Top 4 Takeaways from IMEX 2023

Takeaways from IMEX 2023

Attending IMEX is a must for event planners and industry-specific professionals who want to stay up to speed with the ever-changing meeting landscape. This was the largest IMEX to date, and was yet again, an excellent opportunity to network with other professionals in the field and to gain insights into current trends. Members of the Plannernet leadership team sat in on informative sessions, heard from inspirational speakers, and enjoyed countless opportunities to connect with Clients, Suppliers, and partners. Below, we will be highlighting the top 4 takeaways gathered from IMEX and their impact on meetings in 2024 and beyond.

  1. Budget cuts will impact meeting & event spend

Tiffany Dougherty
Tiffany DoughertySr. Director, Enterprise Solutions

One thing that stood out during the show was the impact of budget cuts on meeting and event spending. Companies are cutting costs, and this will inevitably affect event budgets, specifically for event talent sourcing. In fact, according to the 2024 Global Meetings Forecast from AMEX, ‘budget cuts’ are the 2nd largest challenge expected in 2024 among meeting planners. Only ‘increased costs’ ranked higher.

In response, meeting professionals will need to adjust their planning efforts. For example, tapping into freelance talent offers a cost-effective, and future-proof approach to navigating this challenge without sacrificing quality work and attendee experiences.

Additionally, engaging freelance meeting & event professionals local to your events to save on travel and accommodation expenses will support teams in delivering impactful events without breaking the bank.

Although budgets are being cut in some areas, meetings & events are being valued more than ever because of the human connections they facilitate. The number of events to plan isn’t likely to decrease in 2024, so, planners will need to be creative in how they get the most bang for their buck.

Key Takeaway: Budgets are getting cut, but cost containment is still a realistic outcome when leveraging freelance event talent.

2. Meeting and event labor is hard to find and teams are still short-staffed

Daniel Cercone
Daniel CerconeVP, Strategic Account Management

A major concern discussed at IMEX was the continued difficulties in finding skilled labor for events. Across the entire industry, skilled talent is hard to come by and this is a problem that shows no signs of going away with 30% of industry professionals stating they are likely to leave their role in the next 12 months, according to AMEX.

Innovative organizations are successfully combatting this challenge with a shift from a traditional event workforce strategy to a blended workforce. With budget cuts expected, attracting professionals with increased wages and incentives seems unlikely. Instead, companies are developing their full-time employee (FTE) all-stars and tapping into freelance talent when necessary. Having access to a network of trusted event professionals across the globe is a future-proof approach that ensures event teams are properly equipped to meet seasonal demand and exceed client expectations.

Key Takeaway: Talent shortages are creating employee burnout and making it difficult to meet demand. Organizations are adopting a contingent workforce to remedy the situation.

3. Meeting professionals continue to deal with short lead times

Bruce Oliver
Bruce OliverSr. Director, Business Development

According to AMEX, 27% of meeting professionals anticipate lead times to get even shorter in 2024. We’re seeing similar trends at Plannernet with 38% of requests in Q3 having lead times of less than 2 weeks. This concern was reemphasized in our conversations at IMEX. Many clients are announcing events with only a few weeks’ notice, leaving little time to prepare.

This trend is fueled by the fast-paced nature of the industry, but the main cause continues to be a delay in securing budget approvals which in turn, puts added pressure on meeting planners to solidify favorable rates with vendors and venues.

Event planners must be able to adapt quickly and improvise to deliver successful events under these circumstances. Beyond making use of technology, organizations are tackling this issue by strengthening partnerships with vendors. Specifically, contingent workforce partners that aid in centralizing freelancer utilization. Specialized Managed Service Providers like Plannernet streamline processes, increase efficiency and offer rapid talent sourcing and turnaround times. In fact, Plannernet fills 99% of requests in less than 3 business days all while maintaining incident rates under 0.5%.

With this in mind, it’s becoming clear why event teams are choosing to offload their workload to partners instead of managing the entire process in-house.

Key Takeaway: Lead times will likely get even shorter in 2024. Flexible talent will enable event teams to remain agile enough to rapidly meet demand without sacrificing attendee experiences.

4. Clients are expecting companies to do more with less and provide a more engaging attendee experience

Tiffany Dougherty
Tiffany DoughertySr. Director, Enterprise Solutions

A post-pandemic world has left attendees expecting more engaging and memorable experiences from events, but planners are equally expected to reduce costs and are now left trying to identify what areas to cut while still maintaining the overall experience, let alone improving it.

To balance these two competing demands, and create experiences that matter, some ideas discussed were:

  • Reducing the number of days/nights of events
  • Reallocating funds to incorporate virtual and augmented reality
  • Tapping into local, contingent talent to reduce overhead and travel expenses
  • Strengthening partnerships with local vendors to reduce expenses and keep sustainability top of mind
  • Transitioning away from lengthy speaker sessions and include more wellness activities

Beyond these approaches, organizations are exploring how to create a connection with their attendees year-round, maintaining the impact and engagement well after the actual event.

Key Takeaway: Expectations are higher and budgets are lower, but reallocating funds to tech, keeping things local, and offloading workloads to flexible talent will keep events impactful and cost-friendly.

Final Thoughts

Attending IMEX is always a rewarding experience for Plannernet. The top takeaways highlight how important it is for event teams to be nimble to meet client needs, adaptable to short notice requests, innovative in providing rich experiences, and budget-conscious. By taking the time to connect with peers and immerse ourselves in industry trends, we feel even more equipped to enable our clients to adapt to the latest challenges and continue to deliver impactful events for their clients and attendees.

For over 30 years, Plannernet has enabled clients to maximize the value of their events by connecting them with proven freelance event professionals across the globe. Contact us today to learn how we can support all your M&E talent needs.

Take the first step towards an optimal event talent strategy

Take the first step towards an optimal event talent strategy

Talk to a Plannernet expert today!