We just returned from the IMEX 2022 event in Las Vegas. If you’re unfamiliar with IMEX, it’s one of the largest conferences in the meetings industry. This year, the show attracted over 12,000 attendees — a 45 percent increase compared to last year. After spending the week at IMEX and talking with meeting professionals, it’s clear to us that business in the meetings industry is back and booming!
Attending IMEX helps us learn things about the meetings industry that we use to guide our own ship and that we use to help you, our speaker friends.
We took some notes on a few things we learned that we think you’ll find helpful in making intentional plans for growing your speaking business in 2023. Hot off the press, In no particular order, here they are:
In-Person Meetings & Attendee Numbers Are Back to Pre-Pandemic Levels.
In-person meetings and events came back in 2022 faster and at a higher level than predicted. Top meetings industry experts at IMEX believe they will continue to outpace expectations in 2023. There are some challenges: global inflation and hiring issues are two of the top issues planners must contend with in 2023. But the overall outlook for the industry is optimistic.
Smart speakers see today’s market as a time of change, challenge, and opportunity. The change back to in-person meetings will have some of the same turbulence we experienced moving away from in-person meetings 2 years ago. Stay flexible as you work with meeting professionals, let them know you can handle changes that may come up, and look for ways to anticipate their needs.
Inflation is a challenge across all meetings.
From groceries to gas, prices for all the daily essentials are on the rise. It’s difficult for anyone to manage a budget these days, especially so for meeting professionals. While Covid is no longer the driving factor, challenges such as soaring sourcing and travel costs, inflation, supply chain issues, staffing, increased meeting requirements, and more are forcing planning teams to keep a close eye on containing costs. They must be creative to deliver successful meetings and events and high ROI for all stakeholders.
Smart speakers will be prepared to get creative with the tight event budgets and comfortable with the uncertain economic landscape. Move quickly on contracts, be creative with the buyer, and create cost-saving options for planners to incentivize them to book you if they confirm it 6, 12, or 18 months out.
Is virtual and hybrid still a thing?
Virtual fatigue is real. According to American Express Meetings & Events, attendees really do want to see each other in person. Organizations want their customers and employees to meet in person, too. Hybrid is currently a fallback rather than the first option. 63% predict attendee numbers will return to 2019 levels in the next one to two years. Although they predict decreases in the number of virtual and hybrid meetings, overall attendance is expected to increase at every type of meeting.
Smart speakers level up their speaking business with the current market, whether live, virtual, or hybrid, finding new ways to maximize attendee engagement. Although we are moving back to in-person events, don’t let your virtual skills get rusty: there will still be virtual and hybrid events for some time to come. Our own prediction: those are never going away altogether.
What are the Hot meetings industry topics being discussed at IMEX?
The industry is getting serious about sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), wellness, partnerships, and technology. For example, in an American Express Meetings & Events survey poll conducted this month, 87% of survey respondents say their organizations or clients actively strive to incorporate DE&I into their meetings and events. Planners said the number one way to make this happen was using minority-owned suppliers (speakers).
Smart speakers are up-to-date on the topics important to meeting professionals. Research and learn more about those topics and incorporate them into your pitch and presentation as appropriate.
Smaller, internal, and closer-to-home meetings are on the rise.
Smaller internal meetings, particularly in-person internal meetings, continue to be a higher priority than they were pre-pandemic, as organizations see the value of bringing their employees together face-to-face as a way to improve productivity, create shared culture, and reduce turnover. Planners are scheduling these closer to home and shrinking the program by a day or two to get an ROI.
Smart speakers will market themselves to local meeting planners, offering them savings when they book you without travel expenses. Be creative and customize your presentations for smaller and internal groups, targeting improving productivity and creating corporate culture.
Meetings Drive Corporate Culture.
You should expect to see a trend with corporations in 2023 of bringing staff together for training and team building, it’s no longer optional with a dispersed workforce. Companies are now recognizing the vital role in-person meetings play in strengthening culture, onboarding, and staff, increasing employee engagement, and communicating corporate values and goals.
Smart speakers will offer presentations for smaller meetings with team-building elements to help organizations increase their employee engagement. Don’t forget that encouraging planners to be clear and specific about what their goals are for their meetings can help you win the job and help them feel confident that they’re getting the best return for their money.
So there it is — your steaming fresh news of the meetings industry. Dave and I hope this information helps you have a successful 2022-23!