Outlook From the C-Suite: Experiential Marketing Agency Leaders Share Their Biggest Business Concerns

February 13, 2024

What is the current mindset of CEOs in the event industry? In part two of our series, experiential marketing agency leaders shared what their top business concerns are now and moving into 2024, and how they and their organization are addressing them. 

How does the event industry compare against other industries? In part one of our series, we shared an analysis of the KPMG 2023 CEO Outlookthe annual survey of 1,300 CEOs of the world’s largest businesses conducted by KPMG International.

Find out what CEOs from RX and Informa Markets shared with us.

Find out what CEOs from Visit Detroit and Visit Salt Lake shared with us.

Find out what CEOs from Orange County Convention Center and San Diego Convention Center Corp. shared with us.

In the coming weeks, we will share perspectives from C-level executives who represent contractors, destination marketing organizations and venues. 

David Sudjian

David Sudjian, CEO of Sparks

Biggest concern: Emerging technologies

Emerging technologies, particularly generative AI, are reshaping the corporate events sector. Our commitment to this evolution is two-fold: to seamlessly blend these tools into our daily operations, increasing efficiency and foresight, and to integrate them into our client solutions, unlocking our potential to create richer, more immersive experiences.

In a post-pandemic world, the experiential marketing industry is confronting novel challenges: rapidly shifting audience expectations, heightened demand for deeply personalized experiences and the complexities of engaging a diverse, global audience. Tools like generative AI will allow us to provide new solutions: predictive attendee engagement, efficient event logistics automation, enhanced communications and tailored content delivery, to name a few. 

With sophisticated AI-driven analytics, we will evaluate every aspect of our events, driving continuous improvement and ensuring attendee satisfaction. 

An integral part of our go-forward plan is empowering our team to maximize these advancements. Continuous training, collaboration with tech pioneers and stakeholder engagement are core to our strategy.

Adopting these technologies is not our only goal. While we are deeply committed to shaping the future of experiential marketing and redefining brand experiences, we also recognize our associated responsibilities. Central to our approach is client collaboration, emphasizing the undeniable need to harness technology from both their perspective and ours. However, ensuring ethical deployment and prioritizing cyber-security are of utmost importance. This includes implementing rigorous safeguards for client IP, robustly protecting user data and actively mitigating system biases.

As we integrate these pioneering technologies, we envision a corporate events landscape transformed by technology but still deeply rooted in the principles of human connection and genuine, authentic experiences. Through these advancements, our guiding tenet remains clear: an unwavering commitment to integrity and a relentless drive for innovation.

Jeff Stelmach

Jeffrey Stelmach, Global President, Spiro

Biggest concern: Uncertainty

The KMPG CEO Outlook study cited 2022’s No. 1 risk to growth was disruptive technology while 2023’s No. 1 risk is geopolitics and political uncertainty. From my perspective, risks posed by disruption and uncertainty are not new. In fact, they are foundational and enduring. For leaders to lead effectively, we must accept that the only thing that is certain is uncertainty.  

As a leader of a global organization, my decision-making always factors the VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). Geopolitical unrest fed by socioeconomic polarization, disruptive technologies and climate change is certainly increasing in speed and intensity. However, the core challenge for a global leader remains the same — how to make business decisions that are in service to global citizenship. Therefore, my stance is uncertainty is both the No. 1 risk to growth and the No. 1 opportunity for growth, so I am equally as excited as I am concerned.  

Successful brand experiences transcend the things that make us different from one another. As experiential marketers, our job is to deliver moments that unify and magnify commonalities across human values and human experience. Despite polarity and uncertainty, we as global leaders across all industries need to re-orient the products and services we offer, the things we make and do, to more intentionally deliver value.  

This reorientation absolutely includes how we gather and how we experience…  experiences. Right now, our experiences need to deliver on our agency’s and our client’s business objectives of course, and they also need to deliver human value. 

Our agency has identified the top things humans value in our uncertain world:  

  • Feeling connected, engaged and supported  
  • Feeling in control in a world gone awry 
  • Finding solace in the face of external stresses 
  • Finding simplicity in the face of hyper-stimulation 
  • Opportunities to learn, grow and evolve 
  • Elevating their quality of life with family, friends and community  

Connection, community and belonging are the primary human values we focus on when building experiences. We also factor in creating moments of reprieve from uncertainty and how to maximize growth and learning despite uncertainty. The purpose of brand experiences is to reflect, amplify and activate these human values so participants find spaces of commonality, inspiration, inclusion and most importantly, meaning.  

This is both a challenge and the most rewarding aspect of our remit as agency partners to our clients because when we can help create experiences where a global brand delivers what its global citizens care about, reflects their values, unites them in commonality and results in collective celebration, we have done our job well and correctly. 


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Partner Voices
Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact