It would be a gross understatement to say that 2019 is going to be a huge year for event planning. The industry is evolving at a clip, and new advances in technology are effectively taking it to new heights. The millennial population now comprises the largest portion of the U.S. labor market, which means that they’re also our most prevalent attendees at events. What does that mean for event planning trends? Well, we don’t mean to stereotype, but it goes without saying that this is a generation who wants highly personalized instant gratification. The good news is that there are more creative options for event planning, promotional outreach, and data collection at our disposal than ever before. Keep reading to learn about some of the hottest cutting edge trends in event planning- and the easiest, most cost-effective ways to make them your own.
Amp Up the Interactive Factor
While we’re on the topic of technology, one of the most popular circulating trends in event planning uses tech to create social experiences out of activities we used to do alone. Remember the days when you either watched a movie or played video games alone or invited friends over to your place to join in on the fun? Well, now virtual reality creates its own space for you to hang with friends and do things you enjoy together. Friends are watching films and competing with one another on video games from states, countries, or continents away.
What does this mean for event planning? You do the math. Creating events that people can participate in from the comfort of their homes caters to a new population of attendees. We’re not just talking about homebodies. (FYI, we use that word in the most positive sense- who doesn’t love to actually Netflix and chill?) We’re referring to various subcategories of people of all ages who are time-crunched and overworked, and would like to have some fun without leaving their respective couches. When you really think about it, that includes a lot of people. Events in which people can participate from home also tend to be more cost-efficient, which is a definite plus in the millennial generation.
We’ve all had instances where we really wanted to catch a sports game, awards show, film premier, or special event live, but simply couldn’t make it. Busy lifestyles can make us feel increasingly cut off from the art, social, and cultural scenes that bring color and flavor to life, and make us feel a sense of belonging in the world. When you’re cooped up or saddled with home responsibilities, it’s easy to give into the media-projected distortion that the whole world is one big, glittery orb orbiting the sun without you; everywhere we look on TV and social media, we’re bombarded with glossy images of people traveling, making art, and socializing.
Yes, it’s important to see past the shiny veneers, but we’ve found it even more important to carve out a section of the excitement for yourself. Engaging on any scale in the activities you love is worthwhile and fun. The virtual world provides a channel of connection to the worlds you want to be a part of- without giving up the comfort and convenience of home.
A little how-to advice: Use live 360-degree VR to connect to remote audiences. Sell online-only tickets, and email and social media promotions to promote the event several weeks ahead of time. (Any earlier, and you might lose their attention). You can also simply create content for sharing, and watch your audience grow. A growing number of YouTubers make full livings from the traffic to their page and the commentary on their videos. Comments are important because they start conversations, effectively becoming their own content and drawing an even larger audience. People connect from all over the world by watching videos and talking about them in the comments section. How many times have you found yourself tuning in for the discussion more than the topic? Hot topics draw a diverse, interesting crowd, especially when enhanced by standout visual effects.
Many social media influencers kickstarted their fame by starting an open conversation about a topic that means something to them. The infamously hastaged “me too” movement attracted a cult following of everyday people who might not have even categorized themselves as feminists, but found solace in an outlet to share their own painful experiences and emotions. Whether you were a fan of the mass movement or not, it was undeniably explosive. It branched out into hundreds of groups and events dedicated to supporting women, and many of these events picked up the attention of established influencers. Mental health and chronic illness awareness is also trending on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook- which we think is a great thing. Event planners have exercised their creative license to set up virtual events, meditation retreats meant to reconnect people to themselves, support groups, and countless other ventures in the name of health causes.
It’s important to develop niche audiences for your event, and it’s just as important to track them afterward. Assigning a virtual host to your event adds a personal touch and gives attendees the sense that they are insiders rather than voyeurs watching from home. This is also a reliable way to track niche audiences at your event.
