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Episode 83 / January 8, 2024

2024 event trends and insights from the industry’s top leaders

The industry’s top experts explore the trends shaping the events, including DE&I, sponsorships, sustainability, AI, event data, and more.

Join us as we dive into the future of event planning! This episode explores event trends and insights for 2024, particularly conscious conferencing, DE&I, sustainability in event planning, the evolving dynamics of sponsorships, and the increasing role of AI and event tech in enhancing attendee engagement. 

The conversation offers a comprehensive outlook on how these elements will shape the future of events, providing valuable insights for professionals in the field. Tune in to hear host Will Curran, Bizzabo’s Head of Klik, tackle the year ahead with the following industry luminaries:

  • Adam Parry, Cofounder & Editor at Event Industry News
  • Greg DeShields, Executive Director at Tourism Diversity Matters
  • Lauren Olerich, Senior Director of Corporate Events at Gainsight
  • Christine Renaud, CEO and Cofounder at Braindate by e180
  • Bob Johnston, Founder and CEO at the Executive Council
  • Nicola Kastner, Founder of The Event Strategist
  • Brandt Krueger, Senior Production Manager at EideCom

Here’s just a small sample of what you’ll hear about in this conversation:

  • Why attendees care more than ever about conscious conferencing (i.e., the intersection of events that prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion, and sustainability)
  • Effective ways to attract sponsors by understanding their KPIs and offering them opportunities to showcase their expertise
  • The increasingly significant role of AI in driving data-driven events, helping in areas such as design conceptualization, attendee engagement, and more efficient planning

Mentioned in This Episode


[00:00:10] Rachel Moore: Welcome to Event Experience by Bizzabo, the podcast where we bring the best and brightest Event Experience Leaders together to share stories, tips, and lessons learned from creating some of the world’s biggest events.

I’m Rachel Moore, your podcast host. 

In this episode, let’s shake the magic 8-ball, or look deep into the crystal ball, or do whatever gives you the best glimpse into The Future of Events. Your professional prognosticators are Greg DeShields, Executive Director of Tourism Diversity Matters; Lauren Olerich, Senior Director of Corporate Events at Gainsight; Christine Renaud, CEO and cofounder of Braindate; Nicola Kastner, founder of Nicola Kastner, The Event Strategist; Adam Parry, Cofounder and Editor of Event Industry News; Bob Johnston, CEO of the Executive Council; and Brandt Krueger, Senior Production Manager of Eidecom. Corralling our industry luminaries is Will Curran, Head of Klik at Bizzabo.

Our trip into the future will take us through the realms of event communities, AI, securing sponsors and investments, attraction and retention techniques for audiences, event tech for data analysis, and how global economics are affecting the events we design. It really is a must-hear for eventprofs who want to navigate the unknown of 2024, and it’s all starting right now — on Event Experience!

[00:01:48] Will Curran: We have some absolutely amazing speakers here because I’m thrilled to present the 2024 event trends. The future of events right here and you know, the events industry is changing more rapidly than ever. We’re gonna be diving into the trends and insights that will shape the future of the events industry from the rise of conscious conferencing and AI assisted events, leveraging tech to craft more data driven gatherings. We are here to explore the pivotal changes and redefine how we organize, attend, and experience conferences. So we’ve invited some of the most amazing luminaries in the entire events industry to share their insights on these topics. It’s my pleasure to announce our first guests, Adam and Greg, who have some interesting thoughts about conscious conferencing as well. Thank you guys so much for joining. All right. So when we talk about conscious conferencing, we’re looking at all the things that matter to attendees: diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and sustainability. So starting off with our recent survey and our recent report, The State of In Person B2B Conferences, DE&I and sustainable practices emerged as one of the most notable challenges organizers have with 19. 5 percent of organizers saying this is their biggest set of challenges and 20. 3 percent saying it’s their second biggest challenges. Whew, that sounds like a, we have a challenge to solve here. 

[00:03:17] Considering that 26.8 percent of attendees said sustainability and DEI are their number one priority when choosing their event to attend. And 31.2 percent of attendees said sustainability and DEI are their number two priorities when choosing events. I think it’s more than ever we need to be focusing on this topic in really genuine new ways.

[00:03:38] So we’re going to kick it off with Adam. You founded Event Sustainability Live, which feels like almost like a lifetime ago. It was like a couple of weeks ago and you’re really close to this topic. One of the free responses that we have received on a survey from an organizer has really, really stuck with us.

[00:03:56] They said real sustainable practices are hard. Greenwashing is so easy. Do you agree? What do you think that the events industry will do to change sustainable conversation in 2024? And are we talking like more micro events, virtual events, flagship events shrinking? What are your thoughts? 

[00:04:13] Adam Parry: I think it’s a really interesting response and a valid one.

[00:04:16] And I agree with half of it and not with the other half. So yes, implementing sustainable practices can be really challenging and feel really, really daunting. But I don’t agree with the industry’s greenwashing. For me, greenwashing refers to making deliberate, misleading sustainability claims. I think it’s very easy for people to make sustainability claims with, you know, unintentionally and, and they’re kind of that greenwashing element.

