Driving an Event Economic Renaissance in 2023
By Jason Weddle – Chief Executive Officer at Hamilton
It may be surprising to learn that the meeting and event industry historically creates more direct jobs than many prominent sectors in manufacturing (e.g., automotive, chemicals, and food).
For example, consider the following trends from Indianapolis, where Hamilton is headquartered. In 2019 (before COVID temporarily shut down the industry), the Indianapolis region raked in an estimated three-quarter of a billion dollars from hosting 660 events. The 2022 projected revenue from event visitors is predicted to be even higher. From national sporting events and trade shows to specialty events like Gen Con, Indianapolis (and central Indiana) attracts more than 1.3 million visitors annually. Numbers are even higher in major urban areas like Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Denver, and New York. In September 2022, Trade Show Executive reported: “real triple-digit growth” in the event industry, indicating that your region is likely experiencing similar trends.
Since every dollar invested in events typically generates upwards of a 160% return on investment (ROI), the meetings and events industry represents a vital factor in Indiana’s economic development and sustainability, further reflected in many areas across the country. Positive personal experiences rank high in creating lasting engagements. The Indiana Destination Development Corporation and similar state agencies understand the importance of in-person experiences and work hard to bring people to the community to sample and experience the state’s remarkable attributes. Experiences directly link to economic development opportunities.
How can your city or region maximize a potential event's economic renaissance in 2023 and beyond? Over the past two years, Hamilton has tracked and experienced several key trends. Here are some thoughts:
Small and large in-person events will continue to be the preferred event format, delivering the highest ROI. Humans are social beings, and in-person networking makes meaningful relationships easier to form and sustain. COVID-19 was a wildcard, but advances in protocols and safety measures made a significant difference across the event industry in the U.S. and around the world.
In-person events maximize a brand’s immersive experience. Hybrid and virtual events often include elements of high-impact in-person experiences. However, an in-person event continues to hold the power of delivering maximum potential. For example, the 2022 Detroit Auto Show featured some companies exploring integrated options while retaining the importance of the in-person experience.
Strategic design with integrated technology is more critical than ever to deliver a memorable experience. High-impact creative solutions encourage engagement and deliver maximum return on attention (ROA). Remembering the shift to gamification in supporting and strengthening brands is essential. Touchless applications effectively help promote safety measures.
In-person, virtual, mobile, and hybrid events must align with the brand’s expected marketing outcomes. The preparation and execution of an event require substantial financial and company resources. An event represents a unique opportunity to engage with current and former customers, key influencers, and prospects. Today, events transcend lead generation or static displays. Digital technology plays a significant role when tracking key visitor metrics while respecting individuals’ privacy.
Plan to tap the full professional event spectrum to deliver ROI. While a well-designed and executed in-person event may produce a high return on investment, various event platforms exist that match individual needs. We at Hamilton design, produce, and execute integrated experiences – exhibits, proprietary events and conferences, corporate environments, outdoor events, mobile tours, and digital solutions – that drive meaningful connections between brands and audiences.
Develop pre-event and post-event strategy disciplines to enhance investment and impact. Contemporary strategy extends far beyond physical architecture. Knowing your audience and matching preferred media channels is critical. Pre-event engagement begins on various platforms, including social media, and should continue well past the event as a crucial follow-up. Deep pre-event research into customer needs and expectations provides a strategic edge.
As events grow and return to new levels of impact across the country, effective strategic planning and execution can help maximize company and organizational investments. Be a part of the coming event renaissance!
Jason Weddle is CEO of Hamilton, a full-service event marketing agency celebrating its 75th anniversary. For more information, please visit Hamilton-ex.com.