Before the start of PCMA Convening Leaders 2024 in San Diego, we surveyed event professionals who registered to attend one of the trend sessions we hosted with industry expert, Julius Solaris, to gather event trends and predictions for the year ahead.

The trends and challenges event professionals submitted were on point with Julius’ predictions, which we will continue to share in the weeks to come.

From technological advancements to attendee expectations and health and wellbeing initiatives, here are a few themes gathered from attendees and what we saw at PCMA Convening Leaders 2024:

1. Prioritizing well-being at events

The call for a holistic approach to event planning is gaining momentum, with a spotlight on attendee well-being. PCMA Convening Leader attendees had the opportunity to participate in a range of well-being activities and enjoy some healthy competition with their peers. Sponsored by various partners, attendees were able to keep their hearts pumping through a variety of daily activities ranging from a fun run/walk, a boot camp, and a meditative sound bath.

2. Shorter, more impactful sessions

Shorter sessions are being planned, allowing for increased engagement, to ensure participants can make the most of their time at events. With this in mind, our goal for the SmartSource activation at Convening Leaders was to create a way for attendees to quickly engage with Julius as he presented the 2024 emerging event trends and insights impacting our industry. These 20-minute micro sessions provided actionable information event professionals could use to enrich and enhance their events.

As Julius noted in his recent BoldPush+ newsletter about the activation at Convening Leaders, “Content at events is not dead, but I could tell by the faces of my listeners that they want it fast and to the point.” Rightly so, many attendees are pulled in multiple directions but want to walk away with meaningful content that will help them create better experiences for their event attendees.

3. AI and event networking

One of the standout observations is the increasing significance of AI in events from content creation to networking and data and analytics. Event planners surveyed see AI as a way to personalize the attendee experience and improve overall event effectiveness through its capabilities to enhance networking opportunities and deliver more relevant connections ahead of the event. San Diego Tourism sponsored a session that not only shared use cases for AI in event planning but also provided attendees the ability to test out the prompts and methods demoed.

4. AI in content generation

AI is not only influencing event experiences but is also taking center stage in content creation. The emergence of AI-driven content generation promises more efficient and personalized approaches to delivering information to event attendees for a more personalized experience. PCMA provided free access to their AI Tool, Project SPARK, to all Convening Leader attendees. This AI platform is touted as being able to significantly reduce the time and resources typically required for content creation. A write-up on Meetings Today indicates that “what used to take days, if not weeks—from transcribing videos to crafting multiple content pieces—can now be achieved in a fraction of the time. Its purpose – to allow planners to focus on what truly matters: creating memorable events.”

5. Collaboration and tech transformation

Event organizers are seeking more collaboration with suppliers and, interestingly, yearning for simpler technology solutions. The event landscape is seen as a powerful marketing tool, but there’s a call for less confusing technology to make the lives of event planners easier. Partnering with the right event technology partner to propose design/creative ideas will help lift this load off their plates and allow them to focus on the experiences they want to create.

6. Immersive experiences and smart planning

Immersive experiences are becoming a focal point in events such as virtual and augmented reality, gamification, and interactive elements. Along with this, smart planning tools are being adopted to streamline processes and drive efficiency in event planning. Organizers are working with fewer resources than before, along with a talent drain following COVID, yet are being challenged to develop and deliver high-impact events. Everyone wants that “thing” that attendees will talk about long after the event. This will present an opportunity for organizers to collaborate more with their event suppliers in the planning of the events.

7. Sustainability as a priority

It’s not all about technology, however. As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, sustainability is becoming an increasingly important factor in event planning. Event professionals expressed a strong desire for more sustainable event practices, such as reducing waste and incorporating eco-friendly options into event logistics. Fill it Forward was a partner and provided water bottles for attendees, and some water stations were available for water refills.  SmartSource provided refreshing fruit-infused water within our activation and attendees stopped by with their water bottles to keep hydrated while sitting in on one of our four trend sessions.

8. The power of in-person meetings

Contrary to the rise of digital events or hybrid event formats, there is still a strong desire for more in-person meetings among attendees surveyed. The ability to foster stronger connections and networking opportunities in a face-to-face setting is seen as a valuable aspect of events that cannot be replicated through online platforms.

As we move forward, these trends signal a transformative period for the events industry. Navigating the delicate balance between tech-driven innovations and the human touch is key to creating memorable and impactful event experiences.

Event planners, take note — the future is dynamic, and taking these trends on board could help you stay ahead in an ever-evolving landscape.

Stay tuned as we reveal the 2024 emerging trends from Julius Solaris discussed at our activation at PCMA Convening Leaders.