[00:04:43] But I don’t think as an industry we’re really going out there, whether that’s the supply chain, whether that’s organizers, others, kind of trying to mislead people with intention. I think what we actually as an industry have to be really careful of is more on green hushing, which if you look at what green hushing means, it’s an increasing number of companies that aren’t shouting about the excellent initiatives that they’re actually doing on any scale, right?

[00:05:09] And we all have a huge range of different capabilities and abilities in terms of how approach to sustainability, whether it’s on a personal level, whether it’s as a company. And I think actually what we need to do as an industry is collaborate and share more on all of those really small micro kind of movements that we’re making when it comes to sustainable practices.

[00:05:30] I think we also need to make sure that we look outside of just the environmental element of sustainability and make sure we’re looking at social and governance as well. That’s where DEI comes in. That’s where accessibility comes in. That’s where people and purpose comes in. And then to make those changes, we really need to be data led, right?

[00:05:48] We need to go off the data. And the first step to getting any data is to start measuring when it comes to sustainability. So if we start measuring, we can start making changes and acting. And the way that I break it down to people, or the way that we’re trying to break it down is, you know, with your teams, collaborate, come up with 52 different areas of the business or the event that you might be able to make a change in.

[00:06:11] And kind of look at those on a week by week basis, kind of collaborate, look at the opportunities, look at where you currently are, and try and make one small change in that area. I don’t know, maybe it’s food, maybe it’s venue, maybe it’s logistics, maybe it’s your own travel. They all add up to being a real big change at the end of the year.

[00:06:30] And I think as an industry, that’s one way to kind of take, tackle that really daunting sustainability, you know, purpose led goal that we might have as a, as an industry. 

[00:06:41] Will Curran: I love that. It’s like no silver bullet. It’s a lot of little changes over time that we have to make to be able to do this. And I love that so much, Adam, especially like your point on like, we just got to make actions and change.

[00:06:52] Like we’ve been talking about this for so long. It’s time to actually make those changes. 

[00:06:56] Adam Parry: Nobody runs a marathon straight away, right?

[00:07:01] Will Curran: I don’t know. I mean, our next speaker, Greg might be one of those guys who could totally run a marathon in a second. So I don’t, I don’t know, but Greg, let’s talk about DEI. So you’ve been beating on this drum for like years now, and you’re the foremost expert I think when it comes to this. I’d love to hear what you think about how 2024 is gonna look for DE&I, you know, during the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about how virtual events were kind of leveling the playing field to open new doors for attendees and speakers, but now that in persons reign supreme, like, how do you think this is going to impact DE&I moving forward in the next year?

[00:07:36] Greg DeShields: Well, I think the biggest overall concern that most should have as they look at issues of diversity, equity and inclusion moving forward, especially in 2024, is that a very consistent message is that it is a business strategy as you are really looking at how to apply it within the meetings and events that you are producing, that there needs to be some sort of measurable, as was mentioned earlier, some sort of measurable result oriented way of articulating the case of why this is really good for what we do, and that helps you to find a better approach and coming up with more successful solutions and incorporating strategies in your meeting.

[00:08:12] There is like a big top four, though, that I would certainly want to share with this group as you look at 2024. I think the big thing for all organizations, whether you’re in our industry or not, quite honestly, is to continue to maintain your commitment. It should continue to evolve from where you were when you began.

[00:08:27] But this is also a perfect opportunity to evaluate what you have been doing, to get a better sense of, are the things that we put into place really making a difference? And perhaps some things aren’t, and others maybe need a little bit more emphasis. But my first would be to maintain your commitment and reevaluate it accordingly.

[00:08:44] And let’s just face it, we are facing a very tumultuous 2024, and the discussions of diversity, equity, and inclusion and inclusion are going to require us to be a lot smarter about it than we’ve been perhaps in previous years. So I would say wherever you are, always review any legislation that is being developed about diversity, equity, and inclusion in your area and approach the subject with some clear cut understanding of what has been proposed, what has been passed, and what may not in any way, shape, or form be taking place.

[00:09:12] And that idea of being familiar with legislation will allow for you to be a lot more smarter, especially when you’re working with planners who have some specific limitations that they might encounter. The third is that diversity, equity, and inclusion language is evolving. If you are still using the same words that you did back in 2020 or even before then, you’re certainly not staying contemporary.

[00:09:32] And I love the idea of the language of how you’ve even defined this in consciousness. I think we have to be ready to be able to change our words to speak appropriately and engage with professionals accordingly. And then lastly, I would say, go beyond whatever the traditional support has been that may cause you challenges in terms of being distracted by those who might attack you as a result of what you do.

[00:09:53] Be much more intricately involved in communities and provide your support in a much more impactful way by being much more relevant and supportive of programs that take place in various communities. 

[00:10:05] Will Curran: Wow. The distraction thing just like blew my mind and never think about that. Like you can’t get distracted from this and we have to keep pushing forward when it comes to it as well.

[00:10:13] Like, wow, like absolutely. Just mind blowing moment for me and I’m still kind of recovering from that knowledge bomb. We have way more content to go through. This is just your guys’s tease, Greg, Adam, thank you guys so much for being here.

[00:10:25] We’ll have you back for the Q and A. All right. So. Let’s continue on to our next topic, which is attendee and community-first design. I’ve been beating on this drum all year long as well, and I’m so excited. As we all know, getting buy-in and justification for attendees to attend in person is more challenging than ever, particularly with travel budgets getting cut across industries, you know, so many last minute attendance decisions still reigning supreme, and attendees being more choosy ever about what events they attend and organizers really need to start to get creative about networking and community building to appeal their audiences.

