That was the year that was….

Leafing through the ibtm blog archives from the past 12 months, 2023 will no doubt primarily be remembered for the morale-boosting Coronation. While advancements in accessible event design and the improved recovery of the global incentive market will rightly see the MICE industry enter the new year with renewed optimism.

It was also a breakthrough year for Generative AI, a subject that dominated industry media coverage and technology that will no doubt continue to infiltrate our workplace lives in the year ahead. 

The rise of Gen AI

According to a global survey, published by McKinsey, almost a third of companies were already using ‘Gen AI’ tools such as ChatGPT in at least one business function by mid-way through the year.

Moreover, nearly 25% of C-suite executives said they were personally using ‘Gen AI’ for work and 40% stated that their organisations would increase investment in AI overall because of advances in these AI-powered language models.

In March 2023, I wrote about the launch of one particular AI-powered language model, GPT-4 (the next iteration of ChatGPT) from OpenAI, the Artificial Intelligence Lab backed by Microsoft.

Later in the year, I then offered 'Seven ‘Gen AI’ tools to experiment with today'.

The excitement around the launch of GPT-4 centred on its evolved ability to interpret both text and image inputs.

The business potential of ‘Gen AI’ remains huge and includes everything from understanding large swathes of complex charts and infographics to transcribing audio and developing the code for a fully functioning website from a simple design sketch.

In May 2023, Cvent launched its AI Writing Assistant, leveraging the power of ‘Gen AI’ to streamline the content creation process.

Event planners and marketers can use the AI Writing Assistant, embedded within the Cvent platform, to create campaign emails, website copy, session descriptions, and RFPs for sourcing venues in writing styles that include formal, enthusiastic, playful and concise.

The dedicated AI Writing Assistant for event planners has expanded Cvent’s growing suite of AI-powered products, which had previously included session and attendee recommendations. It also signifies Cvent’s big bet for 2024 that as more language models launch and ‘Gen AI’ usage becomes commonplace, it will evolve as a key part of the event planner’s toolkit. 

Social Threads

One digital tool that has been considerably slower to take off since its inception in July 2023 is the social network, Threads.

I wrote about the potential of Threads becoming the next big thing for event marketers three days after the Meta-owned rival to X (formerly Twitter) went live.

After saying that the emergence of Threads was extremely well-timed due to the toxicity that was engulfing Elon Musk’s social network, I argued that in its launch form, Threads would struggle to live up to its surrounding hype for the long term.

Since then, Threads’ growth has slowed but the channel has also added new features including a web version of the app, the ability to repost someone else’s post and a Your Likes tab, which lets you see which posts you’ve liked.

However, without hashtags and the ability to search for specific topics or posts, marketers and planners can still only use Threads to engage an existing Instagram following rather than grow their event communities, which ultimately makes it only half as effective as it could be.  

Event design trends

In June, I reported on the future trends of meeting design as forecast by Lime Venue Portfolio’s Meeting of the Future study. Two months later, another report on future trends in event design was published by IACC.

IACC’s Meeting Room of the Future Barometer highlighted the importance of ‘experience creation’ and ‘accessibility’ in event design and venue sourcing.

Lime Venue Portfolio’s report stated that advancements in event design would include, amongst other predictions, simultaneous sign language and audio captioning, live translation technology, quiet rooms and sensory-friendly environments for neurodiverse attendees.

It was fantastic to witness some of this progressive event design already in action at IBTM World 2023 in Barcelona. During the show, I interviewed Nick Fagan, Creative Technologist at DRPG who is championing a ‘one to watch’ audio technology called Holoplot that allows speakers to present in different languages simultaneously. Nick will be my guest on New in Events, a podcast from ibtm, due out early in the new year. 

Incentive travel recovery

Finally, in 2023 we saw the continued recovery of the global incentive travel market by almost 50%, with a growth expectation of 61% in 2024, compared to 2019.

While events, exhibitions and leisure travel have all bounced back more strongly from the Covid pandemic, incentive travel’s recovery has been slower and more challenging, impacted by talent shortages, inflation, and rising travel and supply chain costs.

Over the summer, I investigated how the incentive travel sector was having to reinvent itself and produced the Incentive Travel Report 2023.

The report signals the need for companies to adapt their incentive travel schemes to ensure they remain competitive. The importance of authenticity, wellness and sustainability are highlighted, driving a new breed of incentive travel programmes, which reflect the changing expectations of the workforce.

These incentives could include opportunities that enable employees to connect with local culture, plus health-orientated excursions which counteract loneliness, stress and burnout

Since the publication of ibtm’s Incentive Travel Report 2023, the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) have released the findings of their joint annual Index survey of 2,500 incentive travel professionals, representing 19 industry verticals and 83 countries.

Interestingly, while the hard power benefits such as increased sales and market share remain the most cited reasons for using incentive travel (36%) into 2024, nearly three in five buyers reported that they’re shifting future programmes toward a greater focus on soft power benefits, such as company culture and engagement in line with my findings.

I’ll take a more detailed look at the IRF and SITE findings in the new year and I’m sure it will feature as another hot topic discussed on our much-anticipated podcast.

Until then, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my ibtm articles over the last 12 months and I look forward to bringing you more industry insights and trends in 2024.

Happy New Year Eventprofs. 

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