Personalize Your Tech
Another trend in tech is facial recognition, and it’s starting to spill over into the event planning industry. Although details such as processing time are still being fine-tuned and thus facial recognition is not yet integrated at a mainstream level, event planners are trying it on for size. It is projected that this kind of technology could exponentially speed up check-in and registration times. It goes without saying that it adds extra safety and security to the process. Facial recognition would also spot people on known security lists. Then there’s the social media aspect, which is probably the biggest in event planning. Social media reach could be greatly expanded by using facial recognition in tagging people in photos from your event.
Voice tech is another potential boon to the event planning industry that has recently been tapped. Ideally, your voice tech should perform some basic actions. Did you know that research shows people are asking voice assistants, which used to primarily answer questions, to perform more actions instead? Whereas people used to ask, “When is my next webinar?”, they are now more likely to issue a command: Sign me up for my next webinar”. According to Google, in 2016 almost a quarter of voice searches were voice searches.
If you’ve got the capability, it’s a good idea to take it a step further and make voice searches more interactive. For example, if an attendee asks for the location of a vendor or appointment, your voice assistant might then ask if they’d like to schedule some one-on-one time with that particular vendor; the voice could also ask if they would like more information about that vendor. You want to make sure that your voice assistant is equipped with all the information it needs to be as helpful as possible. One way to do this by linking it with the ability to read badges. Event planners are also well-served by allowing voice assistants to guide attendees through events. This, in a nutshell, is the direction event planning is taking: personalized tech.
Electric translators are another rising trend in event planning that you won’t want to overlook.These apps owe their success largely to the fact that they use bridge some of the preexisting communication gaps that slow event sales and lose sizable sectors of attendees. This type of technology reaches larger remote populations, creating a better communication experience regardless of the time and location of your event. In a sense, you’re traversing the hurdles of space and time to give attendees a more cohesive experience. Did we mention that the one-time purchase of remote translation apps save you the costs of paying hourly and travel feels for human translation services?
In a changing, multi-dimensional event planning world, one thing has stayed the same: The power of talk is not to be underestimated. In fact, we would go as far as to say that candid person-to-person communication is still the most successful route to developing and maintaining niche audiences. Technology and other developing trends in event planning are mostly there to better facilitate this spontaneous communication by enhancing the attendee experience.
How can you make the most of the candid communication factor? It’s another question to which tech is one of the best answers. Develop effective tech system that flows well and doesn’t “clog up” your staff lines by asking menial questions, such as ones about how to navigate live or virtual events. You can also employ voice assistants for post-event surveys. Like we mentioned before, voice assistants have evolved beyond answering questions; now they can be engaged in a conversation when people use simple words like “if” and “when”. They can make suggestions about vendors, future events, and product information- all of which builds your audience. After all, before voice assistants existed, the process of finding out such information was much more involved for attendees. The initiative, time, and energy it took to gather information about events turned people away more often than we might think.
Lead Personalization with a Solid First Impression
We don’t mean to be redundant, but it really is important to leave no stone unturned when it comes to personalization in event planning. Statista has found that the average email open rate for a personalized message was 18.9%; it was only 13.1% for an email that was not considered personalized. When it comes to personalization, it’s key to keep track of attendee preferences so that you know how to engage them in the future. Promptly remove people who have already registered for an event from lists of reminders to register. You don’t want to send reminder emails to people who have already signed up for your event; not only is it annoying to delete them, but it also gives your event a spammy, impersonal feel that you definitely don’t want.
After your event, keep track of attendees’ preferences by observing and recording their activity. The URLS that drive the most traffic are obvious the ones you want to pay attention to. Base your own original content on those interests. You can also alert attendees when they’re in close range of their contacts or “wish lists” of people to meet.
Use Tech to Boost Your Creativity- And Attendee Numbers
Any way you look at it, advances in tech have substantially boosted expectations. A lot rides on your ability to make attendees feel like they’re getting what they paid for an much more. Naturally, you gain higher quality sponsors if your events are high quality- and the market is increasingly competitive.