[00:11:02] So I’m going to kick it over to Lauren to talk a little bit about this. Can you discuss some of the increasing emphasis on networking over content. We keep hearing about the suggestion to move keynotes online and focus more with white space, self care, networking opportunities. But after all, like people really attend in person events to network and connect with each other rather than sit on keynote content.

[00:11:27] So how will this shift, you know, as we continue to plan events and agendas into 2024 and beyond. 

[00:11:35] Lauren Olerich: Yeah. Thanks, Will. So a lot of conferences and event organizers are definitely reorienting how they structure their events to give attendees more options for networking and connection. So what does that mean for us?

[00:11:46] Well, at Gainsight, our industry event that we call Pulse, we see about 4, 000 people attend it globally. And I will say historically, we’ve always had a very strong emphasis on the power of our content, which is directly opposite the networking piece because you have people kind of sequestered in session rooms.

[00:12:04] I think the extent of our networking in the early days was a networking lunch, which was essentially just lunch with round tables. And we hoped that people would strike up conversations and that absolutely does not cut it anymore. We are really pushing ourselves to infuse a lot more moments of connection into our events.

[00:12:20] So here are a couple of things that we know. In person events are valued way more, more than ever, for the opportunity to build these relationships and engage with peers. We saw this very heavily post covid. This isn’t a surprise to anybody . If you create a bit of white space in your agenda, it allows for that flexibility and more spontaneous networking opportunities.

[00:12:41] But you also need to guide your attendees to more easily find those networking spaces and those connection opportunities. Because some people might spontaneously find them. But oftentimes you have to really think creatively and specifically as you’re building those into your event map. So there’s both the physical piece of it and then there’s the digital piece of it.

[00:13:03] So a few ideas. I know we have Christine on the call, CEO of braindate. I’m sure she’ll allude to this. It’s an incredible solution. I’ve used it before at events. It gets attendees to connect, either through an application or even on site in a more structured way, and it also enables your sponsors or even your attendees to self serve and create topics that they care about.

[00:13:23] You know, we can say what topics people are going to care about networking and discussing, but ultimately, if you can put that power in the hands of your attendees, it’s incredible. You, of course, will have an attendee app, that’s pretty table stakes these days. So think through how you’re using that app to make it easy for people to connect before, during, after your event, make it so they can tag their interests so they can search for people and self identify certain criteria like industry, maturation, company size, all of those different parameters.

[00:13:51] And there are tons of other matchmaking and mentorship tech out there, like Mentorloop, for example. So it’s worth exploring what your attendees might get the most benefit out of. And then as far as networking activities, it’s really all about customization and personalization. So at Pulse, we have a few lounge zones that are based on persona type.

[00:14:11] So for example, we have one called the CS Ops Clubhouse and they have specialized networking topics and engagements. That way they can find like minded folks that really make it the time that they’re investing by coming to your event well worth it. We also run something called Circles of Success during lunchtime, which is about 15 different birds of a feather topics.

[00:14:32] It’s wildly popular, but very important. We ensure that there’s a Gainside employee there to facilitate the discussion, to make sure that everybody at that table has a voice and they’re participating, again about belonging, inclusion. And then I’d recommend looking, like I said, at the footprint of your venue to ensure that it’s not siloed. I think in years past, it’s been expo over here, content on a different floor over there, infuse it all together. Bring your networking into your sessions, maybe explore doing a workshop format. A few other ideas really quickly on the field marketing side. We actually have a incredible team that plans about 10 different satellite events that exist outside the walls of our conference.

[00:15:12] Those are very targeted micro events that are aimed at key decision makers and customers and prospects, and then a few more: put the power into the hands of your sponsors. So rather than a standard booth only sponsorship, make sure that they have activations that allow them to bring connection opportunities to your attendees.

[00:15:32] And then embed the wellness and the mental health also into your agenda. Something at our Pulse events, we do sound baths. We do meditations that are guided actually by a Gainside employee. We do morning runs. So consider adding that in and baking it into your agenda so attendees can find it when they build their agenda.

[00:15:51] And then last thing: think about your attendees who are first timers or flying solo proactively communicate with them before they get to your event and offer them experiences to make their time feel not so lonely. I could talk about this forever, but I will stop. 

[00:16:07] Will Curran: I love it, which is perfect transition over to Christine to who can talk about community. And we’re seeing this shift towards building event communities that ride the event momentum throughout the year and keep people connected, but also create opportunities for revenue year round as well.

[00:16:23] Can you highlight some of the trends that you’re seeing in transforming events to a 365 a day community and vice versa? 

[00:16:30] Christine Renaud: Absolutely. And I really want to build on what Lauren was talking about because I think that a strong online community starts with a strong onsite community in the context of a live event. And what a community is, is a group of people who truly care for each other, who share a purpose, who want to learn from each other and who have a sense of belonging. And for me, the strongest trend of 2004 in terms of event is to transform the impersonal event spaces that we create sometimes into a place of emotional safety, a true, meaningful connection, and that has to be rooted in belonging. And Lauren, you just mentioned, you know, the idea that for first timers, we don’t necessarily really host first timers properly, but it is so scary to be alone in a group of 5, 000, 10, 000, even 300 people.

