AAE's 2023 Speaking Industry Benchmark Report

In January of this year, we surveyed over 500 event organizers and keynote speakers to create our 2023 Speaking Industry Benchmark Report, released on April 4th. In this year’s report, we asked some additional questions that reflect both the outside forces impacting the event industry while digging in deeper into what it takes to provide the highest quality events possible.

There were a handful of key takeaways from this year’s findings, and I was honored to present them at the MeetingsNet track during The Special Event in Orlando last month. Here are a few details that I mentioned.

1. We’re planning more events with less budget: Event organizers are planning approximately 26% more events than they did in 2022, further solidifying the return of the event industry following the pandemic. However, budgets, especially when it comes to booking speakers, may be more tight in 2023, largely due to economic factors. In the survey, 81% of event professionals said they are concerned about the impact of the economy on events this year, and 75% said this concern impacts decisions around event format. We expect event organizers to be more selective when booking speakers, generally prioritizing value and content over spending more for name recognition.

2. Hot topics in 2023: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion remain top of mind for event organizers when planning events in 2023, which was the top answer to this year’s survey along with the longstanding popular topics of Leadership and Motivation. Mental Health and Mindset topics came in 3rd place, which isn’t surprising considering the events of the past three years. One notable topic that’s on the rise is Corporate Culture,  we suspect in response to the impact of the Great Resignation in 2022 and large-scale layoffs in the technology sector in early 2023.

3. Booking timelines are longer: We are seeing extended speaker booking timelines, approaching pre-pandemic spans, for both in-person and virtual events. For in-person events, nearly half of event organizers surveyed start looking for speakers 6+ months in advance of an event. For virtual events, 62% of respondents said they start looking for speakers 2 – 6 months ahead of an event. In our 2022 report, we found that 62% of respondents looked for virtual event speakers within 2 months of an event, showing a shift towards being more selective and thoughtful about choosing virtual event speakers.

4. Measuring success is changing. In 2023, over 87% of event organizers are measuring event success through attendance metrics. Attendance matters more than engagement metrics in 2023, which is a shift from our 2022 data and likely in part due to the resurgence of in-person events being planned this year. As budgets get stretched, attendees are being much more selective in choosing which events to attend. We believe this is largely due to travel budgets also being strained, while simultaneously reflecting a shift in mindset around what activities are the most valuable to participate in with a limited amount of time to do so.

5. Event communities matter. Whether creating meaningful networking opportunities, staying in touch with attendees through newsletters, or giving access to exclusive content only available by attending an event, event organizers are leveraging many different methods to build community long after an event concludes. 

We are excited to share this predictive data with all of you, and we invite you to download this year’s Speaking Industry Benchmark Report. Let’s make 2023 a great year for our industry together.