As every event professional knows, live events are more important than ever: They provide unique opportunities for buyers and sellers to come face to face, get ‘up close and personal’ and establish real relationships.Events are an opportunity to initiate long term relationships with prospects, provide services and products at the right time in the purchase cycles and even build loyalty and trust with existing customers.Of course, this activity all puts pressure on the exhibition and conference organisers to provide optimised and conducive environments to make the investment worthwhile, for exhibitors and the visitors and delegates alike. Event technology plays a major and pivotal role in making the events more effective and impactful.We have seen some clear trends emerging and becoming mainstream in the past few years, changing the game in terms of how events are run and conducted.2014 itself saw the rise of some prominent technologies, including EventBrite, CrowdSurge and TweetWall - which have paved the path in 2015 for some new event tech to take shape.Our list counts down the top 10 event technology trends for event organisers and managers to watch and prepare for, in order to create maximum ROI for the stakeholders like exhibitors, sponsors, partners, speakers, visitors and delegates and see a positive impact on their own business results.Trend #10: Social becomes mainstreamWith retiring audiences making space for social media-connected millennials, event management organisations have made efforts in the past couple of years to embrace social marketing. We already saw that almost all EOs now manage twitter handles and LinkedIn groups for their shows.Conferences use social to inform and update audiences about the event agenda, speakers and overall plan whilst generating buzz about event proceedings. What we will see more focus on in 2015 is cohesiveness in content, messages and conversations across multiple channels - existing email audiences, websites and social. The engagement generated during events will continue well beyond the event’s physical duration. Also, event engagement will go deeper before and during the event by way of private social networks included in event mobile apps…which takes us on the next point.Trend #9: Mobile gets in the centre!2015 will see a widening adoption of app technology to cover more and more shows. This will be nicely supported by a plethora of event apps available, with range of pick and choose services and plans in place. The apps themselves are expected to grow the range of features available for speakers, exhibitors, delegates, visitors and event organisers to discuss and pre-plan event-day activities - as well as deliver an exemplary event experience.Trend #8: Cloud gets more takersAdoption of Cloud applications and services will see a significant rise in 2015. Cloud benefits include reduced implementation time, hassle free scalability, better security, coupled with ready-to-use, event-specific processes, apps, analytics and reports, real-time views to everyone everywhere. In a nutshell, cloud definitely get more power in the event technology landscape.Trend #7: True Digitisation beckonsEvent Managers will demand more consolidated and integrated systems to make the process easier by tearing down silos. With the ability to create private social networks within mobile event apps that get synched up via cloud and a few apps now doubling up as scanners for badges and leads, it will be interesting to see the consolidation of technologies used in hand held devices.Tech vendors, are you listening?Trend #6: Content will call the shotsAs publishers and media companies produce more and more events and shows, pure-play event management companies will have to fight for their space with intelligent, relevant and engaging content – both offline and online via digital media, like whitepapers, case studies, interviews, specifically videos. In that the EOs have clear advantage, with videos from the past events readily available to be used for post-facto debates and conversations.Key will be utilising newer methods of content delivery and content curation in main stream marketing methods, for example “video in email”. Also, rapid adoption of Content Discovery platforms and tools will deliver the needed boost to gain ROI from content creation.Trend #5: Community: if not now, when? In 2015, it’s not about whether you need one, it’s about how soon you can have one! Your audiences need to stay connected not only with you, but also among themselves. Communities are about networking and sharing knowledge, well beyond your event. Communities foster the no-selling, been-there-done-that kind of best practice sharing that EOs will only stand to benefit from - if they facilitate the conversations.It’s something to learn from the publishing/media best practices, and why not? EMs can use communities to powerfully promote and amplify their brand messages, listen to interests and needs from the ongoing conversations and harness partnerships and relationships on a longer term. It’s a nexus of technologies that will enable this, so