[00:17:21] And that crafting of spaces of belonging at events where people feel seen, feel valued for who they truly are. And that’s where we were mentioning DEI, should we add the B for belonging in our strategies for DEI? I really truly believe that the way that we host our people on site will have a tremendous impact on the way that people will want to stay connected to each other post events or in an online community. And I think that’s where the online community really truly shines is that we believe at Braindate that learning has to be rooted in a meaningful life. You know, when you go to an event or you go to other learning spaces, you don’t disconnect your whole self from your personal and professional goals and struggles and challenges.

[00:18:08] But it feels when you’re at event that you are a bit disconnected. You know, you create kind of this space, this bubble, this ritual where you want to feel safe to learn and grow and be inspired and really like explore out of the boundaries of your daily life. But when you’re part of an online community, you are rooted in your daily life, which actually provides an amazing, really fertile ground for meaningful learning.

[00:18:32] And that’s where for me, the true benefit of having an online community post event is in the learning opportunity that we provide in terms of, again, because I believe in, you know, lifelong and collaborative learning. But to have those learning that are rooted in your life in a meaningful life and then connect your event participants with one another throughout the year to support each other in their challenges by truly enabling collaborative learning year long, I think is the way to provide more value to an ongoing year long community than simply offering, you know, one size fit all content on a digital platform.

[00:19:11] Will Curran: Wow. Preach. This is so good guys. Like this is just the most amazing stuff. 

[00:19:19] This is so incredible. We’re going to come back to you guys in the Q& A. So hang, hang around and we’ll be right back. But we’re going to get on to our next topic and our next trend for the year, which is the economics of events and how is that trending for next year? This is actually something that came up abundantly in our survey.

[00:19:37] And that was sponsorships and budgets are struggling. Now, event budgets are healthier than they’ve ever been. But organizers are still struggling with the economics, particularly around sponsorships. So here’s some of the quotes that we actually heard when it relates to this: “Travel budgets are down, but our costs are up.”

[00:19:55] “Sponsors don’t want to commit to event spends and events are only to confirm attendance and sponsorships last minute.” I also heard, “Sponsors dollars are shrinking.” “Venue costs and material costs and labor costs are inflated dramatically since the return of lockdown.” So we brought ourselves an expert to talk about this one, guys. Bob, I’m so excited to have you here.

[00:20:20] What do you think are the ways that or like, what do you think about what organizers are saying right now? And what do you think the struggles that we’re going to see around struggling to secure sponsorships? And how will that impact events in 2024? 

[00:20:33] Bob Johnston: Yeah, thanks for having me here. Will. And you know, hats off.

[00:20:38] You guys are doing an amazing job here. And just years ago, I remember when your company started way back, I think 2010 or 11 and just look at where you guys are now. So hats off to y’all. Yeah, I mean, I guess I’m here to talk about the capitalism side of the events industry, right?

[00:20:55] You know, leading into 2019, it was $120 billion business from sporting events all the way down to festivals and events like we host here, which are kind of 20 person private C-suite breakfasts, you know, and dinner events. $120 billion per year spent up through 2019. And the truth is, you sort of have to scroll all the way back to 2008 to kind of figure out where we’re headed next year. And I know that sounds a little crazy, but 2008, we had the last kind of economic hit, right? And basically from 2009 to 2019, there was a 10 year run. Marketers were spending money on events left and right. They didn’t care that much about the return on investment.

[00:21:45] It’s sort of like, Hey, we have the dollars. Let’s go spend it, throw it up against the wall, right? And then speaking of the wall, we then hit 2020 and the budgets tanked, the events industry tanked, of course, as well, everything moved virtual, which was great for companies like Bizzabo and various others, of course.

[00:22:05] But the challenge then is the past kind of 12 to 18 months has been, well, okay, we don’t have the budgets we had from 2009 through 2019. And the scrutiny is far worse than it ever was. It’s like, okay, maybe we’ve got 50 percent of the budgets we had in 2019 and we’re only going to spend it on targeted types of sponsorships that we think will drive the return on investment.

[00:22:35] And that’s a game changer in this industry. So not only are the marketers in the events. space sort of challenged with figuring out who the targets are. They also have pressure from their CROs and CMOs to, like, figure it out fast. So it’s quite challenging. The trends we’ve been seeing in the past 12 to 18 months is like limited dollars, trying to figure out which cities work the best for sponsorships, right? It’s like, hey, if you want to get 20 CMOs in a room or 20 CTOs in a room, what are the right cities? Is it a New York? Is it a Dallas, right? And so there’s a lot of trial and error in trying to figure out, like, what’s the right geography?

[00:23:26] Who are the targets? How do you get these folks to get out of their PJs at night, right, to show up at a dinner event, you know, or at a conference. So these are real challenges, you know, that the marketers are dealing with right now. The conversations we have with the marketers are twofold.

[00:23:44] It’s with the event marketers, right? And the first of the conversation is really around like thinking about your target market. And giving them something as opposed to making an ask, right? It’s so easy just to throw a lot of marketing materials at them, put your sales reps on the phone with them.

