In December we reached out to over 50 event industry experts to ask them what event trends they expect will have the most impact in 2017.
There are a fascinating number of different viewpoints and predictions (and we recommend you check them all out), but a few key themes also emerged, and so below we take you through the 5 broad trends shaping the industry – and your success – in 2017.
#1: Digital audiences become more important
A consistent theme coming from experts across the industry landscape was how technology will bring digital audiences ever closer to the actual experience, making it more and more important for organisers to think ‘beyond the four walls’ of the event itself.
Forward thinking organisers have been considering Twitter, Instagram and other social media for a while now, knowing that driving online engagement during a live event can help them reach wider audiences and drive interest in attendance in the future.
However the rapid evolution of technology means that will look increasingly one-dimensional as we start the new year.
Many of the big guns of the tech and social media world – Facebook, Apple, Instagram, Google, Snapchat to name but a few – all have competing live streaming technology now available, making it both financially and technically accessible for just about every event.
Says Liz King, CEO of Liz King Events and TechsyTalk, “While live streaming has been possible for many years, the new Facebook LIVE and Instagram LIVE videos allows event organisers to create great content in a more accessible way.”
Juraj Holub, Sli.do’s US Marketing Manager agrees, “Live streaming is gaining its momentum and I’m convinced that it will have a major impact on the events industry in 2017 and beyond.”
Meanwhile Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are becoming more and more mainstream, with VR offering up the chance to provide an even richer event experience to those tuning in remotely; and AR letting organisers layer digital enhancements onto the immediate event environment, which can be shared out online.
“Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will transform the way individuals interact with each other and with software systems creating an immersive environment that will bleed into immersive events,” predicts Jason Allan Scott, The Eventrepreneur and one of the Top 100 movers and shakers in the industry.
Adam Azor, the SVP Integrated at Jack Morton, says “The biggest opportunity for events in 2017, will be capitalising on VR/MR/AR and 360 content…By the close of 2017, live 360 broadcast will be a reality for the mainstream events industry which will put the industry on a path that will change its commercial structure forever.”
How organisers grasp this opportunity to blur the lines between digital and physical will be a fascinating trend to watch over the next 12 months.
#2: From data to intelligence to action
Data, ‘Big Data’ and analytics have been buzzwords for years already, but there was a clear trend across the responses we got to this year’s event industry predictions, that data is no longer seen as an end in itself.
Instead the context of data has now been shifted to that of an enabler, and not an end in itself, which is an important step to it becoming a widely utilised tool that makes events better; and not a distraction that confuses organisers.
This was well summarised by Alan Newton, Co-Founder and COO of Eventopedia, who said “Many technologies have the capability to collect data at different points in the planner, supplier and customer journeys, which can provide increasingly important insight and analytics to improve the efficiency & value of events for a whole range of stakeholders.”
In 2017 it’s likely that solution providers who generate large amounts of data for organisers will continue to improve how they present it, so that it provides actionable answers, not a whole lot of questions i.e. the output will be a graph that says “you should do this” rather than a raw csv export.
Where vendors don’t provide this level of digestible insight, there will be opportunities for consultants and more specialist vendors to fill the gap and turn data into intelligence or help organisers implement the solutions that the raw data shows are needed.
Ultimately this will result in better event experiences for attendees, as Maria Schuett, Head of Marketing for Central Hall Westminster explain, “In 2017 I also think we will see a huge shift in the way event professionals capture and manage data at events.
With so many sophisticated registration and event management tools available in the industry I think more professionals will begin to take advantage of the plethora of data available.
This will not only enable professionals to analyse data and build better events but also to provide customer centric experiences.“
#3: Personalisation will go mainstream
One of the main applications of data will be personalisation, which is set to be a major differentiator and trend this year.
Simon Burton, MD and Owner at Exposure Communications thinks the data generated from social media will “lead to greater personalisation of messages and content.”
This was echoed by Jerome Maas, Co-Founder and CEO of The Flash Pack, who says “Media, PR, Digital, Events & Social Media are no longer considered standalone verticals. Whilst the lines continue to blur, focus will increasingly shift towards enhanced, personal and unique experiences.”
By applying advances in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to big data, organisers and event tech companies are going to be able to deliver ever more sophisticated and personalised experiences to attendees, from individually tailored event suggestions via email (as Eventbrite currently does), to an individualised expo experience.
Says Stephane Doutriaux the CEO of Poken, “The biggest trend that will continue to grow in 2017 for me, is the shift towards participants dictating their personal event journey.”
Looking at other use-cases, James Morgan, then founder of Event Tech Lab predicts that “Chatbots will offer event attendees a personalised experience,” while “Biometric applications such as facial, fingerprint, palm print and iris recognition will create another secure layer for event entry that can also be used to personalise attendee experiences by recognition of individuals.”
#4: T-shaped organisers will rise to the top
An unspoken thread that runs through all 50+ predictions is just how diverse the specialities are becoming in event planning, but with teams not growing at the same pace, it’s going to be ever more important for organisers to develop T-shaped skillsets.
This is also known as a “Generalising Specialist.”
What does it mean?
To be a successful T-shaped organiser, you will need to have a deep knowledge of one particular aspect of event planning, for example staging and production, or catering, or promotion etc. but you will also need to understand a much broader range of skills and technologies outside of your core discipline.
For example you might know plenty about AV, but unless you’re also up to speed on social media, live streaming, data analytics, user experience etc. you may not be able to put together the right set-up to engage digital audiences beyond the immediate room.
Everyone, to an extent, will need to become literate in data collection and analysis, and digital transformation; or understand the advances in AI, VR, AR; and grasp the opportunities presented by personalisation, chatbots and the latest social media platforms.
Of course, nobody can be expected to be an expert across all these fields, but to become T-shaped, organisers will need “the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one’s own.”
With the rapid proliferation of technology across the industry, T-shaped organisers should thrive and rise to the top.
#5: The flywheel is turning
Overall, the impression we get from reading over 50 event trend predictions is one of optimism, advancement and an exciting future for the industry.
Many expert comments were made about the ability to track and prove the results of events, with brands and entrepreneurs running more and more events as they see the value of them.
Says Ed Poland, Co-Founder and COO at Hire Space, “This’ll be the year of data playing a big role in determining the effectiveness of events.
Marketeers are better equipped to calculate ROI than ever before, and there’ll be new technology emerging in 2017.”
Of course, more events leads to more competition; and so to stand out, organisers must continue to innovate and get better.
Attendees ultimately benefit, which means there’s the demand for organisers to run even more events, and so the positive flywheel continues to turn, and in 2017 it should get even faster.
Watch out for it being another watershed year for the events industry.