Events; anything new to experience?

10 tips to give your event a personal boost
I’m the same age as the RAI. No, not 100-plus, but born in 1961, when the Europa Hall, recently named a national monument, opened its doors. The RAI and I have grown considerably over the years, insofar as you can compare the development from infant to adult to the expansion of the Europa Hall into a complex offering over 100,000 square metres of multifunctional space.

There is a comparison to be made in a certain sense though - if there is one trend in the event sector that we’ve seen over recent years it involves the growing importance of a personal approach. People have become increasingly aware of the need to focus on the individual customer journey of our clients and guests – both before, during and after the event. Only then can we deliver added value to all stakeholders and a good ROI on the time, funds, efforts and investments in knowledge, products and innovations. Whether exhibition, conference or event, together we make the sector.

It’s wonderful to see how the event industry is recovering. The recession appears to be over, the economy is improving, visitors numbers are increasing, there are more events worldwide and we are seeing a fresh new perspective on live gatherings.

As a researcher, I see these developments in newsletters, research studies, new events, marketing data and white papers, combined with a healthy dose of online discussions. Long live social media!

While on the subject of social media, online meeting platforms have facilitated more discussions and inspiration than ever before. But is it as fun, effective and inspiring as an actual event? I don’t believe so... The discussions we have online only strengthen the desire to meet face-to-face.

This, then, is a good time to discuss current event trends. What can we expect? Where’s the focus? Below are ten items that can help you on your way. The order is entirely random, and what you do with the information is of course entirely up to you. These tips could be adapted to the target group of your choice.

  1. Honesty: to measure is to know. Statistics, visitor numbers, survey results; not a sales stunt but a true story. Feedback on events, organisation and locations are shared openly: the event is what we all make of it.
  2. Technology: no event can do without it. Big data, internet of things, real time monitoring, wayfinding, apps, robotics, hybrid events, 3d printing, holograms – options are studied and applied, with optimal connectivity during the event as an absolute precondition.
  3. Architecture: a focus on CSR, green buildings equipped with every available technology, inside/outside possibilities, a unique character combined with a blank canvas: the venue as a chameleon. Venues are not a commodity - they are inextricably linked to the city and country in which they are located.
  4. Design: form follows function. A great principle in the design world that is increasingly applicable to events. What exactly do we hope to achieve with an event and how should it be set up to realise our goals? Critical thinking about dynamics, the order of information supply, tone of voice, production and form is of the essence.
  5. Play: gamification! Adding a competitive element that stimulates networks or makes session participation more interactive. This playful approach especially appeals to the new generation of visitors: together and international, with a nod towards online games.
  6. Health: a focus on the personal customer journey demands attention to the wellbeing of visitors and exhibitors. More space for resting, an environment that stimulates the senses, smart food stations that offer healthy and effective energy to recharge body and mind.
  7. Surprise: events increasingly aim to offer an edge. Something different, with a twist. Being startled or surprised makes us more alert, shakes us up: a great starting point for absorbing information.
  8. Art: we are increasingly interested in what music, dance, film or theatre can add to the experience. Selecting the right colours, images and sound is essential, and we are inspired by theatres, concert halls and museums.
  9. Cooperation: a genuine discussion about the main issues with your stakeholders in communities throughout the year: is there a better way to learn? This demands more co-creation, a faster response to trends and demands, and the willingness to let loose, for instance via unconference sessions. See visitors as organisers.
  10. Individual: image research via personas, location-based information, matchmaking  tools, a personal route through the event, addressing personal interests – using big data for small details. And always remember the real heart of the discussion.

And finally: don’t forget the foundations, which stay the same regardless of which new concepts we choose to apply. Ultimately, all events revolve around properly translating a concept into practice, observing agreements, good advice, the right location, and – last, but not least – a tasty cup of coffee!

Whatever trend appeals to you most, make it personal.

Sanne Jolles

Sanne Jolles

@sannejolles | Research Manager RAI Amsterdam | Trends | Innovatie | Gek op het Rijksmuseum

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