[00:24:04] And instead what you should be doing is thinking about what can we give them? What kind of gift, a piece of knowledge, a white paper, a blog post, anything and have that leading into the event itself. And then when you’re at the event, don’t talk business, talk anything but. Talk about personal lives, whatever, whatever makes sense to sort of push that prospect further through the pipeline.

[00:24:32] And then when the event is over with, you know, that’s when you can have the conversation again around, you know, the business stuff. So I think the economics around this are thinking about how best to get people showing up in a room. Number one, Will, right? And then secondly is once they’re at the event itself, having the right kind of conversation with them.

[00:24:56] So that’s sort of like, that’s what we’ve been seeing trend wise. Looking at next year, I mean, budgets, based on the conversations we’re having, the sponsors we work with are sort of like private equity backed or they’re large tech companies like Microsoft and IBM. And so even those larger companies are dealing with budget cuts.

[00:25:17] I see things easing a little bit coming into next year with budgets. Part of that is, is that I think the quantitative easing will be coming into play by springtime. It’s, it’s an election year. You know, the Fed doesn’t want to continue to raise these interest rates, which means that companies will start to open up the budgets again because they’re going to have a little bit of confidence in the macro.

[00:25:43] So that’s kind of what we are seeing. 

[00:25:45] Will Curran: I love it. Yeah. We are going to continue down, down the rabbit hole a little bit further. So we’ll have Bob right back to answer questions. So thank you so much, Bob, for, for coming and we’ll see you in just a minute.​

[00:25:58] Rachel Moore: We’ll be back with more Event Experience after the break. 

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[00:26:49] Rachel Moore: We’re back with more Event Experience as we shift the topic to advancements in event tech and the data analysis we all strive for.

[00:27:00] Will Curran: So. We got to move on to our next topic, which is how event tech is driving data driven events. This is a topic that you all know I love so much. So we’re going to dive onto this one with event technology advancing in a rapid clip. We are talking not just about event virtual software these days, but it’s all about high tech event wearables.

[00:27:26] So today’s organizers have no more excuses. No more to lead with event intelligence when planning events. So we brought somebody who I know is a pro at this one. Nicola, we got to get you on here to talk about how you’re working with your clients to collect and harvest all this data to drive better event outcomes and enhancing attendee engagement. What do you think 2024 will bring when it comes to smart wearables, attendance tracking, and other awesome tech? 

[00:27:57] Nicola Kastner: Well, thanks for having me. And Bob actually set this up perfectly. He was talking about trial and error and how event organizers, and we didn’t talk about this before, but I was like, I had to write that note.

[00:28:09] How event professionals, event marketers are trying to figure out where to invest. There should be no trial and error in it at this point. There is so much data available to us about events and events portfolio. It’s a matter of diving in. It’s about understanding where our audiences are, who our target markets are.

[00:28:28] The data exists. I mean, right now, I think the latest that I heard, there was more than 150 data points you can collect around events, right? That’s a lot of data. There’s a data proliferation. We have more data than we’ve ever known what to do with, but we have to know what to do with it. So to me, it starts with an understanding of your strategy.

[00:28:47] What are you trying to achieve? Who are you trying to meet? At an event. Who are your key target audiences? And once you understand that you can pick the right events and you can build the right experiences. So if I back up I had a great opportunity to participate in the podcast in 2019. The Bizabo podcast, first time I’d ever been on a podcast where I talked about the Sapphire journey.

[00:29:10] And when I was at SAP and we talked about how data influenced that journey. What we were looking at data at that point was how does the data help us as a business make the right decisions? And that still exists. But today, what I think is super exciting and and as the other speakers have all said, data exists to allow us to help our attendees make the right connections as well.

[00:29:41] So it doesn’t feel so one sided anymore, which I think is really quite exciting for us as an industry. We were joking around about Will’s background and I was like well let’s talk about the ineffective name badges that we all have and create a surround on the background versus what what Bizzabo is offering?

[00:29:57] I mean, I just think Wearables are a game changer. Everything is changing so much that we just have to lean into it and experiment and try new things. And I think you’re all leading the way to help us do that. 

[00:30:10] Will Curran: Oh, I will. I, I appreciate that. That love and that shout out as well. You’re amazing.

[00:30:16] Oh my gosh. So. I have to be really careful because I could just, you know, go down this rabbit hole with you for like a whole hour, but we’ll come back to it for sure. But we’re going to come back to data. Let’s dive on into our next topic I think that is on the top of everybody’s minds. And it’s one of the largest trends. Not only for the upcoming year, but also this past year as well. And it’s only going to continue to grow. And that is AI. The saying we like to say is that AI isn’t going to replace you, it’s that someone using AI is going to replace you.

[00:30:49] And the person I want to bring up is just absolutely amazing. I’ve had many long conversations about this on our podcast, the Event Tech Podcast, and he has tangible ways that we can use AI beyond things like writing social media posts, writing session descriptions. How is this going to be used beyond when it comes to personalization analysis and how do we actually use this for unique and creative ways?

[00:31:12] So I want to welcome to the stage, Brandt Kruger from EIDECOM. I feel like I need to have an adjective ready for me, Brandt. We’re so stoked to have you here, but, you know, lay down some truth for us. How can people start utilizing AI beyond the obvious ways for the future into 2024 and beyond? 

