According to American Express’ Global Meetings and Events Forecast, the number of conferences and corporate events — like tradeshows or sales and marketing meetings — are on the rise.

Do you understand how your event compares to others like yours?

The following trends were taken from a survey of over 800 event professionals. Read on to discover what’s on their mind this year, and find out how your event stacks up.

Trend #1: Hosting more events with fewer resources

A majority of respondents (53%) expect to host even more events this year. In the face of increased competition, this trend isn’t surprising. What’s more interesting is that most conferences and corporate events will do so with the same budget and team.

Nearly 60% of respondents said their team will remain the same size, while 40% look to hire more staff in 2018. And over half of survey respondents said their budget will remain the same.

Despite flattening budgets and a static headcount, the industry shows no signs of stopping. When asked their greatest challenges in 2017, survey respondents ranked “insufficient budget” as their biggest challenge. This year, however, survey respondents listed budget woes as the least of their worries — it didn’t even make the top five.

Instead, conference and corporate event creators say their greatest challenges this year will be:

  • Reaching new attendees (89.75%)
  • Securing sponsors (89.53%)
  • Securing speakers (89.01%)
  • Reaching past attendees (88.67%)
  • Increased competition (88.37%)

Trend #2: Marketing and promotion will take the lion’s share of event budgets again

When asked what they’ll increase budget for in 2018, a majority of those surveyed (40%) said marketing and promotion. The same percentage reported that event promotion was their largest expense in 2017.

According to survey respondents, the most effective marketing and promotion tactics help them reach new attendees while keeping past ones engaged.

  • Email marketing: Compared to most promotional tools, email is the least expensive and most cost effective tool you can use. Since it costs 6-7x more to acquire new attendees than to retain past ones, emailing invites to past attendees gives you a return on investment (ROI). Want to uplevel your email strategy? Use these templates from email marketing leader Mailchimp.
  • Newsletters and content marketing: When filled with hyper-relevant content, newsletters keep previous attendees engaged and encourage them to share valuable insight from your event with their networks. That’s reach you don’t have to pay for.

Trend #3: Augmented and virtual reality go mainstream

For years, many have predicted that augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) will be the next big things for conferences and corporate events. But according to the survey respondents, AR and VR are poised for mass adoption in 2018.

Both technologies have become increasingly more affordable. In 2016, Facebook-owned Oculus offered a VR headset and controllers for $1,500. Today, customers can purchase a similar bundle from the company for $399. An AR headset from Microsoft — called a Hololens — sells for the same price, and Apple’s iPhone allows developers to create augmented experiences for its users.

How can you expect these technologies to be used at your conference or corporate event?

AR and VR are also becoming a popular choice for sponsorship activation. For example, at SWSX McDonalds used VR to transport attendees inside a Happy Meal box. Once inside, they could use virtual paint brushes, balloons, and lasers to decorate the walls. After they finished, attendees could share their creations on social media — giving McDonalds exposure to their networks.

At another event, commercial van manufacturer FCA used AR to show off a new line of vans — with only one van physically present. Attendees could customize the van with tablets to test different color schemes. AR let the company showcase all of their models without the need for multiple show cars.

Read the complete report

Whether you’re hosting a healthcare conference or a product launch in multiple cities, one step in the wrong direction can hurt your bottom line — and your brand. Don’t let the future sneak up on you. Read The State of Conferences and Corporate Events in 2018: Challenges and Trends to learn how industry experts will pave the way for success in the coming year.

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