Startups are fixated with what their clients want. Companies are conducting studies to better understand the needs of their target groups. Successful media brands, such as Netflix, are obsessed with decoding what their customers’ future needs will be.
Big players are investing time and important resources in evaluating the psychological and behavioral shifts of the market. These insights are subsequently put into work when designing new products and launching marketing campaigns.
The same is true for the event industry.
Our attendees’ expectations are changing, and only professionals who pay careful attention to their guests’ wants and needs will be able to deliver memorable and truly transformative events.
The core essence of planning an event revolves around the audience personas and their attendance goals. There’s a big difference between basic events and events that are tailor-made to the attendees’ expectations.
Think about yourself.
Which would you prefer: A flawless yet boring event, focused on “selling” a brand, or a powerful event designed to answer your questions and empower you with the knowledge or inspiration you need for your projects or career?
As a professional, you can’t connect with your audience if you aren’t willing to deliver what they expect.
There’s no other way to be one step ahead of the competition than by learning as much as you can about your audience personas and evaluating the data on their new event-related preferences.
Why do attendees’ expectations change?
Your guests’ wants and needs don’t just change out of the blue. There are certain factors that propel these new expectations.
Understanding those factors will help you maintain an objective eye on the constant shifts occurring in the events industry.
Here are some of them:
New ways of interaction
Social media, technologies, and apps such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Tinder, and Happn have changed how people interact with each other.
A new friend, a forgotten college roommate, or even a romantic interest is just one click away. People relate to each other and communicate much differently than they did a decade ago.
The immediacy and ease of daily interactions, in addition to quick access to information about others, have changed the way your attendees perceive communication and develop meaningful networking connections.
Content creators instead of consumers
One of the greatest changes we’ve witnessed in the last few decades is the conversion of people into content creators, as opposed to just consumers of information.
From complex vlogging channels to the simplest Instagram photos, everyone has become a content generator and potential influencer. Everyone has an audience to whom they speak and interact with, thus making event advocacy, for example, a real deal.
Need for immediate reaction
With this quick, easy access to new (or known) people, our increased use of technology has decreased our patience.
For example, according to this article, “We’ve come to expect things so quickly that researchers found people can’t wait more than a few seconds for a video to load.”
Ramesh Sitaraman, a computer science professor at UMass Amherst, examined the viewing habits of 6.7 million internet users in a study released last fall. His findings showed that subjects were only willing to be patient for a total of two seconds waiting for a video to load.
The same thing is true when your attendees come in contact with the event technology or environment. The longer it takes to, for example, register to attend, the greater the chances are that person will give up and won’t complete the registration procedure.
FOMO (fear of missing out) is a big deal.
Moreover, the addiction to new information (aka updates) is impacting the way people engage with data and news or social media platforms.
The need to be constantly up to date, combined with the fear of missing out on important things, has reshaped the way attendees perceive novelty, making them crave new insights and information.
Platforms such as TripAdvisor, Amazon, IMDb, Airbnb, and Uber are strengthening the sense of community and the power of shared responsibility. People have unique tools for expressions they can use to leave positive recommendations or critical comments.
Whenever you want to watch a movie, you’ll probably go to IMDb to see its rating. If it’s below five points, chances are you’ll decide to watch something else.
The same thing will happen to a book you want to read. This is the real power of crowd wisdom. And this is what changed the trust balance between consumers and brands.
Not all these social, technological, and psychological changes are necessarily positive.
Yet, they’re all altering attendees’ expectations.
Nowadays, guests are aware creators who are eager to do things quickly, squeeze out extreme value from everything, engage at a meaningful level, and press the uniqueness of their experiences.
The new attendees’ expectations you should consider
From experience to transformation
Events must go beyond the experience. There’s a developmental factor that must be taken into consideration. Attendees are gradually becoming more demanding. Experiences aren’t enough for them anymore.
They need more.
That’s why your event’s long-lasting impressions are directly linked to your ability to influence your attendees’ opinions or behaviors.
From networking to meaningful connection
One of the biggest changes in attendees’ expectations is the need to build truly significant relationships.
Instead of throwing business cards at people left and right while engaging in generic small talk, your attendees want interactions that are relevant and straight to the point.
The right balance between familiarity and originality
Brands such as IKEA, Starbucks, and McDonald’s have taught us a great deal about the importance of feeling safe in a foreign environment.
With IKEA furniture, for example, you can feel at home wherever you are. And when you walk into a Starbucks, you know (at least approximately) what you’ll get whether you’re in New York or New Delhi.
However, we as event professionals should find the golden mean between our attendees’ need for surprise and their craving for comfort and familiarity.
This challenge, for example, may translate into providing nontraditional venue spaces with recognizable activities and catering.
The need for choice and personalization
Whether it’s opportunity to decide which activities to attend or with whom to interact, experience customization has become a must-have for guests. Your attendees’ expectations involve both the agency factor and access to numerous options.
A holistic travel-event-technology experience
Everything has to be harmoniously designed and integrated. If you are planning international events, for example, the logistics are only half of the problem.
Considering the new attendees’ expectations, you must envision the entire experience, introducing both the travel and the event technology in the equation.
The co-creative engagement
Your attendees aren’t passive spectators who just want to sit back in a chair and absorb information.
They are intelligent, well-educated, and capable of producing incredible contributions to the event. That’s why co-creation at events is all the rage these days.
Events are marketing and communication tools.
To deliver your messages, you can’t ignore the psychological factors that determine the attendees’ expectations.
People change, and most of the time, these slight shifts aren’t noticeable.
However, planning powerful and memorable events involves the aspiration to long-term delight of your guess.