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3 Key Trends that will Impact Your Event’s Success in 2016

Earlier in December we hosted a packed-out event at our offices, with 100 corporate, agency, non-profit organisers and venue representatives keen to hear about the trends that would impact their events in the coming year. Missed it? No problem, you can view the full presentation below.

At the event we were lucky enough to be joined in a Q&A session by a panel of expert event organisers from different industry sectors:

  • Robert Fenton of Hipsters, Hackers, Hustlers, organiser of events for business owners in the start up and tech sectors;
  • Matt Palmer of celebrity and corporate sports event organiser Cup Promotions;
  • Anita Engebretsen of conference and event managers emc3;
  • Martin Davies of leading scientific venue and charity, the Royal Institution.

Before diving into their predictions and views on 2016, here are three macro trends that we spoke about at the event.

From mobile to omni-channel

Our first prediction from the evening is that 2016 will see a shift from a focus on mobile to omni-channel, influencing the way organisers attract, retain and grow their audiences.

This doesn’t mean mobile isn’t important – in fact it’s critical to success – but it’s no longer a thing of the future; it’s an essential aspect to every event already.

What is new for the future will be the ability for events to communicate with their attendees on any platform and medium chosen by their audience.

A more seamless approach to communications across all channels will bring the added bonus of a better all round experience for attendees. Customers will come to you from all angles, so to win their loyalty, you must make sure you offer a consistent brand experience from every channel.

This is why Eventbrite has been investing in ensuring a responsive ticketing experience on any platform, making our services available on smart watches and even acquiring RFID technology to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to offering event-goers a true omni-channel experience.

From data to real time intelligence

The second trend we see is a shift from data to real time intelligence, which will enable event organisers to think and act fast – whether their goal is to boost ticket sales or manage on-site entry.

Eventbrite’s reporting functions allow information on ticket sales to be accessed direct from the organiser’s phone or desktop, at any time or any place. No waiting for days or weeks for a report to be emailed through to you.

We also highlighted the idea that data, in itself, doesn’t equal intelligence. You need to think about what that data is going to deliver in terms of quick, actionable insight. You wouldn’t want to wait a week to see what’s driving sales!

Organisers of large scale events are already benefiting from the insights offered by Eventbrite Neon to improve on-site entry management. Using the app, they can quickly find out if they’ve got a particularly busy gate, then take immediate action to alleviate the queues.

From social to owned audiences

The third key trend is the move from social to ‘owned’ audiences – to attract participants to your event in 2016, you need to adopt a smart promotion strategy that looks beyond just social media.

With declining organic reach on Facebook and a stagnation of user growth at Twitter, we say that social media, though very important, is not a promotional panacea for events.

In fact, the industry-wide Eventbrite Pulse Report 2015 revealed that email was the most effective marketing tool for 31% of organisers. So we’ll be seeing a resurgence of a relatively old technology in 2016.

Here’s a three-step process to get your ‘owned audience’ strategy off to a flying start for 2016.

Firstly, you need to find ways to attract attendees to your brand – whether that’s SEO, content marketing, social media or using a discovery platform like Eventbrite – the key is to find ways to drive traffic back to your event.

Secondly you need to convert that traffic to build up an email list.

Step three is to then use data insights and communication with your list to develop the relationship with your event attendees. I recommend:

  • Using custom questions to find out what social media channels your event goers are using
  • Understanding how to engage them, not just in the immediate run up to the event, but all year round
  • Finally, reward attendees for being part of a community with exclusive offers, discounts and ‘behind the scenes’ features.

The view from the industry

Related: 35 Experts Predict The Event Trends That Will Shape Your 2016

The event panelists also shared their views of the changes, challenges and developments that 2016 would bring in the Q&A session and after the event.

Anita Engebretsen of emc3 organises more than 100 events per year for tech clients including HubSpot and LinkedIn EMEA. She predicts that in 2016, companies will shift their expectations on budget management from having to justify ROI, to allocating more funds towards creating immersive experiences and transformations at events.

Ensuring delegates remember and engage with the brand after the conference ends will become a key consideration. “It’s not just the pictures you take at the event, it’s the pictures you keep for your personal use.” she explained. “How many people think about the event as a personal memory? I think more brands will pick up on that.”

Anita added: “We’ll also see events becoming brands in themselves. Take LinkedIn’s Talent Connect, originally an event exported from the US headquarters, it started with 300 people and now it’s a 1,600 person conference in EMEA.”

She agreed that “omni-channel is the way forward” and is looking forward to greater integration of application programming interface (API) systems such as Salesforce CRM software along with registration tools to create “the best of the best” event technology.

Robert Fenton of Hipsters, Hackers and Hustlers, organises more than 30 events per year, mainly for tech startups. He said 2016 will see the diversification of formats to create “more interesting and wacky events.” “At one of our events, we do 30 second pitches,” explains Robert, “if the speaker goes over their slot, they get shot off stage with water pistols.”

He added: “There are still a massive amount of boring ‘panel and speaker’ talks, yet the primary objective for the event goer to attend is usually for the networking. We see events becoming more engaging, more interactive and hopefully using more technology. Most of the answers have not been figured out yet, but we should see more engagement rather than just talking at the audience.”

Robert said his business is already seeing opportunities from creating a ‘loyal audience’ and that a community has already developed around his events. The challenge for 2016 would be how to “turn this into real revenues.”

Ensuring his events can stand out and compete for attention with other media is one of the key challenges for Martin Davies of the Royal Institution (Ri). Martin organises more than 70 events a year at the charity, a major cultural hub which promotes British science.

“You could call it the Prof Brian Cox effect, but there’s so much good internet content and science on the TV, You Tube, TED Talks, even on smartphones and tablets. With so many science organisations, the competition is only going to get bigger, so our challenge is to stay relevant, stay interesting, keep the vibrancy and offer the unique experience of a live event,” explained Martin.

He said the Royal Institution would be looking into segmenting its email campaigns to promote specific areas of interest and ensure communications are relevant to their audience. “For example, we can break it down into people who have been to physics events, events looking into the workings of the brain or on our scientific heritage.”

Matt Palmer of Cup Promotions said he will also take the idea of building an ‘owned audience’ through to 2016. He added that Cup Promotions will be looking at ways of getting attendees to interact more with their website, through Facebook, Twitter and live streaming service Periscope as well as looking at providing more exclusive online content.

What key trends are you expecting in 2016? Share them in the comments below.

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