5 trends in events for 2018, by Gerd De Bruycker

New Year. New resolutions. Trend reports.

Gerd De Bruycker is Marketing Director for Cisco Systems. He has a real passion for leadership & high performing teams, link events & marketing, and digital & content marketing.

Based on one of his recent presentations, Gerd De Bruycker is summarising 5 trends for events in 2018. Or rather the impact of macro and marketing trends on corporate events…

  • 1. DIGITIZATION

    This is the “topic” of the moment. Every company needs to jump on the digitization train or is doomed to disappear as they say.

    This is a macro trend. Technology is impacting our lives immensely. Think about a live without Internet. Today according to a latest Deloitte Study (2017, “State of the Smart”) in Belgium a person on average checks his smartphone 34 times a day. That is about 2 times per hour (sleep accounted for). In my case this is an understatement.

    I am not even talking about virtual assistants, IoT etc.

    Impact of Digitization BEFORE an event takes place

    Technology allows us to collaborate in totally new ways. I am managing a team of 10 event marketing professionals and we are all spread across Europe; from Tel Aviv to Moscow, from Copenhagen to Barcelona, London and Amsterdam. We hardly ever meet (except at events) and still feel as we are working very closely and know each other thanks to video meetings, new collaboration and sharing tools (like Spark).

    What I further realize is that people work more and more project and scrum based within and across companies. Certainly in events: corporate event marketing specialists collaborate internally with other subject matter experts and externally with agencies, suppliers and freelancers. Teams are composed of subject matter experts based anywhere in the world and collaborate to set up the best event experience. They just have the same common goal but are paid by different employers.

    Next to new ways of collaboration (tools), technology can be found in many other instances related to events: f.e. we will see chatbots becoming mainstream.

    Impact DURING the actual event

    Technology is enhancing attendees onsite experience in many aspects.

    Today there aren´t many events (of a decent size) without an event app. These apps serve mainly 3 objectives:

    • Event information, practical info sharing
    • Facilitating networking opportunities onsite and post event
    • Content sharing via social media in order to broaden the reach of the event

    Social media is obvious these days. Key is not just to broadcast and allow delegates to share content; key is to listen, react and interact with what is happening.

    Though it will go much further than purely event apps and social media if you think about already existing tools and what technology will enable:

    Apps like Kahoot, Eventer, etc. are facilitating interaction for events and meetings where digital and human is coming together

    • Facial recognition (like Face ID from Apple) will enable an new registration experience. Think about the possibilities of personalization etc.
    • Personalisation will become big in events, all enabled by technology in order for each participant to get the most of the event based on their personal objectives.
    • How will Augmented Reality enhance our experience? What are the limits of immersive Virtual Reality experiences.

    Another area where technology can help transfer the messages are keynotes. Not by simply sharing powerpoints, but by using audiovisual technology to deliver an experience that complements the words of the speaker (3D mapping, multiple screens, video, moving pictures synchronized with what the speaker is saying etc).

     Impact / Opportunities POST event

    An event should not stop when the doors are closed. It continues to live online.

    How are you integrating your event into your overall marketing touchpoint strategy (or customer journey)? How are you sharing your content online? How are you facilitating follow up interactions? Etc.

    All your event data is food for analytics and insights to prove the ROI of your event, follow up with potential customers and adapt further experiences.

     2. ATTENDEES ARE PARTICIPANTS IN EXPERIENCES

    Attending is passive, participating is active.

    If your event is purely a one-way information sharing session, you should do it online and call it a Webinar.

    People want to be “participating” in experiences. That is why we see the huge success of very specific physical experiences that an online experience can never match (Tomorrowland, The Ark, large IT events, conferences). People want to belong to a community, want to be a part of something. People want to be part of “Waw” experiences, not only in the B2C but also in the B2B space.

    People that are participating are much more engaged and open for conversations.

     3. COMBINATION OF OFFLINE AND ONLINE

    In the early days (10-15 years ago) we thought that free content sharing of sessions would have a negative effect on actual event attendance. History taught us the opposite: as long as the value proposition and the differentiation between the face 2 face event and the online aspects of the event is clear. The “experience” should be different and as varied as possible.

    An event is no longer purely offline. The online and offline world are merging. Both worlds are enhancing and embracing each other.

    • Event apps are facilitating networking or allowing people to ask questions digitally.
    • Chat rooms per session allow people to interact and continue the conversation online.
    • Social media is everywhere.
    • Content (video, slides, snippets) is shared online in many different formats to reach people that are interested but not able to attend or maybe come next year.

    This is the area where I think the most innovation can happen. What should your online experience be in combination with your physical event?

    • What is the experience for attendees and for non-attendees?
    • Which content is shared? On what platform? What is streamed and not?
    • Behind the scene videos?
    • TV studio material?
    • Etc

     4. EVENTS ARE PART OF THE MARKETING MIX

    In a digital world - where content marketing rules to deliver on the promise of a customer first approach - the days of traditional marketing campaigns are over. Up to “Always On” strategies. Making sure that customers and prospects can find the right information when and where they want at all times.

    Marketing campaigns are dead!? Long live always-on approaches that can be dialed up based on priorities and needs.

    Events should no longer be silo-ed or standalone activities. They must be part of the overall marketing mix and strategy and go hand in hand with your content and digital marketing strategy. That is where the biggest return on investment sits.

    Events should be an integral part of your overall customer journey or touchpoint strategy. Events can have their own customer journey and next to that events should link your customer back to your overall touchpoint strategy where marketing automation can pick them up.

    Everything connected. Always on.

    Events are a tactic of your overall marketing mix. An important one, more than ever! Physical and digital are the winning combination. 

    5. RETURN ON INVESTMENT

    The ROI model of the ROI Institute (Ilka Dzeik and Elling Hamso) is the best available model for events.

    Though ROI is in many cases still the Achilles Heel for marketing including events. At the same time digitization, data and analytics are opening doors for proper measurement. I am not talking about reach or impressions. That is not ROI.

    How should I measure the brand awareness impact of an event?

    Overall the difficulty is that a single activity or interaction (including attending an event) is hardly ever the only action where you can attribute a lead to. An opportunity, a sale is the consequence of many interactions (digital and physical) where I would call the digital touchpoints “micro-moments” because you only have a few seconds to attract people to your content. A combination of “micro-moments” within a certain time period can instigate a lead.

    Data and analytics should not only be used for post event measurement. Today event marketing professionals need to use data, analytics and insights to decide what type of event they should organize and when.

    CONCLUSION

    Technology is impacting our daily life immensely and provides us with endless possibilities while the physical and digital world are further converging. The events industry will benefit and follow in certain areas and lead in others.

    Physical and digital together are a winning combination.

     

    Gerd De Bruycker