Keeping up with the trends

Catie Owen spoke to three industry leaders about the upcoming trends they expect for 2024:


The beginning of a new year heralds the start of new resolutions, and predictions for the months ahead. To get a sense of the trends we might see in 2024, Matt Denton, president of dmg events; Peter Hall, president, Middle East, Türkiye, India and Africa, Informa Markets; and Hugh Jones, CEO, RX, have weighed in.

Staying green

Eighty percent of Informa’s customers indicated that sustainability is a top priority, according to Hall, who notes that the organisation is seeing a correlation in the increase of the sustainability measures in their events and customer satisfaction. For that reason, sustainability claims the top spot of Informa’s agenda for 2024. As it stands, Informa goes in to 2024 with more than 80% of its events powered by renewable electricity.

The compay also plans to remain a keen member of the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative, launched at COP26 in 2021, and will keep marching on with its ‘Better Stands’ exhibition stand recycling pilot.

Jones agrees that sustainability will take centre stage in 2024, saying: The push for sustainability is no longer confined to a few sectors; it’s a cross-industry imperative.

Jones explains RX’s sustainability plan going into 2024: “We are working with our sectors across the business to help them with their individual sustainability missions and we have already seen phenomenal changes to the way our venues, events, teams, visitors and exhibitors are working.”

Denton makes a salient point that organisers might come up against – the priorities of clients: “Sustainability is something ingrained into all of us now and it obviously has a growing influence on our activities, but for our clients the importance varies from region to region and market to market. The successful organiser appreciates all these criteria and balances them all to deliver the best possible event for a specific market.”

Keeping an eye on inflation

Following the pandemic, inflation has been a concern for workers and businesses alike internationally. Jones acknowledges this, but encouragingly caveats that declining inflation will result in less impact on the industry than in the last two years. “As central banks gain confidence in managing inflation, interest rates are expected to decrease,” he explains. “While they may not return to post-2008 financial crash levels, we feel that the reduction will be sufficient to boost GDP growth, business activity, and consumer spending. This positive economic shift bodes well for our customers and the exhibitions industry.”

For Jones, inflation is one of several challenges that the exhibitions industry has had to tackle over the last few years – challenges which have seen the industry exhibit opportunity and growth despite them. He explains: “As CEO of RX, I’ve witnessed the industry facing challenges head-on, demonstrating its adaptability and strength. While inflation remains a factor, its impact on the events industry’s pricing and revenue is outweighed by the positive prospects of enhancing customer value at and around our events.”

Denton notes that inflation was a particularly hot topic in 2023 in the Middle East, where he is based, while it was also topical internationally. As a concern, it seems to be ebbing to the wayside, with conversations around it in the Middle East reducing because of a booming market. However, the wider conversation on inflation might change in 2024: “Salary inflation in certain markets – that’s a different story!” he says.

AI marches on

For Denton, Hall, and Jones, the star of AI will continue to rise in 2024. Denton explains that, like many organisers, AI is a tool that dmg events is only just beginning to explore and plans to keep discovering the potential of in 2024: “Like all major organisers we have teams working on it and it is encouraging to see organisers collaborating and sharing successes and failures.”

Jones agrees that AI will remain important for the exhibition industry, explaining that it will improve efficiency and the accuracy of decision making – improving the event experience for everyone. “I believe that generative AI will enhance our work practices and offerings to our customers and our people. There are a lot of ways AI will unlock value for our industry.” An example of this would be personalised experiences.

Jones explains that Informa Markets uses AI to provide real-time recommendations for networking to buyers and sellers based on their behaviour at the show.

Hall dives further into the industry’s adoption of AI and machine learning, describing how the technology has highlighted the irreplicable value of live events for many event professionals.

Hall notes: “We view technologies such as generative AI and machine learning as huge opportunities for our events, brands, and colleagues. Our adoption of AI is focused on offering customers more targeted connections… customers are seeking out real, live experiences and investing in channels that deliver authenticity and results more and more.”

Hall adds that, into 2024, Informa plans to continue analysing its large volumes of customer feedback to see how they can best harness these technologies to provide value to their customers.

Challenges both old and new

Denton, Hall, and Jones are expecting to see both familiar and new challenges this year, often still due to pandemic fallout.

Jones highlights the impact of ESG conflicts, carbon footprints, and smaller business travel spends on the industry possibly resulting in fewer show visitors but higher quality connections. Jones says: “Seeing trade show aisles bursting with visitors is no longer a good barometer of a successful trade show. Nor should it be judged on how many square metres an exhibitor takes. The barometer should be how much business is done.”

The conversation around talent acquisition and retention is set to continue: “Our industry has been great at keeping employees,” explains Jones. For RX, part of this retention is bolstered by its global DEI&B policy, which sees the company invest in programmes and initiatives across its international brand – “As we change going into 2024, so must our behaviours change – we want and need our employees to be nimble, creative, and brave and keep taking the big bets!”

Denton echoes that talent will be a pivotal conversation for 2024, highlighting staffing and skills in particular: “I’m not sure how long we can carry on referencing the pandemic, but it did drive a lot of skilled and experienced staff away from the industry.” Denton additionlly says that the industry has done more than just bounce back, it is booming, so the new challenge is backfilling the open positions while also hiring more roles. More talent acquisition means more effort needs to be made to retain them, so a focus on nurturing new and upcoming talent is vital.