Tech personalization gives you the unique opportunity to augment reality, giving it new dimensions in the realm of event planning. Bring augmentations of reality to life by using customizers filters or frames. There is no limit to the creations you can materialize onto a screen by using graphics to animate static objects. Nothing tells a story like a powerful visual. Incorporate lively, moving graphics to guide your attendees on a journey through adverts for your event. If, for example, a sponsor contributes music or artwork to your event, introduce your attendees to the sponsor with graphics and animation.
Develop Relationships with Influencers
How can you develop valuable relationships with influencers without spending a lot of money (or making a complete fool of yourself by approaching them hard and fast for a favor?) Well, the first step is to choose the right influencers for you. Obviously, their content should promote the interests of your attendees, but pay close attention to the experience of their following. Let’s say the influencer in question is a political activist. It’s safe to assume that this influencer’s goal is to urge followers into action for his or her cause. But how is the influencer going about this? Yes, he or she should be incentivizing followers with free products, discounted events, VIP memberships to sales or event lists, and more. Their marketing strategies should be top-notch. But in the cause of an influencer with a cause, especially a humanitarian or political one, should also be emotionally incentivizing people. There should be a spirit of activism or unity that gives momentum to the cause and compels people into action; you want to observe that this influencer has the harnessed the power of tech and personal outreach to develop a loyal following that doesn’t just jump off onto new bandwagons when they come around.
When you’re considering approaching an influencer for sponsorship, take time to consider their audience. Are they maintaining their niche audiences, but also reaching diverse populations that you might not associate with them at first glance? Does their audience span a wide geographical range? If so, these are good signs to move forward.
You may be tempted to go for the gold in terms of influencers, but sometimes approaching the hottest trending figures backfires because they’re in high demand. They may be harder to get on your team because they’ve got options they view as better. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s important to come to terms with the competition; it frees you up to funnel all your energy into making the most of your unique resources. But it’s more likely that the top-of-the-crop influencers are simply inundated with requests and may not even get to your request. (Side note: This is not to say discourage you for going for it if you’ve analyzed your prospects and think they’re good! We’re all evolving at different levels, and even if you’re not top-rated or well-known yourself, you’ve simply got what that particular influencer wants).
But generally speaking, a good rule of thumb is to approach influencers who are moderately popular (which, in the world of influencers, still translates to thousands upon thousands of followers for you to potentially reach through their sponsorship). By approaching moderate-range influencers, you also avoid the time-consuming hassles of going through various “security checks” with the influencer’s staff. (By the way, this process can take longer than a reference check after a job interview).
Make VIPs Feel Even More Important
Let’s be real- most attendees want to feel like a VIP. That’s why personalizing and enhancing VIP status is so integral to maintaining your audience. VIP shouldn’t just be a status, it should be an experience. Tech goes a long way to cater to people in their everyday lives as if they were royalty. Your attendees are going to expect the same royal treatment at events that they get from tech at home- and then some.
While you don’t want your tech personalization to smack of sensationalism, you do want to create VIP experiences that attendees find meaningful. Not everyone can be VIP, so you want to make the most of the VIP experience without taking away from the needs of the larger audience. One way to make attendees feel valued as people rather than targeted as remote audiences is to treat each unique population like they are, well, unique. By now, it goes without saying that you need to track the shared interests of attendees, vendors, and sponsors. Once you’ve done this, customize communications and marketing strategies to give these populations what they want. This will give people the impression that you’ve listened to what they have to say, tuned into their needs, and genuinely care about giving them the best possible experience based on who they are.
Destination: Successful Event Planning
New research shows that 71% of each generation that a desirable destination is high on their priority list when deciding whether to attend a meeting. (This includes professional or educational meetings, but it also encompasses hobby conventions). In fact ,for a large population, location is the deciding factor. If attendees like the destination, nearly 80% of them say they will return in the downtime. Take note- that’s important. There’s never been a better reason to mix business with pleasure. Hotels in particular are taking advantage of this emerging trend in event planning.
