how to plan a conference

What are the latest trends and innovations in conference planning in 2024?


As the late great management consultant and Author Peter Drucker once said, 'The best way to predict the future is to create it.' Nowhere is this truer than in the conference planning sphere, as it's a fast-paced and dynamic field in which the bar is continuously being re-set. 

In order for event planning managers and marketing companies to achieve consistent success, they need to have their ears to the ground to understand the prevailing trends. The knowledge required to understand how to plan a conference that delivers comes with experience in the sector, and that's what we offer in this article. 

Here, we provide a brief conference planning checklist that outlines the fundamentals that will influence what transpires in the sector during 2024. So, let's avoid unnecessary hyperbole and get to the brass tacks of the matter. 

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Education through immersive technology in conference planning

There's a growing realisation of the importance of professional development and continuous learning in the business world, and its effect is also pervading conference planning. As such, educational content is expected to feature prominently in the coming year. 

As can be seen strongly in MCI’s work in Latin America, online education is in high demand, as many industries are evolving rapidly. As such, professionals are increasingly needing to upskill or reskill while adopting new and improved technologies to maintain a competitive advantage. 

Immersive technologies will continue to play a central part

As we move forward through 2024, we'll see more conferences offering cutting-edge workshops, presentations, and seminars, which give attendees many great opportunities to learn directly from thought leaders and experts in their respective fields.

Additionally, conference planning is likely to see augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality used to create super-engaging, immersive experiences for conference guests. These technologies not only provide a more memorable and interactive event than traditional methods can offer, but they also cater to a younger, more tech-savvy generation. 

This sharpened focus on educational content in event planning for conferences helps to enrich the experience and emphasises the perceived value of professional get-togethers like these. 

In-person & hybrid events are coming back strongly

Thankfully, the days of social distancing are disappearing in the rear-view mirror, and it would be true to say that the events industry is witnessing the return of in-person events in a big way. Hybrid events that offer the best of both virtual and physical events are also enjoying huge popularity thanks to their extended reach and eco-friendly aspects. 

Exhibitor experiences that drive exceptional levels of engagement are setting the standard, and by harnessing every online and in-person resource, you can cater to a diverse range of attendee preferences. 

Leveraging local knowledge and trust 

We're living in a world that's leaning towards globalisation. As such, the conference planning industry needs to move with the times. For example, the markets in South America, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia have their own cultural nuances, and that's reflected in the enhanced focus on catering for a diverse range of local audiences in order to build trust.

Inclusivity has been a focus in the design of conferences and events in the recent past, but the need for cultural resonance also ranks highly. This means carrying out a deep dive into the local language, customers and business practices of the host nation and those likely to come to the event. This might involve details like:

  • Ensuring all signage, materials, and communications are available in the local language
  • Local food and beverages that accommodate local tastes and cuisine
  • Incorporating elements of local culture in the event’s theme and activities
  • Engage with local speakers to add authenticity and relevance to your content
  • Collaborating with local businesses to support the local economy

When you include experts native to the area in your conference planning, you leverage local knowledge in a way that builds trust. It also demonstrates respect and consideration, qualities that are highly valued across every culture. 

conference planning

Data-driven personalisation

The minimum that people expect at conferences these days is that they leave feeling like they’ve had a personal connection with what’s covered. Furthermore, the only way to make everyone feel that way is to offer content that’s super-personalised and that ‘speaks’ to every attendee. This is made possible with a data-driven approach. 

Conference planning experts are able to obtain this data from the myriad of touchpoints that attendees have through the event, such as during:

  • Activity engagement
  • Event registration
  • Session attendance
  • Feedback surveys

A vast amount of data can be generated during an event, and it represents a goldmine of insight that event organisers can use to create super-customised experiences that leave a lasting impact on attendees for all the right reasons. 

It’s important to note that personalisation during conference planning extends far beyond ensuring that people are addressed by name. It also involves the curation of content that’s in line with their preferences and interests to the point that it piques their interest and gets them fully engaged with everything that’s going on around them. 

AI can adjust conference content in real time

Demonstrating how broad the applications for AI are, it can initially be used to generate conference planning ideas based on previous events, as well as adjust schedules and content in real time. This amplifies the overall value of your conference, resulting in more meaningful connections and increased attendee retention rates. 

The demand for tailored experiences is only going to grow as we move through this year, meaning that it’s something that event planners should not overlook. 

Real-time engagement and feedback

Digging a little further into how this valuable data is generated, our next trend for conference planning this year is how it's gathered. Naturally, AI again features heavily, as do live polling and instant messaging platforms for interaction, such as interactive Q&A sessions.

These popular tools empower event managers to speak directly with those at their conferences in real time for a two-way conversation that can literally shape the flow of proceedings. For instance, presentations can be guided with live polls so that the audience gets exactly what it wants to experience right there, in the moment. 

Touchless technology

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and NFC (Near Field Communication) technologies are far from being what you might call innovations, with each invented in 1973 and 2002, respectively. However, their use in conference planning is on trend for 2024, as they allow for contactless interactions and a much smoother experience for all. 

Combined with QR codes, this group of touchless technologies have come to the fore partially due to considerations that needed to be made during the pandemic. However, they bring with them a number of other advantages to conference planning inthe post-COVID world. 

  • Cost-effective and sustainable - QR codes represent a very low-cost (often free) method that can be used to make it easy and swift for attendees to gain entry to your event with a smartphone. Moreover, it negates the need to print paper tickets, greatly reducing your conference's carbon footprint. 
  • Secure and rapid event access - When you provide RFID bracelets for event-goers, you allow them to check in instantaneously, which naturally reduces or completely eliminates waiting times. This highly secure system also ensures that only invited people are allowed in. 
  • Social media engagement - Whether running an in-person or hybrid event, engagement on social media can significantly boost its reach and impact. NFC bracelets can be programmed to allow social media details to be exchanged between attendees, as well as automatically post status updates and spread awareness. 

The wide array of applications for touchless technology of this kind is so broad that it would provide enough subject matter for a new article. Interactive competitions, photo-sharing, digital handouts, and event navigation are just a few more on a long and varied list. 

Do you need expert conference planning assistance for your event? We're ready to help

No matter your reason for holding a conference, it's important that it generates interest and offers a memorable experience that encourages attendees to come back when you hold it again. As such, following these conference planning trends can transform your event from one that’s easily forgettable to an occasion that everyone is talking about. 

That’s why it’s important that you choose the right event management company, and at MCI, we have unsurpassed expertise and experience in this arena. We work with the biggest names in business and deliver the buzz that puts a brand front of mind and leads to long-term relationships with out clients. 

So, if you're interested in knowing more about our event management skills and know-how, all you need to do is spend a little time browsing around our website. There you’ll find many example of our past work and our complete range of services. 

Alternatively, if you'd like to get talking to our team right away, just get in touch with us by entering your details onto our contact page and we’ll respond as soon as we can. 

MCI Content Team