In today’s digitally saturated business environment, live conferences, meetings and events are more important than ever to establish an in-person touch point. And, as a result, an event planner’s role is more critical than ever as every event provides a conduit for a business connection that is wrapped around a unique live event experience for all attendees.
Sheryl Connelly, an expert on identifying future global and consumer trends, connect some of the year’s mega cultural trends to the attendee live event experience–ultimately, helping event planners think like a futurist.
1) Value Added, Multifunction Versatility
From smartphones to tiny homes, people are intent on getting the most purpose and utility out of everything these days—including events! From rich content to lasting connections to stimulating activities, consider how every aspect of the event, even seemingly insignificant elements, such as cool swag, can be enhanced to provide additional benefits, like for instance, printing an overview of the schedule on the back of name tags, to provide attendees with an easy and convenient way to check what’s coming up next. At a time when business leaders are ultra-conscious of how they spend their time and with who, taking a step back to look at every moment of the entire experience will ensure your event provides takeaways that attendees will appreciate, while leaving a lasting impact on personal learning, growth and inspiration.
2) Celebrate Diverse Voices
Outside-the-box thinking will always be a hot topic for events, yet it is often keynote speakers outside of one’s industry or organization who can deliver the fresh perspective necessary for sparking truly creative thinking. In many cases, it might even be a speaker who questions popular opinion or common practice—nearly seven out of 10 say contrarian ideas are celebrated as critical to shaping great ideas! As society continues to welcome diverse opinions and interests, ensure attendees are being stimulated by bringing in speakers who challenge audiences to think bigger and broader.
Packing several sessions to attend, booths to visit, notes to take and people to meet into two or three days can be quite demanding for conference attendees. And while the goal is ensuring attendee minds are full, don’t discount the benefits of attendees being mindful as well. Leading experts agree that ‘brain breaks’ are crucial to rejuvenating the mind and actually foster elevated levels of creativity—give attendees time and space to breathe, reflect, and regroup with hands-on workshops, outdoor activities, art exhibits or wellness activities.
4) Customized Personalization
Today, one size fits nobody, making enhanced, customized elements more and more important for an increasingly diverse set of attendees. It’s important to note that personalizing an experience is more than just using an attendee’s name in conference communications. Consider, perhaps, offering attendees the opportunity to weigh in on some of the sessions or activities prior to the event—this will help you to ensure that you are providing what attendees want, while also helping them feel more invested in the event—a win-win. Another idea is a conference app that provides personalized suggestions for activities in real-time using pre-loaded information, with an integrated GPS tracker that guides users to local dining options and attractions outside of the conference.
5) Thoughtful Sustainability
While going green is nothing new, the latest trend in sustainability promises to push the boundaries of both imagination and resourcefulness. As an event planner, a keen awareness of society’s heightened interest in reusing, repurposing and recycling can help you develop a thoughtful approach that demonstrates your event’s commitment to the environment. With an overwhelming majority of adults globally favoring products made from recyclable content (versus those that aren’t), attendees will notice and appreciate that certain items are biodegradable or made from recycled materials— whether it’s the name tags, registration bags, or food cartons. Other trends in this space include offering sustainable, fair-trade food options and donating anything leftover or unused (ranging from food to flower arrangements to bottled water) to community organizations like homeless shelters or senior living facilities.
The experiential value for attendees starts with unforgettable events. Creating original and unexpected on-site experiences fortifies individuals’ ROI for attending. Thinking like a futurist and incorporating some of the cultural trends outlined will no doubt leave a lasting impression, and result in both future record attendance and a successful renewal rate for next year’s conference.