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2024 Government Event Outlook

2024 Government Event Outlook

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The 2020s have been a tumultuous time for the event industry. The decade started with throwback energy to the roaring twenties with ambitious plans for in-person experiences but quickly ground to a halt with pandemic lockdowns. The quick transition to virtual events for everything from the Oscars to corporate sales meetings showed that the technology to host virtual events had long been available, what was missing was the desire. Necessity was indeed the mother of invention as people got creative in producing online experiences that fed attendees’ need for connection and discovery. 

The return to in-person events in 2021 and 2022 was a slow process, with attendees and planners alike wondering what “safe” looked like. It also required a re-imagining of in-person events that would be valuable enough to leave the comforts of a home office. The use of hybrid events grew to cater to and attract as many people as possible. 2023 saw the evolution of a hybrid approach that prioritized special value for in-person attendees while capitalizing on the wider, virtual audience. 

Moving into 2024, and with public-health concerns back to pre-pandemic levels, we wanted to take a look at the state of professional events and where the re-invention and evolution required by the decade so far has left the industry. GovEvents polled our members and reviewed data from the thousands of events listed on our site and identified several key principles that will lead to event success in 2024 and beyond. 

Follow Your Audience

Knowing your audience is always key in marketing, but in today’s event landscape, there are some new specifics that should be identified. 

Place in the Government

Military professionals prefer in-person events to virtual ones. Some 84% of military respondents said they attended between one and five in-person events as compared to 57% among other public-sector professionals. This in-person attendance seems to be in place of online as 58% of military respondents say they attended just one or two online events 

Place in the Buying Cycle

It’s also important to look at where your target attendee is in the buying cycle. If an event is targeting prospects at the top of the funnel, an online event may be the most effective. People who are early in the buying cycle tend to favor online events as a resource for that early research. They’ll commit the time to attending in person once they are more educated and serious about a purchase. 

Place of Work

Understanding where your audience is working is also critical to driving event attendance. If the majority of your target attendees are working from home you may need a bigger draw to get them out of their homes. Making a hybrid plan you can activate for bad weather (whether that is rain, snow, or bitter cold) may help you attract attendees online who otherwise would have skipped the in-person event entirely.  If the agency you are targeting has a back-to-office mandate, plan events around the HQ location to make it as convenient as possible for them to attend on their in-office days. 

Hybrid Does Not Have To Be Concurrent

Event strategy should be hybrid, including a mix of virtual and in-person events to meet the needs of the audience and the topic/purpose of the event. But some events can be both. Increasingly, in-person events are being recorded for online attendees. However, we are seeing a shift from providing concurrent in-person and online experiences to a delayed online version of an event. 

Differentiating Online and In-Person Experiences

Offering a concurrent virtual and physical attendance frequently cannibalizes in-person attendance numbers. To ensure you get the desired in-person attendance, consider offering only certain sessions online (either live or after the fact). By offering online access after the event concludes, you’re still expanding the reach while maximizing the appeal of attending in-person for those who are able. 

With Zoom fatigue still being very real, taking long sessions and editing them into digestible bites may also increase consumption of online content. This also increases the number of touchpoints you have with attendees as you can reach out with multiple pieces of content days, weeks, or even months after an event wraps. 

Create a Year-Long Connection 

Utilizing the comfort people now have with online events and communities, think about extending the connection you have with attendees. As detailed above, recorded sessions can be distributed to your target audience long after the single event has ended, but you should also consider offering some online options prior to your event.  

An online event series leading up to an in-person event can introduce speakers or concepts, building excitement and anticipation for the event. An interactive online event or a community portal can provide a platform for attendees to meet virtually before getting onsite. 

If you typically have one big national in-person event, consider adding smaller regional events in person to allow people to meet up between the annual gatherings. At these events people can start or continue conversations that happen at large gatherings. With these more frequent, localized events, your brand can stay top-of-mind all year. 

Focus on Driving Attendance

Free in-person events typically saw about a 50% attendance rate (about half who registered showed up) before the pandemic. Today, that number is closer to 30-40%. It’s harder than ever to get people to a location, so special effort must be made to ensure day-of attendance. Clearly communicate the value of the event. What will people gain from attending? What will they see or hear at the event that they will not get anywhere else?

Registration for virtual events can be incredibly high, but the conversion to attendees can be as low as 15%. One reason is that if people know they will get a recording just by registering they lose motivation to attend. They register with a plan to consume the content on their own schedule. If you are looking for online attendance (not just registrants) do not mention recording availability prior to the event but follow up with the information post-event. 

Even when people do attend online events, they may not be engaged. For example, people may report attending 10 or more online events a year, but how many of those are playing as background to the work day? Online events are convenient, but they are also easier to disengage from. Make online events interactive to increase the chance that attendees will take action post-event.

Connect with Hot Topics in Government

Whether online or in person, the content is what drives event interest. Going into 2024, two topics seem to be dominating the government event landscape:

  • Cybersecurity – Out of the 6,900 events posted on GovEvents in 2023, 1,100 were focused on cybersecurity
  • Artificial Intelligence – AI was the topic of 484 events on GovEvents in 2023 and interest is growing. And, 65% of those AI events took place in the last six months of 2023.

Big Data and Cloud Computing are also high-volume topics. Even if your event does not wholly address one of these topics, consider including language in your promotion that details how AI or security will be discussed as part of the event conversation. 

Event Evolution Continues

Events have evolved and adapted more over the last three years than they had over the previous three decades. GovEvents continues to keep a finger on the pulse on how events are being planned and what attendees are looking for.

To stay on top of the event industry evolution get your free GovEvents membership today.


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