With a new year comes new ideas, new technologies, and new perspectives on just about everything: events and event marketing are no exception. Below are some of the key trends that we believe you can expect to affect event planning, management and marketing in the upcoming year.
It probably comes as no surprise to anyone in the events industry, but these trends all have one thing in common: technology. From social sharing to networking to logistical streamlining, tech will continue to have a huge impact on both live and virtual events for the foreseeable future.
Live & Crowd Streaming
Organizations are starting to come around to the idea that sharing event content publicly has a huge marketing value. Far from being detrimental because you’re “giving your content away”, content sharing can be tremendously beneficial as a brand awareness-building tool. Content sharing also acts as an effective “teaser” that can help boost sales of future events. Streaming services like Livestream and Ustream, as well as video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo are a great way to increase event exposure and audience interaction, thus widening the social media reach and impact of your event. This idea is starting to spread beyond the “early adopters” and will likely see more widespread acceptance in 2016.
In addition to organizer-led content sharing, crowd streaming of event content will become increasingly prevalent in 2016, led by technology advancements that make recording and streaming better, cheaper, and easier. So if you haven’t come around to the idea of live streaming your events, it’s time to get comfortable with it because even if you aren’t sharing your content, your attendees will be.
Focus on Production Value
One side effect of the increased prevalence of content streaming will be a renewed focus on event production. Why? Events will be more public and have more eyes, so how they sound and appear on camera will become increasingly important. Streamed content is also the only window into an event for viewers at home; they don’t have the benefit of networking or meals or schwag bags to supplement content and help form a more complete opinion of your event. So everything seen on camera or streamed by viewers needs to be nearly flawless, from sound and lighting to speaker slides to transitions and Q&A. Expect to see events, especially medium to large sized business conferences, run more like a movie set or Broadway play, complete with sound engineers, lighting specialists and production managers.
Mobile apps have been on the event scene for a number of years, helping to streamline processes and engage attendees via push notifications, social media integrations, event maps, and more. And yes, there are plenty of networking apps on the market, but most lack true innovation and suffer from paltry adoption rates. With the growth of the events industry as a whole and the near-universal acceptance of the value of face-to-face contact at these events, expect to see a renewed focus on using technology (mobile apps and other) to enhance the personal connection, before, during and after the event. It’s impossible to predict exactly what innovation will occur in this category, but expect it to be game-changing.
No surprise here. Events are no longer just about the content and the networking. It’s all about the experience as a whole, the engagement and community, the personalization, and the entertainment value. Again, technology will play a huge part in this category. Expect more players in the experiential marketing game and major design and technology advancements. And as a result, expect to see experiential marketing expand further into smaller events, break-out sessions and social engagements.
Attendee Targeting & Engagement
Event attendees are consumers and 2016 will see event marketers focusing more on attendees as a source of marketing gold, versus straight-up revenue generation. This will mean more “voice of the attendee” research, which will lead to improved connections and emotional interactions (insert experiential marketing here), and ultimately a greater sense of consumer trust and loyalty, both in terms of the event and the additional products and services that the event organizer may be selling. Expect to see the post-event survey become a thing of the past, with a stronger focus on real-time feedback and engagement assessment. Also look for a broader use of traditional on-site surveying and polling, as well as the evolution of technologies to measure live audience engagement.
Focus on Analytics & ROI
ROI for an event is much more than income minus expenses. Events are loyalty-expanding, brand-building opportunities and need to be treated as such when analyzing their impact. As a result, we’re expecting to see more collaboration between event marketers, planners, and managers, with all three focusing heavily on using technology to assess an event’s true ROI. Integrations between event planning tools, CRMs, marketing software, and site analytics tools will become even more critical and widely-available, helping companies measure the true success of an event or event series over the lifecycle of a brand.