Today, associations should not limit themselves to organising member meetings and other events in the conventional way. Instead, they should actively seek innovative and dynamic ways to further engage their members and offer them added value through inclusion, fun and much more. Here are 5 event trends for 2024: 

01 DEI at all stages

In 2024, associations will prioritise DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) efforts. To effectively implement these principles throughout event logistics, associations should include DEI-oriented fields in the event website and registration form, promoting inclusivity through, for instance, the use of inclusive pronouns such as she/her, he/him, they/them. Additionally, the event programme should be carefully designed to showcase diversity and incorporate content that promotes the principles of DEI. Achieving gender balance among speakers – and attendees – is also crucial. Moreover, event accessibility should be prioritised, considering factors such as budgetary or scheduling constraints that may hinder participation.  

To ensure and measure success, associations should set specific and achievable DEI goals, track progress, collect data through surveys and discuss it with their teams.  

02 Gamification at events.

The popularity of participant interaction at events, regardless of the format, whether it be in-person, online, or hybrid, will continue to grow. Online trivia, polls, leaderboards and quizzes will feature prominently, adding a touch of entertainment and fun to events. 

Introducing the possibility of winning prizes such as access to premium content or free membership can also increase the enthusiasm to participate. The key is to actively encourage members to engage in the association’s activities.  

Moreover, it is important to create networking opportunities that are more engaging and connect event attendees beyond just gathering them in a meeting room for drinks. If you are creating an app dedicated to your event, gamifying the networking experience between members can be highly beneficial. Imagine, for instance, a virtual room for attendees where they have their own avatar and the ability to interact and chat with others using their smartphones, whether they are physically present or not. 

03 Beyond sustainability.

In the context of event planning, the focus on sustainability has been at the forefront in recent years. In 2024, this trend will increase. Event organisers will focus on measuring and reporting the impact of their sustainability efforts, for example by tracking the carbon footprint of their events. In particular, the focus will be on aspects such as food waste, energy consumption, the use of sustainable and local materials, eco-friendly venues, or the distance travelled by attendees. 

Associations should also invest in research, staff training and certification in sustainable meeting planning. 

Here are some ideas for organising a sustainable event: select venues that are easy to access that also have LED lighting, incentivise public transportation, reduce the number of printed materials (e.g., by using QR codes or an event app), minimise single-use products, look for caterers that offer farm-to-table solutions and more vegan and veggie options. 

04 Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, associations were forced to turn to a digital offering of events. Although in-person meetings are slowly getting back to their pre-pandemic levels, hybrid and virtual events have become a permanent fixture of the association world, complementing (not replacing) in-person gatherings. 

Virtual events offer increased flexibility and convenience for members and event organisers, and provide a cost-effective and sustainable option: there is no need to secure a meeting venue or order catering, there are no travel costs for participants, etc. Additionally, virtual events can help reach a larger audience, as participation is not limited by travel logistic hassles or budgetary constraints. 

Hybrid events are gaining more and more popularity as they offer the best of both worlds: they provide the opportunity for face-to-face interactions, while incorporating the flexibility of online events (as people who would otherwise not be able to attend in-person can join virtually). 

When planning an event, association executives should consider: 

  • Members’ needs and expectations for engagement: can the meeting be fully held online, or is some face-to-face time required as well? Will different types of participants be able to interact with each-other? (i.e. how to bridge the connection between online and in-person audiences). 
  • Best format for the content of the event: will the topic allow for an appropriate digital engagement of participants? Or is it best discussed in-person? 
  • Best format for the duration of the event: shorter meetings are a good fit for online meetings, whereas half-day or longer events might benefit from a hybrid option. 
  • Available technology: associations need to have the right technology in place to make sure the event runs smoothly. Is the chosen event platform easy to access and operate, and does it allow the speakers and audience to interact with each other? What tools are available (i.e., video, polling, etc.)? 

05Year-round event cycle.

Although the Annual General Meeting is still the flagship event of the year, associations are expanding their offering and moving towards a year-round event cycle, which allows them to keep members engaged and to respond to an increasing demand for interaction. 

Thanks to the rise of virtual and hybrid events, associations are diversifying the types of events they can organise, as well as their frequency. However, quality will always trump quantity, so event organisers need to be conscious of content and scheduling events that will create value for their members. This added value can for instance be provided via webinars or workshops where members can gain exclusive access to industry insights and data, can have an informal conversation with inspirational speakers, or participate in professional development activities (i.e., accreditation or certifications, trainings, etc.). 

In a nutshell, association events will continue to scale up and develop in 2024, to provide an enhanced experience for participants in terms of format, content, venue, etc. As we look to the future, however, in-person events will also need to be mindful of their legacy and impact on the host community, attendees and destination, whether it be educational, societal or economic.