[00:31:33] Brandt Krueger: Yeah, it’s been so funny as you and I have known each other over the years, the number of trends that we’ve gone, okay, you don’t need to worry about this.

[00:31:39] This is nothing. Okay. You don’t need to worry about this. This is nothing. This is something. This is actually something that you do need to pay attention to. You nailed it. Hit the, hit the nail right on the head. It’s not that AI is going to come and take all our jobs. It’s that people who know how to use AI are going to come and take our jobs.

[00:31:54] Why? Because it is a tool for making us more efficient. It’s a tool for making us better at our jobs. And so while yes, it’s not going to come and steal your job. It is definitely something that we can use to help get things going. The biggest thing is going to be on the creative side. Now you mentioned things like blog posts and stuff like that.

[00:32:12] What AI really does is help you get over the blank page. Like so many times, especially when we’re trying to come up with something new and different, we’re hit with a blank page and so much time is wasted in CAD and vector works and things like that, trying to come up with new designs. Well, one of the things that we’ve been playing around with that I’d come and a lot of other places is this idea of using it just to kind of get the, get the juices flowing a little bit.

[00:32:37] We’ve actually been using some of these generative AIs to create and literally we’re just, you know, punching in keywords like geometric shapes, lights, ballrooms, things like that. We were working on trying to get some ideas for a fitness company that we were putting some designs together.

[00:32:53] And so we started throwing words like fitness and muscles and things like that in there. They’re not perfect. A lot of this generative AI is a little weird. There’ll be weird facial features. There’ll be hands with six fingers, you know, things like that.

[00:33:05] But it’s enough to get you over the blank page. And so some of these are, are photorealistic, like you would think they were actual photos of events. And, you know, these are, you know, we were playing around with some different designs for a client that was going to be on a rooftop. And so literally we were saying, okay, you know, an event stage on a rooftop, they were playing around with some green options.

[00:33:25] So let’s get some shrubbery and stuff like that in there. For some reason it kind of looks like Chicago, you know, I don’t know, whatever the things we’re trained on. And so similar type scenes here where we’re trying to incorporate some actual real live looking plants and things like that. And so then somebody was saying, well, what if we did steampunk, you know?

[00:33:42] And so, so we like literally started putting it, okay, let’s put in a steampunk theatrical design kind of thing. It really is good at just getting you kind of past that initial hump of what can we do to get some new ideas out there? I mean, this would take hours and hours and hours to design, put into a CAD program, throw it into like Unreal Engine or something like that and render it.

[00:34:06] Instead, it’s a few minutes with prompt engineering on how to get this stuff. So for me, the biggest thing as someone who, you know, tries to write blog posts and things like that, I’m not using it to write the blog post. People are going to continue to get in trouble for that. Like we heard about the lawyer that got busted for having bad, you know, links to cases that didn’t exist.

[00:34:25] Most recently in the news, we’ve had an event that got canceled because they got busted having fake people on their panels. And so it turned out many of the women who were supposed to be on a panel didn’t actually exist. They had made those up so that the panels wouldn’t quite look so much like man-els, unfortunately.

[00:34:43] And so there are going to be people that use these tools stupidly. Our hope, obviously, is to try and help you guys to, to not do that. Some of the other things that we’re doing is taking things like, you know, we got a 45 page RFP from a client and, you know, we did it kind of the normal way we went through it.

[00:35:00] We figured out, you know, how we wanted to do it. We went and we did the pitch and that is an interesting experiment. Afterward, we fed this RFP into a chat GPT like a service and then said, summarize it. And what are this client’s top three questions most likely to be as we do? And it nailed it like it literally one, two and three.

[00:35:20] The top three questions they asked live in the sales presentation are the three questions that chat GPT came up with. And so the other really, in addition to getting us over that blank page hump, the other thing that these devices, these services are really good for are summarizing things, feeding it a bunch of information and then saying, give me the top 10 points.

[00:35:38] We’ve experimented with using that on the podcast. Like here’s the transcript, write the summary and away it goes. And you know, it’s not that it’s going to replace those human eyes. Like you still need to give it a good look. But it’s definitely a way to start overcoming a lot of those hurdles. 

[00:35:54] Will Curran: Wow, yeah, that was like so much good stuff. The renders are probably one of the most amazing things ever, because, you know, from my production days, they used to take hours and hours to do.

[00:36:03] And then I think the other thing that you brought up is this idea that it’s like a companion to you, this idea that you can have it kind of helping you think through what are the challenges and questions you think they’re going to have? Not just, Oh, Hey, answer the questions. A lot of times it’s, Hey, can I have someone to discuss with?

[00:36:19] It’s like having that a person in the office with you that maybe you don’t actually have. 

[00:36:25] Brandt Krueger: Absolutely. And then just to kind of, you know, wrap things up the next thing that’s just been announced are these mini GPTs where you can you know, feed it a very specific data set. And say, I want you to only answer me from this data set.

[00:36:38] And so where my mind immediately goes is something like the CMP exam or something like that, you could feed it the entirety of all of that information that’s on the CMP exam, and then be able to query your own personal plan or GPT and say, you know, how many chairs per square foot, you know, that kind of thing that would normally be contained in those information.

