it comes to keeping track of the team on site.
Monica Zara from How to Web shared they focus more on doing things, not on how or what tools to integrate because there isn’t one that encapsulates everything they need. They do use Slack and follow the RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) chart method to organize the team.
This means that the main project is divided into smaller ones, with people responsible to lead it, and sometimes they are also accountable to deliver on the tasks. Then, another person can be consulted for advice, and the rest of the team is kept informed.
“There are two components to gathering data. Validating your marketing campaign and seeing what types of professionals come to the event, and the answer for ‘what’s next?’.” – Monica Zara, How to Web
Participating in this year’s edition of GoTech, the team’s data gathering surprised me. Each time a visitor wanted to join a stage – the event had different ones for smart cities, cybersecurity, developers, and digital marketers, to name a few – they had to check in and check out by having their badge scanned.
This way, the team sees how long visitors listened to each speaker, and what type of job they have, to optimize future editions. What’s more, this is one way to develop a heat map of the event, to see each visitor’s journey inside the conference.
Another method of gathering valuable information from attendees to improve future editions comes in the form of feedback over an email survey or via SMS, and Viber as a backup. The trick with emails is to do it right after the event has finished when opinions are still fresh.
“We have been using different applications throughout the years. It’s a challenge to find an affordable app that doesn’t crash and encompasses registration, on-site check-in, networking, API integration on the website, and such. We have been using a mix of tools, like Croatian Entrio for ticketing. Next, we will use Grip Events.” – Nikola Radisic, Infobip Shift Conference
The How to Web team has also used a mix of tech tools when it comes to ticketing and networking, like Romanian Smartbill for invoicing. Monica Zara says in 2023 they will use American Zapier, which connects apps through APIs to automate workflows.
Tech tools for ticketing:
“We doubled the marketing budgets, and we are happy we did it,” Alexandru Maxineanu from Bucharest Tech Week and GoTech shares, while Nikola Radisic from Infobip Shift Conference joins in: “No ‘cheaping’ out when it comes to production, the size, the quality, and the comfort to accommodate everybody.”
The Universum managing partner revealed a rise of over 50% in costs for organizing events, but he shared that their partners’ fees went up only 10%-15%, as they don’t want to shock them.
The Infobip Shift team mentioned tapping into Twitter to gather the international community of developers, and utilizing all its tools and spaces, like launching a native podcast. This platform is followed by LinkedIn and Instagram. Facebook seems to be out of the conversation due to a lack of organic engagement.
Andreea Oproiu from How to Web revealed that they are always adapting the marketing strategy based on users’ engagement and the project’s target. One thing is for sure, they will go for more videos next year.
“If we were to cut the budget somewhere, I would look at the on-site implementation. For example, choosing between printing daily agendas to using a partners’ screens.” – Monica Zara, How to Web
The event industry had always had a lot of prints. But since everybody wants to be as sustainable as possible by 2030, banners and leaflets are slowly, but steadily, turning into apps, emails or WhatsApp updates, and on-site LED screens. And since we are talking about on-site, organizers are paying more attention to having the right trash cans and separate waste.
“The success of an event doesn’t rely on a perfect carpet, but on people’s vibe.” -Alexandru Maxineanu, Universum
All event organizers offered a united front when it comes to the value of face-to-face networking, which was sorely missed during the pandemic. This is also one of the reasons they believe 2023 will not, yet, be about the Metaverse tools going mainstream.
Tech tools for networking:
Alexandru Maxineanu was open to sharing his data with us. He says “cybersecurity continues to be a hot topic, followed by smart cities, which had the biggest attendance rate this year,”; while Monica Zara says that the How to Web stages won’t change, but the topics will adapt, for example, “community-led growth is an interesting, pivoting, topic” for 2023.
When it comes to developers, Stipe Cigic from Infobip Shift Conference says that since “developers quickly sniff out marketing on the stage, they don’t want to see companies selling them software, so we want real, educational talks about cloud-native, web3, and AI which is creeping into the mainstream” for next year’s edition.
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