Event attendees experience an immersive theater at IMEX America 2023. Adapting to attendee expectations and creating spaces to facilitate greater belonging is one of the key themes from Encore 2023 research.
While the industry is anticipating growth this year, it’s the time of year to take pause and evaluate the path ahead.
What’s top of mind for many is the pulse of our group customers’ mindset. What challenges do they face to justify meetings delivering impactful outcomes for their business? How can hospitality partners continue to deliver service excellence with increasing attendee expectations for wow factors and luxury experiences?
The Group Customer Pulse
The preliminary results from the Q4 2023 Encore Planner Pulse survey show that almost half of meeting professionals are increasing budgets next year and 35% expect to remain flat. This is a similar outlook to what we heard in early 2023 and illustrates a baseline understanding that the cost of doing business has increased and therefore budgets must increase.
When asked if forced to cut budgets, top areas included décor, entertainment, and off-site excursions. As a former hotelier and proud alumna of the Hilton Hotels organization, that gives me a sense of relief that our group customers feel the value that the hotel, food & beverage, and event technology experiences deliver to the success of their event.
But here’s where we still have our work cut out for us: When asked what areas they are most challenged by their stakeholders to defend their spend, both event technology and food & beverage rank in the top five areas of concern.
Our takeaway is that the path to continued growth will require us to innovate and effectively communicate the value of the total event experience to an organization, with event technology and food and beverage as priority components.
Insights For the Future
In 2023, Encore embarked on a journey with a leading research firm to conduct qualitative research across business leaders and influencers around the globe as well as in-depth quantitative research among event professionals. What we’ve learned: the shifting cultural values of our time that we’ve all felt, seen, and read about in the news over the last two years are quickly actualizing.
That shifting culture should impact how we serve our teams and our customers in 2024 and beyond.
Insight #1: There’s increased interest in the individual, societal, organizational, and cultural impact of events.
Reasons to believe:
- 74% of global adults believe businesses have a responsibility to make society fairer
- 39% report that ‘being memorable’ is the second most important thing in events
Business implication: There’s opportunity to cater to the value system of the attendees by innovating aspects of sustainability and DEIB throughout the event technology experience to incrementally deliver a “return on emotion” that makes events more memorable. Delivering ROI and ROE arms our customers with more data to support their business case for meetings.
Insight #2: Emerging tools for AR, AI and virtual experiences will require not just an elevated experience, but one that is measurable as we begin to see more adoption, human connection remains a top value.
Reasons to believe:
- 32% of global adults believe “connecting with others” is a top 3 priority for events, behind “being memorable”
- 69% believe “humanness”—seeking to connect with real people—is an extremely or very important personal value
Business implication: While the value system that in-person, real-life connection is paramount, it will inevitably need supplementation from technology to deliver the wow factor, personalization and immersive qualities that have taken hold in the zeitgeist. Innovations in event technology and production are a vital part of total revenue growth and the customer experience.
Insight #3: A sense of belonging is non-negotiable at events.
Reason to believe:
- 52% of global adults believe belonging is an extremely or very important personal value
Business implication: We should evaluate how we are training our teams to continue to elevate personalized, empathetic service and exceed customer expectations in every facet of the event experience. Encore has taken a page from our esteemed hospitality partners and spent the last year entrenched in training for customer experience with unmistakable improvements, most notably marked by being named as the Official Event Solutions Partner to Forbes Travel Guide. In 2024, we see the opportunity for all organizations, including ours, to elevate CX through the marriage of smart internal technology and strong cultures of belonging that will make our teams’ workdays more effective, fulfilling, and connected to our greater purpose to serve our customers and our communities.
Renee MacDonald will be appearing on the panel ADAPTING TO WORKFORCE CHALLENGES WITH INNOVATIVE STRATEGIES on December 12 at 12:10 pm on the INSPIRE stage at the ILHA INSPIRE luxury hospitality conference taking place at the Eden Roc Miami Beach.
About the author
Vice President, Strategic and Venue Partnership Development
Renee MacDonald was named Encore’s Vice President, Strategic and Venue Partnership Development in June 2022. Her primary focus is working alongside hospitality ownership groups, management companies, major hotel chains and independent brands to develop portfolio performance strategies. With a career deeply rooted in the hotel and resort industry, Renee’s extensive experience in operations, sales, revenue optimization, and expertise in event management has enabled her to develop relationships that provide value and align as a strategic advisor.
Prior to joining Encore, Renee served as Hilton’s Senior Director and acting Vice President of Events, fully accountable for the sales strategy and execution of the event and catering division for full-service and luxury managed hotels in Canada, the United States, Caribbean, and Latin America. Her 20-year tenure at some of the most notable hotels in the Americas includes senior leadership roles representing signature brands for Hilton and Starwood Hotels and Resorts.
Throughout her career, Renee has been an active member in multiple industry associations such as AHLA, Forward, Women Leading Travel and Tourism, IACC, PCMA, MPI, and NACE. As a former 5-year Board of Director member serving as Vice President and Treasurer for the Orlando Chapter of NACE (National Association of Catering Executives), she was recognized as the “Caterer Member of the Year” for her commitment and dedication. Named “Director of Events and Catering of the Year” for Hilton hotels, combined with her passion to mentor others, contributed to her nomination for “Women Who Mean Business” by the Orlando Business Journal. In addition, she is a Certified Sommelier and has earned her Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) credential, which is recognized globally as the badge of excellence in the events industry by the Events Industry Council (EIC).
A longtime resident of St. Cloud, Florida, Renee enjoys spending quality time making lasting memories with her family and supporting her local community! An avid traveler, she loves exploring the globe to learn about other cultures, discover the natural Wonders of the World, and recharge by escaping on action-packed adventurous vacations.