2018 Event Trends That Will Change the Meeting Industry (part 1)

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If you’ve been reading the news or following social media lately, then you already know the buzzword that’s been causing people to throw themselves into passionate debates these days: Bitcoin. From $6,550 to $15,000 in less than one month, Bitcoin marks a new chapter in the world economic system.

The insane growth speed Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) is displaying highlights the rhythm of changes we are experiencing nowadays. The event industry is not an exception.

Two weeks ago, we had the opportunity to be a part of the IBTM World in Barcelona and meet incredible professionals who dedicate themselves to shifting the ways we design, plan, and market events.

A new series of 2018 event trends are taking form under the weight of the unstoppable reshaping of the technological, economic, and political layers. To help you navigate the entire avalanche of changes that will take over the MICE industry, we’ve put together a list of 2018 event trends as explained by different experts.

Ready? Let’s dive in:

Get used to the uncertainty … it’s the only thing that will last

During the “Trends Watch Report 2017” keynote, we gained access to qualitative and quantitative data for the meeting industry. Alistair Turner, managing director at EIGHT PR & Marketing, and Rob Davidson, senior lecturer at the University of Greenwich, presented a performance snapshot of different industries. Apart from that, they made a series of predictions on how demand and supply will most likely to evolve, along with a series of 2018 event trends. Here are some of their predictions:

#1. Instability will become the new normal

2017 was a hard year. Events like Brexit and the Catalan crisis revealed the high level of global uncertainty. As event professionals, we’ll have to be aware of the constant changes the world is going through, and learn how to maintain our game. This means building more business confidence and consolidation, leading to more communication with clients and attendees.

#2. Cross-industry growth will change the event industry

As Turner and Davidson highlighted, there’s a continuing growth, driven by the sharing and accumulation of knowledge and information in the STEM sectors (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). For example, the automotive industry is at a 10-year record high. Moreover, the physical make-up of the car itself is under much debate, which could transform the industry.

Conversely, the medical industry is changing by providing more autonomy to people to diagnose problems themselves with the help of self-quantifying tools. The speakers noted that this cross-industry growth will directly impact the event business by boosting the necessity for idea-sharing spaces.

#3. Online meetings will migrate to face-to-face interactions

According to the ICCA Statistics Report, the figure of rotating international association meetings this year (12,212) has doubled since 2006. Thanks to the growth gained through confidence from business in the value of meetings, we’ll observe an even higher number of live events going forward.

#4. Fintech startups will disrupt the event industry

As mentioned in the EY’s Global Banking Outlook 2017, previous years have seen eroding profitability for banks. On the other hand, the number of Fintech startups has risen by more than 50% since 2011. As Turner and Davidson predict, this will directly influence the event industry, so keep an eye on it.

#5. The industry will shift from delicate management to delicate emotions

Although we are used to event technology as a powerful logistic and marketing tool, we must understand that its future evolution will focus on attendees’ well-being. In 2018, we’ll use the event technology to enhance and upgrade the guest experience.

As seen from these predictions, we are riding a constant wave of changes. The 2018 event trends revolve mainly around the cross-industry fluctuations and the different layers of the global situation. That’s why it’s so important to be up to date with the new opportunities or risks we may encounter.

One of the most important predictions is the growth of face-to-face meetings as a result of the unfailing strengthening of the knowledge economy. Also, new and authentic attendee experiences are needed for a greater value and event impact.

Meetings are the operating systems that transport ideas

In his talk “Three Event Trends that will Change the Way We Meet,” meeting designer Bo Krüger highlighted the emergence of new attendee behaviors, new generations, and new technologies focused on value creation. These changes will give birth to a series of 2018 event trends that have the potential to be real game changers.

#1. Focus becomes more important than ever

There’s one major challenge planners have to deal with when it comes to running events: getting (and keeping) people’s attention. With the amount of digital stimuli attendees are exposed to (phones, laptops, etc.), it’s almost impossible to maintain their engagement throughout an entire event. That’s why it’s so important to build focus when you’re competing with a world of distractions.

So how do you accomplish this? Krüger suggested that whenever you are about to start an event or a meeting, have people be silent and completely still for one full minute. This will help them disconnect and just relax. Afterward, they’ll be more focused and efficient.

