Report: More Meeting Execs Experimenting With Tech

Leaders say they’ll invest more in more data analysis and attendee-tracking tools, according to a new Community Brands survey.

Associations are looking to technology to boost attendance and engagement around their post-pandemic events according to a new survey, though there’s little consensus around which tech tools matter most.

The 2023 Event Trends Study: Advancing the Next Generation of Events, released by the software firm Community Brands in May, is based on a survey of more than 500 event professionals in the nonprofit, government, and association fields. Respondents were optimistic overall, with more than half saying they expected more in-person events and more attendees in the next 12 months. Nearly half (48 percent) also say that they plan to increase their investment in meeting-related technology.

The range of tech investments they say they’ll invest in is wide. Between 35 and 45 percent of respondents said they intend to spend more on tech related to registration, data analysis, event apps, session tracking, and more. Data analysis was the most common choice among planners—which makes sense, saysTirrah Switzer, senior director of product marketing at Community Brands.

Survey respondents who identify as early adopters tend to report more success with their meetings strategy.

“Everyone is interested in being able to make more data-driven decisions, but a big piece of that is wanting to be better about data collection,” she said. “Why are we collecting this data, what do we want it to tell us, and how can we use it to make our event better?”

One piece of technology that may have gotten short shrift in the survey is generative AI, which has attracted more interest in the time since the survey was conducted in February and March 2023. Since then, Switzer said, “We’ve heard more about folks using AI to help alleviate some of their planning processes, like using ChatGPT to come up with the first draft of a social media post or marketing strategy for an event.”

The variety of tools that event planners are using doesn’t necessarily suggest confusion, Switzer notes. “Organizations we talk to that have been really successful are ones that are doing omnichannel marketing,” she said. “They’re using their mobile app prior to and throughout the event, they’re using pay-per-click ads and digital ads, they’re reusing content, taking session recordings and knocking them down into 5- or 10-minute micro-learning sessions.”

One common thread, regardless of the particular tools used, is that survey respondents who identify as early adopters tend to report more success with their meetings strategy. Those organizations reported higher-than-average numbers of attendees, in-person events, and operating budgets. They are also more likely to report anticipated growth in those areas, and are more likely to invest more in event technology. (One interesting distinction: 40 percent of early adopters say digital ads are a top event-marketing channel, compared to just 28 percent of “non-early adopters,” which tend to prefer more conventional marketing tools.)

Switzer said that better understanding the culture of early adopters at associations is a subject for further research. “Becoming an early adopter of technology is a very big cultural shift,” she said. “There’s a lot of change management that has to occur, and that involves the culture of your board and governance structure. I’d love to dive into the board structures of early adopters versus laggards, and see if there’s a path you can build [toward early tech adoption] when you know what those structures are.”


Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!