The accelerating development of the event industry is making predictions about the future increasingly difficult. Most forecasts are based on the visions of technology companies who are solving particular problems specific to their industry segments. This is partly why there is such an emphasis on the various tools that are supposed to transform the event industry. Instead, we decided to get the opinion of event organisers.
THE STARTING POINT
A selection of 108 event organisers answered our questionnaire and in-depth interviews. The survey was conducted in the autumn of 2018. For the most part, the respondents are optimistic about the future (as many as 85.6% are highly or moderately optimistic). The number of pessimists among them is insignificant. The respondents were those event organisers who are the most active in the present; belonging to the middle generation, most of them will be between 51 and 70 years of age by 2030. The survey covered individuals from 34 countries, with the majority from Great Britain, Slovenia, Germany, Italy, Austria, Serbia, Portugal, Spain, France and Belgium.
Personal, or “face-to-face”, meetings are crucial for business success. We participants want connections, excellent communication and a feeling of belonging.
This is one of the central findings of the survey. In the survey, we made a comparison of the various challenges faced by organisers today. There is no immediately apparent direct connection between the megatrends and the industry’s current challenges; the fundamental problems in the present are instead things like congress budgets, how to entice participants and creative methods of organising events. These are mostly short-term challenges that respondents feel they can directly influence. They find challenges beyond their control and outside their influence less important. However, a more thorough examination reveals certain correlations that are also significant for prognostication, since they deal with issues that are important now, but will be crucial in the future. For the most part, these are the challenges posed by new technology and digitalisation, as well as the question of event security.
The respondents agree that the key trend affecting event organisation in the future is technology, followed by sustainable development. The additional suggestions are interesting as well; standing out among them is security, which was pointed out as a megatrend by multiple respondents and which ranks immediately below mobility.
With respect to organising events in the future, the respondents’ opinions are as follows:
- The amount of time dedicated to networking will increase, an opinion shared by more than half of the respondents (56.7%).
- Just under half of the respondents believe event duration will decrease (49.5%).
- Slightly more than half of the respondents believe the duration of workshops will stay the same (51.5%).
- Half of the respondents expect the duration of social events to stay the same (49.5%).
The following technologies will have the biggest influence on event organisation:
- 3.5 Audience Engagement Tools
- 3.26 Augmented and Virtual Reality
- 3.26 Interactive Tables and Screens
- 3.23 Real-time language translation
- 2.98 Hologram projections
- 2.98 Robotics and Machine Learning
- 2.92 Drones
TIPS AND TOOLS
PayPal was not invented by banks, Amazon was not invented by retailers, Airbnb was not invented by hoteliers.
We asked the respondents for their personal suggestions regarding future challenges. The answers were classified into two groups.
1. Future challenges that respondents will have direct influence over
Rapid technological development
Most of the respondents are anxious about the rapid technological development. The dilemma about the merits of virtual meetings remains; the most interesting thing is the perception of technology as a tool and not as the essence of meetings. Almost all the respondents agree that technological progress will be a key challenge of the future.
Nowadays it seems like there is no more need for knowledge – everything is just an internet search away, everything can be “googled”. Knowledge is accessible everywhere and anywhere. We are surrounded by inconspicuous services that threaten to displace old business models, so it is necessary to consider the possibility of events being entirely digitalised.
Communication with participants
Participants’ shifting expectations will result in changes to the way we communicate with them. This question is directly connected to rapid technological development which has facilitated more effective communication.
Accomplishments in the field of artificial intelligence already provide a great deal of help with organising events. From speech recognition, facial recognition, and self-driving cars, all the way to programs solving the complexities of event organisation – all of these are accessible today and will become ubiquitous in the future.
Creating unforgettable experiences for the participants
Experimenting with the various forms that we collectively refer to as “meeting design” has become a staple of the job. Familiarity with the context of the destination, authenticity and concern for the environment have become a non-negotiable part of the congress story and their importance is only expected to increase.
Integrity and personal responsibility for everything we think and do. More awareness and more concern for people and the planet is our shared responsibility.
Measuring the ROI (the added value of events)
It might sound like a tired phrase, but we live in a time when every link in the congress chain should seek to offer more added value. We need to move beyond conventional thinking, focusing fully on the participants and their needs.
Supervision of the use of participants’ private data
Congress organisers collect and, in a way, trade data about the participants. This represents an advantage for large organisers with the ability of integrating data from different services and applications, which nowadays mostly takes place using cloud services. Privacy, anonymity and security, or encryption of communications, are a future challenge.
2. Future challenges that respondents have no direct influence over
Accessibility of destinations
Despite the complexities of congress destinations, the key factor is still accessibility, which closely correlates with the safety of various destinations. No large changes are expected in this area, either in the near term or in the distant future.
We live in a time of constant global uncertainty; unexpected political and economic events can have a dire impact and thus represent a key problem of the congress industry.
Adapting to different countries and cultures
The “one size fits all” approach stopped being viable a long time ago. Even global corporations will have to adapt events to the specifics of local markets and be as flexible as possible in doing so.
Climate change is a fact. Globally, the only thing we can do to help is to foster green congress tourism. All stakeholders of the congress industry are compelled to introduce measures to improve sustainability: agencies, meeting organisers, hotel chains and tourist and congress offices.
Niche congress destinations and products
Innovations happen on the margins; that is where new congress market niches and products arise. There are innumerable congress destinations and providers and they all want to succeed. Destinations that wallow in mediocrity will not survive.
The event organisers believe that in the future the most important aspects of event organisation will be:
- Content 4.8
- Networking 4.7
- Experience 4.0
- Interaction 3.7
- Fun 2.4
- Sitting and listening 1.4
The respondents believe that the experience offered represents an enormously important factor in choosing a destination. Most of the respondents are united in the opinion that experience will continue to represent an important part of competitive advantage.
In the area of marketing, the changes will be extremely dynamic. Marketing trends are probably the hardest to predict; no one knows what direction the marketing will evolve into. Topping the rankings are the respondents’ pious hopes that the future will bring a democratisation of digital advertising; this is unlikely in practice, since this field is currently completely dominated by global corporations.
Moore’s law will be an extraordinary influence not only in marketing, but in all areas of both private life and business.
Moore’s law states that approximately every year and a half, performance of highly advanced integrated circuits (general purpose and dedicated processing units) doubles.
Other interesting answers that open further questions include:
- Values will be crucial in creating content for events. It is on this basis that people will connect in the future.
- Providing top-notch cadres will be a critical challenge. We will have to do more to retain them.
- The veritable flood of various events and the problem of choosing between them has become a significant issue, especially because of generic copying of content.
- The intergenerational gap will deepen further; it remains to be seen what the meeting industry’s response to this will be.