We all know business events can be big business around the globe, but how do you quantify the outcomes of these encounters, going beyond direct spending?

The Events Industry Council (EIC) and Oxford Economics recently released findings from its one-of-a-kind 2023 Global Economic Significance of Business Events study, measuring the full scope and economic significance of the $1.6 trillion global business events industry. For the first-time, the EIC and Oxford Economics measured the critical role business events serve in areas like knowledge sharing, innovation and employee engagement — critical impacts that go well beyond direct event spending.

Oxford Economics analyzed the economic significance of business events during 2019 to establish the full scope and economic impacts of the sector before the COVID-19 pandemic, with the following key findings:

  • Total participants: 1.6 billion
  • Direct spending: $1.2 trillion
  • Total business sales: $2.8 trillion
  • Total jobs: 27.5 million
  • Contribution to the global gross domestic product (GDP): $1.6 trillion

According to the EIC and Oxford, the research analysis in this study spanning 50 countries includes the important, and often overlooked, “catalytic” effects or wide-reaching benefits of business events hosted within destinations. A 2022 global survey of over 1,600 meeting professionals, exhibitors and venues reveals relationship building, worker collaboration and business development are the most difficult outcomes to replace without meetings and events.

The companies say the survey also found:

  • Event organizers rank relationship management, awareness and new customers as the most important ways they measure the catalytic impacts of business events.
  • About 67% of respondents view building relationships through face-to-face interaction as most difficult to replace.
  • As much as 22% of new customers are generated through in-person events.
  • The reduction of business events due to COVID-19 led to a significant loss of innovation, with 65% reporting a reduction in research and development prioritization.
  • Organizers believe an average of 44% of revenues would be lost without hosting in-person events.

“Business events is a $1.6 trillion industry, with a GDP larger than many global economies. The economic significance of the global business events industry is immense and so are its broader impacts,” agrees Amy Calvert, Events Industry Council CEO. “Events are a catalyst for meaningful change. Industry sectors, organizations and individuals all gain in ways that are fundamental to advancement, innovation and adaptation to a changing world. The way we understand, measure and communicate the importance of business events is vital to showcasing its overall value.”

The Value Proposition of Events Is Evolving

The 2023 Global Economic Significance of Business Events study also illuminates how the value proposition of events is evolving. Event organizers can anticipate that building culture and engagement, supporting environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) objectives, advancing the business of the organization and knowledge sharing will be higher priorities in the future.

According to the EIC and Oxford, the study also found:

  • Business events will be increasingly important in building culture and engagement (41%), and will be used more to advance the growth of individual employees (36%).
  • Over time, many events are anticipated to adopt hybrid formats, as 40% of respondents suggest.
  • While the size of business meetings or events is expected to decline in the short term (48% of respondents), only 10% agree this will be a long-term shift.

“Our study supports a better understanding of both the economic significance and larger impacts of in-person event experiences, looking forward from COVID-19 disruptions,” adds Calvert. “Our comprehensive research and global events barometer forecasting model with Oxford Economics reveals the industry’s substantial value drivers. We know business events offer irreplaceable benefits like knowledge sharing, research collaboration and human capital development. These findings not only help industry professionals make more informed and effective decisions, but also deepen our relevance and connection with global society.”