The millennial generation in particular aims to mindfully incorporate mind, body, and spirit into their experiences. That’s why holistic, wellness, and meditation centers are cropping up all over the corporate landscape, even gracing the busy halls of airports. But keep your budget in mind when choosing a destination that offers attendees an enriching, positive environment based on their shared interests. Affordability is an important factor, so scope out the best deals offered by the destination of your attendees’ collective dreams. Sometimes less is more. Depending on the nature of your event, sometimes clean, open space provides attendees with the environment they need to clear the canvas of their minds and focus on the here and now. A degree of simplicity, especially in a beautiful or tranquil environment, can lend itself to a feeling of being on vacation, enjoying an element of escape from the busy humdrum of daily life.
No one likes to think that mixing business with pleasure requires a formulaic equation, and it’s true that you want your event to have an element of spontaneity. But the fact is, most of this spontaneity will be enjoyed by attendees. Appealing to attendees’ needs for efficacy and leisure requires a double focus when it comes to event planning. Planners can no longer afford to be singularly minded when meeting with sponsors, coordinators, and other staff. With the help of their teams, they now have to formulate a plan that conceptualizes business and leisure in new, innovative ways. What does enjoyment mean to your respective audiences? How can it be effectively combined with their business or efficacy needs in a way that makes the most of their time and investment in your event? Keep desired cultural experiences, dining preferences, and budget and travel needs in mind when tailoring your event to attendees.
Researching your destination in-depth before your event may take a little time out of your day, but it’s well worth it. Whether you’re choosing a hotel, museum, party venue, or whatever, you’ll want to take a close look at the concessions offered by the venue. For example, airports do intensive research about the needs of the various diverse populations that walk in and out of their doors. Tourist populations generally are generally looking for resources and accommodations that allow them to experience new cities or cultural destinations to the fullest- at the lowest expense and highest convenience level.
Think about the location of your event and the surrounding opportunities for exploration and leisure. Make sure your promotional plan, blogging, and social media efforts makes attendees aware of the best, quickest ways to explore the destinations. Remember, different sections of your audience will want different things from their experiences at a destination. So be sure to personalize your promos and outreach to suit the needs of your unique attendees.
If your head is spinning slightly and you’re wondering how the heck you’re going to grow enough hands (and afford enough resources) to make all of this happen, keep reading. We’ve got a list of ways you can simplify the process and save time.
Put Event Planning in Good Hands
Give attendees a feeling of control over the agenda by relegating some of the event planning to them. You don’t want to overwhelm attendees with too many options to choose from, but you can allow them some say in the matter of their experience. During the planning phase, you can ask attendees what vendors they want to see (or what kind of vendors they’d like to see at your event). Ask them what’s important to them at multiple levels of the event experience, and base your decisions on their preferences. You’d be surprised at the amount of time and effort this saves you at the end of each day. You can even use a live polling app to source feedback during the event as it culminates.
If you can swing it, hire multiple unique speakers. (This is a particularly good strategy if you can’t reach a major influencer; offering options to the mix spices it up for attendees). Silent conferences are ones in which multiple speakers use the same space for their respective presentations. Attendees tune in by wearing headphones that allow them to switch between speakers whenever they choose.
All the (Corporate) World is a Party
Well, not quite. But with millennial populations, it’s safe turn up the volume at many corporate events, because they are actually parties. The millennial population wants to relax, but they also want to party. This fact is doubly noted by the event planning industry, and you should take it to heart, too. In 2019, many events that veer away from the relaxation sphere will enter the party circuit. Music and festivals are seriously trending right now, so incorporating a music into a sort of adult carnival atmosphere is a thing. Even a large number of corporate events are mixing business with music, fashion, and even spirituality (think Burning Man clones and tone them down, unless you’re in certain parts of California). If your budget is small, don’t think big. Employ obscure artists with small or eclectic but loyal local followings.
Just keep in mind that many of these type of events require a lot of open space, and are happening at resorts or convention centers. Some of them require outdoor space, especially in the spring and summer. Sometimes bringing a festival feel to a corporate event means buying out the venues, which can require extra expenses and mapping.