really all of the above plus a stable and flexible web and mobile platform like Drupal and Wordpress to host your communities!Trend #4: Marketing 365Not just at the run-up to the event, but real efforts on marketing through out the year will germinate in 2015. There will be teething troubles on this one – with the leading challenge being “what messages” to market. EOs will realise that collaborative participation from sales, marketing, audience experience, event operations and content teams will help them cross the chasm of event-only marketing to perennial one.Content will need to be pre-planned as well as reactive, and everything will try to tie down to that one Brand purpose. Caution though – Listening (and not just sending messages) will be the key differentiator for success, as EOs will soon realise…hopefully within 2015! For that reason, marketing automation will get deeply integrated with event management and experience technologies mentioned in the trends above.Trend #3: Exhibitors, Sponsors and Delegates will play 'hard to get'Despite events and conferences still being the best avenue for face to face networking, knowledge sharing and furthering business for both buyers and sellers, increased pressure on budgets, time and travel constraints will continue to make the sales conversion tougher for delegates as well as exhibitors and sponsors..Ability to define and measure Sales & Marketing Performance will be of essence to drive more of what works and purge the activities and tasks that do not. Quick and agile Business Intelligence to communicate the group performance will get back in vogue.Trend #2: Mantra of the year: IndividualiseEO will strive to carry on meaningful and relevant conversations with their existing audiences and also to attract new prospects. Personalisation to the extent of timing, interests and intent will become a minimum expectation in any marketing channel.Emphasis will be in humanised approach based on an individual’s past association with you as well as any digital footprint that they leave behind on your websites, social channels etc and not corporate messages or sales-speak. In 2015, EOs will start gearing up to take this challenge and consider state-of-the-art tools, technologies and approaches to tailor the audience experience.This leads us to the numero uno for the year!2015 will be the year of Audience AnalyticsThe objective for most EOs for 2015 will be “To be able to engage with audiences – exhibitors, sponsors, delegates and visitors – at an individual level based on their needs and interest, through relevant messages via their preferred channels”.In order to do this, event organisers, big and small, irrespective of the type of events and shows, will seek key insights about their audiences so they can create appropriate communities, market 365 days per year and communicate through social and mobile channels on an individual basis with the most relevant content.2015 will be the year of “knowing your audiences” - their interests, needs, purchase intent with timing and budgets, advance and informed segmentation to engage with, in order to attract new audiences, delight the existing ones and build loyalty for your shows. 2015 will have everyone take that one small step, if not already started. Those who have already done so will go deeper and wider.. Starting now, no matter where you are, will be the key to the journey. And that’s not all. I do see the event space hungry for more innovation and creativity to further improve the event experience and deliver undeniable value over the coming years. Only if we can imagine, possibilities are limitless. And if you are as excited as I am to be a part of the progress this industry will unfold, then watch out for these three futuristic trends beyond 2015! Can you see what I can see?In no particular order, here they are:Future Trend A: Match Making in the makingWith deep Analytics as part-and-parcel of all-year engagement with exhibitors, Sponsors, Visitors and Delegates, EO should be well placed to predict the buyer and seller needs and arrange the event setup to facilitate quick and productive buyer-seller dating. Wouldn’t that be the holy grail of event success?Future Trend B: Unconference adds a twistEOs will see the initial ripple due to crowd-sourcing phenomenon that’s soon catching up in the industry under the name of a new and disruptive trend called ‘Unconference’. So do you see what it means for your systems and processes?Future Trend C: Really real-time?I want to attend an event in a few years where, when I am casually window-shopping, I will be notified on my mobile about the exhibitor around the corner of the pavilion offering the most-wish listed service or product that I always wanted to buy, but never asked anyone about it.
Acrotrend is a business intelligence consultancy that helps event organisers become customer focused rather than being product or services focused. Click here to read EN's interview with the firm’s managing director Sandeep Mendiratta, or here for more on the Audience Insight & Analytics framework.
Any comments? Email Annie Byrne