Events in 2024, what are they good for?

Events in 2024, what are they good for?

Events are in my blood. I love a party. I live for big ideas and bruising debates with clever and passionate people. The arts light me up. Events are the only logical through-line of my higgledy piggledy career to date, and since we launched, have been the true north of WorkLife’s marketing, brand and community outreach strategy. 

My gut instinct is steeped in the waters of event land. But i’m not sure if I trust my instincts anymore- they aren’t sending me clear signals about what people want when it comes to trading money and time for an uncertain experience with unfamiliar people. 

Now when I put it like that, why the hell did people ever go to events? 

IWD is pretty much like Christmas for our female led regional coworking business. Traditionally it has been our signature event of the year- the occasion that our yellow drag-net of enthusiasm, connection and goodwill draws in a wider community of local women juggling work and life to break bread together, take stock and deepen our networks.

It’s good for the heart, it’s good for the soul, it’s good for business and it has felt very good for the world. 

I don’t know if you have noticed in your world, but events are having a bit of an existential crisis at the moment. What we will give time, logistical hassle, financial investment and psychological uncertainty to has changed ALOT since pre-COVID times. 

I’m writing this because this year the celebration of International Womens Day has been a bit flat. And in the Venn diagram in my head that takes in #costofliving #eventspostcovid #pinkwashing #globalevents I’m not sure what is the symptom or the cause. 

But as is my way, I noticed, and now it’s time to think/write it out to try and understand what’s going on.

Because I know it’s not just me- events everywhere are falling flat this year. The market is awash with them and from what my colleagues and friends are telling me in private, registrations might be fine, but attendances are down, engagement is down, new things are harder to get off the ground and old things don’t work the way they used to. 

That’s interesting. That’s useful. That’s important, And I reckon that’s helpful to lots of other businesses like mine that used to be able to rely on throwing the doors open, putting the bubbles on ice and waiting for business to roll through the door. 

Times are a-changing again. But i’m not ready to say goodbye to the parties, the markets, the workshops, the lunches, the exhibitions, the festivals or the big ideas just yet.



So what happened to IWD this year, why does it matter and what might this mean to events more broadly in 2024? 

  1. PINK-WASHING// IWD is a global campaign created by UN Women to drive awareness and momentum for the rights of women and girls globally. Well it was, until some clever publicists for a cluster of male dominated corporates with a “women problem” and some weapon grade skills in SEO bought the domain name and muddied the water. Any organisation these days big enough to have an in-house PR or HR team and who was celebrating in 2024 with the theme ‘Inspire Inclusion’ instead of the UN’s ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women’ was not making an innocent error, they made a choice to to lean out, to play it safe, to not challenge the status quo. Pinkwashing of the theme has effectively dulled, diluted and diffused the meaning of the day.


It’s not IWD, it’s the coopting of the occasion by the patriarchy.

  1. THE WAR// Because feminism is a progressive cause, the chief cheerleaders for IWD events have tended to be pretty WOKE- aks those who are pretty awake to social justice causes. If you fall into this category, your news and social media feeds are pretty bleak places at the moment. The war in Gaza has taken the cause of women and girls from mental loads, gender pay gaps and domestic violence right back down Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs to the very bottom. When physical safety, shelter, food, water and the ability to flee war torn lands are flooding disappear – celebrating girl power with pink prospect, long lunches, gratitude and girl power feels very very awkward. The awkward juxtaposition of celebrating IWD this year created just enough cognitive dissonance to keep many of the events core audience at home this year,. 

It’s not the topic or the cause. It’s the awkwardness of privilege at this time of global violence.

  1. WTF ARE EVENTS FOR POST COVID// Gathering together- whether it is to connect, to learn, to celebrate, to heal or to wonder has been the most reliable mechanism to bring attention and energy to ideas, causes, businesses or community. Like many things though, the impacts of the 2.5 years of COVID disruptions are still revealing the full extent of their impacts. Working from home has changed ALOT in event land and as a result, the time that we are willing to make available for the intangibles that are event-lands USP is fast eroding. 

This coupled with the increasing availability of high quality expertise on-demand digitally means that events are no longer things we commit to attend- but bookmark to return to at an uncertain later date. Zombie registrations, no-shows, webinars saved “for later” and never watched are the uncomfortable shadow worlds of the blizzard of IRL, Online and Hybrid event offerings that are being pumped out by anxious organisations wondering whether the problem is the timing, format, content or price of their offering.

It’s not the format or the timing. It’s the post-covid world still working out what is the point of events in 2024.

  1. EVERYTHING IS SOOO EXPENSIVE// Like most people in my world, the impacts of the current cost of living crisis have crept up on me. As we all collectively hold our breaths and will the RBA to signal that this economic cycle is over and that things are about to turn around, I am feeling more and more like the frog that doesn’t notice the water boiling around it. People are no longer shy about admitting that “I just can’t afford to go out at the moment”. 

It’s not the ticket price. It’s just the economy slowly squeezing the last drop from everyones discretionary spending.

Now that our International Women’s Day events are a thing of the past – and I reflect on the joyful, but slightly muted gatherings we hosted at our spaces, I am tuning into all of these thoughts and wondering what, if anything, needs to change in the way that we invite, host, celebrate, learn and connect in this moment in time. 

Events aren’t over, they are just having a rest and a think. 

So, the principles that I am taking into our event planning for the rest of 2024 are as follows;

  1. Connection, connection, connection. 
  2. Community is the content
  3. If it’s not a conversation, it’s a presentation (and can happen on-demand, online)
  4. Time is money. 
  5. Creativity is crucial
  6. Experts are everywhere, for free.

    So we won’t be throwing events off the schedule just yet- we are just going back to basics and making sure that whatever we do, it’s creative, connected to the local community and spark joy. 

I know it might feel like events take time, planning, money, logistics, the discomfort of small talk and the inconvenience of taking your ugg boots off and putting some lipstick on- but events are like social medicine, and it’s good for you to remember to follow the Dr’s orders sometimes.

So next time someone asks you to an event- remember, a few glasses of wine with a clever group of people, somewhere close by- is always worth showing up for.

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