[00:36:57] And it would be able to just spit that information back out to you. It’s not going to lie. It’s not going to make it up from somewhere, which a lot of these cheap, you know, chat GPT type services have had a problem with this kind of making stuff up as we go. So that’s what I’m really excited about as we move forward is that this is actually is iterating.

[00:37:12] It wasn’t just a quick flash in the pan. Things are moving very, very quickly. So keep your eye on the ball in this department. 

[00:37:18] Will Curran: Amazing. So thank you so much, Brandt. It’s been so amazing to have you talking about AI topics and you know I’ll look forward to seeing what else can come from AI in the future.

[00:37:29] Brandt Krueger: My pleasure. 

[00:37:33] Will Curran: All right. We are on to the illustrious Q& A. 

[00:37:39] Although we didn’t have time to touch on VR and AR and data security and venues, our panel of experts is here to answer questions about what these might bring into 2024 too. So starting with a community, this is something I think everybody in this group touched in some sort of form. So I feel like it would be something that you all can jump on into. So the question is, how do you encourage people to engage with an online community after an event. So we get so much engagement during these events. How do we continue that moving on? Feel free whoever wants to jump in, maybe we’ll go Christine, since you were talking all about community first and then anyone else feel free to jump on in. 

[00:38:19] Christine Renaud: I think that you, the first thing you have to do, we’re thinking so much about event design in terms of our participants’ goal, and what they’re trying to achieve and trying to serve that. And the question is, okay, what are people trying to achieve once they’re back home, knowing that they might be part of 10 other communities.

[00:38:37] And that’s the thing is you when people are at your event, you’re competing a little bit with their work, with their family, but it’s usually pretty far away. So they are dedicated. They are captive. Once they’re back home, they’re not captive. They have to share their time with their work and their family and their training and their workouts and everything else that’s going on in their life.

[00:38:56] So in terms of your brand and what you do best in the world, what is it that you can provide that nobody else can. So that’s obviously, you know, your expertise and your thought leadership, but it’s also the people. How can you create a space where people can connect meaningfully around topics that are relevant for them just in time in their life as they go through their life and go through their challenges in their daily lives.

[00:39:22] And of course, for us at braindate, It’s all about peer learning and helping each other to learn from each other while, while they are facing those challenges on a daily basis. Nicola, do you want to add something? 

[00:39:33] Nicola Kastner: Yeah, yeah, I think I think we get focused too much on our event being a moment in time.

[00:39:41] And yes, our event is a great way to build community, but community starts before and it continues after, right? So I think you have to think about the entire customer journey, customer relationship, whatever relationship with the community and say, how do we continue to add value across each of the channels across the entirety of it versus just an event.

[00:40:00] I personally believe if we try and just create community at our events, and then try to create it as a standalone silo with that, and then we’ve got all these other marketing signals and noises and everything else that’s coming in, it’s not going to work. We have to just think holistically across every marketing channel and use each of them effectively to continue to build that community.

[00:40:20] Lauren Olerich: So I talked about how our primary event is called Pulse. And just to get some ideas to the listeners we have a online community that we preseed topics into and then during the event, we encourage people to share their biggest nuggets of learning, not just on the event app, but also on that online community.

[00:40:40] And then we continue with even more posts about particular session topics and things that happen on the community. So before, during, after we call that All About Pulse and it’s on our game changer community. And then we also have networking events that happened at a small scale. We call that program Pulse Local.

[00:40:56] We do a virtual event a few months after. We call that Pulse Check. We have kind of mid sized events that are physical in nature in key regions. We call that Pulse Encore. We have all of our digital content living on Pulse Library. We have an exec summit called Pulse CXO Summit. So think about different ways that you can bring that brand through the calendar year and differentiate how you deliver your single event in other formats.

[00:41:25] Will Curran: Yeah. Go ahead. Anyone else want to jump in? 

[00:41:28] Bob Johnston: Yeah. The only piece that I’d add there is to think about peer verification. So if I’m going to go to an event, I want to be there with true peers. And I think a lot of the time, or at least some of the time, the challenge is you show up at an event and you’re the smartest person there and you’re asking yourself, why am I here? So I think quantity and volume of events doesn’t matter as much as quality and strength of the relationships in the room. And I don’t care if it’s B2C or B2B or a big conference or whatever it is, right? Like, you want to go there and make sure that you’re in a community of true peers and that’s really hard to build.

[00:42:11] I mean, that takes years, you know? And the only other piece that I mentioned is thinking about going as deep and local as you can. So doing local events in specific geographies, really, really important as well. 

[00:42:28] Will Curran: Awesome. Adam, Greg, you guys got anything you want to add on? 

[00:42:33] Adam Parry: If, if I was to add one thing the communities that I’m personally most engaged with are the ones that I carry around with me in my pocket.

[00:42:41] What I mean by that is, is probably more classic dark social. So, you know, WhatsApp, iMessage groups, you know, Will, you’re, you keep adding me into groups that are kind of really kicking off and having some really great, interesting conversations. And I think, you know, as event organizers, we can use those platforms and technologies.

[00:42:59] They’re free to access, you know, something could spin off into a number of different chats around DE&I, sustainability, community. And it’s a great way for people to keep engaged and keep the conversation going and they can dip in and dip out. I find that the most engaging and that those are the ones that I stick to personally.

