Conference News: What to expect in B2B in 2023

Dan Keene, Director at Wonder discusses what’s next for B2B experiences with Conference News. Dan shares insights from ‘The Business of Listening’ - our latest report which saw Wonder interview 22 brand-side, director-level marketers to understand how they found 2022 and, crucially, how others can navigate the challenges of the year to come.

  • As businesses adjust to a resettled reality, what are the critical issues keeping leaders awake at night as we head into 2023? After speaking with marketers from 22 different blue-chip businesses, we uncovered some key trends that will impact business experiences and conferences this year.

  • Audiences are more sensitive than ever to the world outside of an event and the influences that shape it. In a climate of cutbacks and crisis, the audience are more likely to question an experience that might be considered decadent, tasteless or tone-deaf. Audiences want to feel connected with one another - like they’re a part of something bigger than just a brand moment. They want to feel like their wellbeing and wider societal good matter to a brand or business.

    Brands need to be putting people at the heart of purpose. By embracing what we call, the philosophy of ‘whole-self’ design, brands can ensure authentic engagement with the people that matter to businesses, in a way that matters to them.

    As a part of this, demonstrating a clear understanding of the cultural context for audiences allows for more personal connections and more meaningful experiences. It doesn’t mean the brand shouldn’t stand for something, but brand purpose as a tool to engage risks being both divisive and disingenuous.

  • Time has always been a sacrosanct asset for c-suites, but as the walls between work and life evaporate, so do some of the preconceived notions of how to spend it in a professional context. One of the impacts of lockdown living has been an unavoidable redressing of the ‘work vs life’ balancing act, with many people recognising exactly what they’ve been missing.

    It is important to target audience insights, demonstrating you know what they need, as opposed to what they don’t. This creates a more powerful bond because it’s driven by empathy rather than assumption.

    We need to ensure the demands on time aren’t unrealistic, and that experiences fit modern audiences’ less linear existences - whether that means on-demand elements or smaller, more bespoke event offerings. Ultimately, we need to let attendees ‘carpe diem’ with minimal guilt or compromise.

  • There’s no escaping the fact that marketing budgets are being reduced, even cut entirely, across the board, with events being particularly affected. Of the brands we spoke to, 40% claimed their biggest challenge going into 2023 would be budget reductions. Whilst agencies tend to be solution-oriented, given the climate of inflation and spiralling supplier costs, it’s vital they feel able to speak frankly and manage any impossible expectations where budgets are concerned.

    For brands, a clear and honest two-way dialogue is vital. They need to pinpoint clear objectives of the activity, the target audience and decide what elements are non-negotiables. Understanding this will help to tinker, tailor and focus an execution plan based on the best use of the available budget, challenge where relevant and push back where necessary.

  • Businesses worldwide have been shaken, ground up, by the sheer number of employees at all levels that have actively moved from great reappraisal to great resignation.

    Engaging, involving and empowering the people that really matter is essential for productivity, retention and building a positive company culture. We need experiences and communications that demonstrate an understanding of this evolved value exchange and a willingness to build a culture around it. It’s about considering fresh ways to empower and engage younger colleagues whilst maintaining enthusiasm and connection with the older generation of employees.

    The conversations we had with brands demonstrate that 2023 will bring its own set of challenges and opportunities - and that we, as an industry, need to be prepared to face them head on.

    So, as we navigate whatever comes next, let’s make it our business to listen more and be open to fresh, creative solutions that keep us collectively moving forward.