#2. Event co-creation will flourish

Encourage the audience to co-create knowledge. As Krüger declared for the IBTM press, “Today, meetings are often about telling or selling knowledge and readymade solutions to the audience. In the future, they will be more about participants’ creating knowledge and solutions. We have to draw on participants’ knowledge and creativity; we cannot rely on experts and CEOs to have all the answers.” He also noted, “Co-creation creates better solutions and participants take more ownership of decisions they have helped create.”

#3. Gamification will have the upper hand for another year

Games are extremely powerful. Play is a human need, like water or food. Considering this, we must bear in mind that by putting together a game for the attendees, we’ll be able to create amazing outcomes. As Krüger argues, improvised theatre will be a big thing in 2018.

As he explained, this practice is about setting up a theatre-like environment without scripts. By participating in this gamified dynamic, your guests will experience a sense of uncertainty, but in a safe and positive environment, and they’ll also have fun by engaging in a leisure activity with other attendees.

Reviewing the 2018 event trends from Bo Krüger, you may notice the experience-centered approach. This shows a greater emphasis on how we must design an event environment so that attendees feel safe to engage more and be comfortable enough to produce and share authentic ideas.

What’s important in event storytelling for 2018

During his speech “The Art of Storytelling Through Events,” Lenny Talarico, executive director of events for MGM Resorts Event Productions, talked about the impact stories have on the attendee experience. As Talarico highlighted, our goal as planners is to know the messages we want to deliver and find the best way to connect with our clients through well-crafted stories. As he indicated, here’s a quick list of 2018 event trends that revolve around storytelling:

#1. Focus on achieving a positive ROE

To generate a powerful impact, think about wrapping the attendees’ experience in a well-crafted drama. The wow factor of your event depends on how skillfully you manage to design a compelling story. This will influence the way your guests perceive the event, which will also affect the ROE (Return of Experience).

According to Mike Wohlitz, vice president of Event Services at Freeman AV, more and more people want a meaningful connection with an event or a brand. We could take, for example, the deep, personal relationships Apple and Disney have with their customers. It’s important for event professionals to find ways to generate a positive ROE.

Although ROE may be harder to measure, especially with short-term data, it ultimately results in a stronger brand allegiance and deeper emotional connection to an event or brand. Thanks to the emotions our attendees experience when following an unfolding story (happiness, intrigue, engagement, etc.), the main goal of event storytelling for 2018 will revolve around generating a satisfactory ROE and a strong connection with the audience.

#2. Apply the storytelling techniques to your event

According to Talarico, there are several storytelling characteristics a planner must apply when designing the event story. First, it’s crucial to consider the emotions and feelings an event or a certain event dynamic may induce. Second, it’s essential to create a certain level of familiarity so that the audience can relate to the event. For example, if you’re planning an exotic meal or buffet for your attendees, make sure to add a few familiar dishes, so that they feel safe.

Third, don’t forget about the “hero” of the story, which could be an organization, brand, or product. Hand in hand with the hero goes the enemy, which describes the things that could compromise the success. Finally, don’t forget about the lesson you want to transmit. Attendees need a takeaway from the story. If you have all the elements in place, you can easily design a compelling story for your event.

#3. Set up a rollercoaster ride (aka the journey)

As Talarico explained, events are stories in motion. That’s why the attendee journey must be flawless. As event professionals, our responsibility is to make the guests’ lives as interesting as possible (at least during the event). Considering this, planners must craft the sequence of the story and the suspense people will experience. In other words, we should articulate the entire attendee journey in a coherent and engaging story that will absorb the audience’s attention.

2018 will be all about thrilling and amazing attendees. To accomplish this mission, we must think about the ways in which we can deliver our messages and craft the stories we want to tell. According to Hubspot, “No matter how effective technology platforms become in delivering content, people will flock to the same things that have always moved them. We are suckers for great stories—narratives that remind us of our humanity. Marketing professionals know that no one can resist a good story, and they use it to their full advantage.” Good stories have the power to invoke strong emotional responses from your (potential) attendees, which will be so important in 2018.

Wrap up

From the growth in the cross-disciplinary industries to the way we encourage co-creation at events and design the perfect story for the attendees, 2018 looks promising. As planners, we must focus on delivering not only flawless events, but also engaging experiences, spaces in which the attendees can disconnect and have enough room for interaction. If you liked this piece, stay tuned for our second part of 2018 event trends!