[00:43:17] And I think that’s something we probably don’t really look as an industry too much as those, those technologies that are already in our pockets that people have access to, to keep those communities going. 

[00:43:26] Greg DeShields: So what I would just say, you know, we just recently held our diversity and inclusion conference in Philadelphia, and one of the most impactful tools that we use in terms of engagement was the immediate photo where you take an image and we’re able to roam through the event and curate photos that will allow individuals to have a lot of content they can share. And I would say for those who attend meetings and the amount of activity that people will apply to uploading information and images to their social media, the fastest you can turn stuff around to give it to your attendees, to make it like current and relevant to them is huge.

[00:44:00] But that ability to turn photos around randomly by taking an early shot of them had proven to be one of the best tools that we could have provided in terms of engaging community as well as the experience. 

[00:44:13] Nicola Kastner: Totally agree, Greg, and I’m going to just share a couple of examples I had. I know Monique is speaking on your next webinar.

[00:44:19] Big, big girl crush on her. Big fan. I went to TED this year. I went to Big TED. You know, I applied, paid all the money and went because now I’m my own business. I can do that. I don’t have to ask anybody else to fund it. But a couple of learnings that I took away from that is community doesn’t need to be driven by the event organizer.

[00:44:39] Community can be driven by the attendees themselves. So what happened was we used WhatsApp to Adam’s point. There was a group I was invited to. It was called Women in Tech. And there were, I don’t know, like, I’d say 800 of us, and the chat was insane. And so I had said, anyone going in the first comers reception, I’ll start our own group.

[00:45:01] I have four WhatsApp chats that I continue to participate in regularly that came out of TED that had nothing to do with tech, right? So I think using the tools to Adam’s point that are already around and allowing your community to self build is really important. 

[00:45:19] Will Curran: I love it. All right, we got about five minutes left.

[00:45:21] And so I want to try to fit in one more question. In the present economic conditions, what are the most effective strategies we can use to attract sponsors and encourage investment in events? So maybe one or two sentences from each person on what we can do to attract sponsors and increase the money coming into events.

[00:45:39] Bob Johnston: Ask your potential sponsors lots of questions. Ask them their KPIs, their metrics, how do they track their sponsorships. And I think a lot of times you’re going to get an answer of, well, we’ve been trying X and Y and Z and it’s amazing, right? Like we asked this question all the time and regardless of how savvy you think the sponsors are, you’d be surprised.

[00:46:02] They’re sort of trying a lot of different things, but getting a sense of what their metrics are and then trying to be able to map your value up against the metrics is sort of how you’re going to get the money I think from the sponsors. But It’s not an easy task because sometimes the sponsors don’t necessarily know what they want either, you know, they’re getting like a directive from the CMO or the CRO of hey, just go and build me the events and can you feed the pipeline, right?

[00:46:32] And like, that’s from 60, 000 feet, but when you get to 3000 feet, like in practice, how do you make that happen? That’s where you got to ask a lot of questions of these sponsors. 

[00:46:42] Nicola Kastner: They want to show thought leadership, give them those opportunities, figure out how to do that beyond a booth. Putting them in a booth isn’t the way to do that. When I was at SAP some of my best and most effective sponsorships had nothing to do with a booth. 

[00:46:56] Greg DeShields: Yeah, but I also think it’s that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to sponsors. And I think you just have to be really creative about your sponsorship packages and most importantly, definitely deliver on the deliverables in terms of what it is that you say that you’re going to give them.

[00:47:10] But to your point where we’ve certainly found during the course of our conference that there was a lot of customization in order for a sponsorship to really have value. And not necessarily just try and generate one format across the entire program. 

[00:47:23] Christine Renaud: And I think for us, it’s really about helping our sponsors to showcase their expertise and build meaningful connection on site, you know, because the days where we were collecting business cards in the hopes of eventually one day when we have nothing else to do, build meaningful relationship.

[00:47:39] I mean, this time has, has gone, you know, people want to develop those meaningful relationships on site during the event. So I think we have to provide the same opportunity to our sponsors. 

[00:47:50] Adam Parry: If I could just share one way that we’ve helped our sponsors or encourage them to be part of the event is where we’ve got stage sponsors, we’ve offered them the opportunity to actually host and moderate and engage on that stage across the two days.

[00:48:05] So putting them in a really cool position of being able to engage with the speakers and have air time, but coach them through that process, make sure that they’re prepared and they can, they can do it effectively and things like that. And they’ve really, really embraced that and kind of really taking it head on and, and really done it really, really well.

[00:48:23] And that’s a great way we’ve found to get them to actively participate in the event other than just kind of saying, you know, how many places you want your logo on the stage kind of thing. 

[00:48:33] Will Curran: Wow, guys, this has been so, I want this to go on forever. Does anyone else feeling that exact same way?

[00:48:42] But in the meantime, connect with our amazing, amazing speakers on LinkedIn. Thank you so much for our distinguished speakers for sharing their invaluable insights and expertise with us today. And we’re so grateful for your guys time and knowledge.

[00:48:54] It’s been amazing. 

[00:49:02] Rachel Moore: Thanks again to Greg DeShields, Lauren Olerich, Christine Renaud, Nicola Kastner, Adam Parry, Bob Johnston, Brandt Krueger, and Will Curran for this peek into the future for Event Experience, and thank YOU for listening. 

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