When it comes to the staging of conferences re-invention is all important, indeed events hosted in 2018 are far removed from those held ten years prior.
A rise in technology - coupled with changing preferences - means evolution is a must for organisers hoping to both engage and educate attendees long into the next decade.
With the New Year fast approaching, the best hosts will be on the lookout for up and coming trends designed to elevate the typical meeting into something far more memorable and - by extension - productive.
Below are a handful of tactics they could adopt to achieve just that…
The make-up of an audience will likely be very different, even when drawn from the same industry or profession. That said there is one trait that can be relied upon to unite even an eclectic mix of people – a love for their handheld device.
Yes, mobile phones are omnipresent with research suggesting many of us spend longer than four hours a day browsing, texting and generally shunning actual conversation. It is then understandable why more and more event organisers are seeking to include androids as part of the overall conference experience How so? By creating apps specific to it.
Be in no doubt that 2019 will see apps created that supplement the lecture, seminar or presentation. Content will include directions to and around the venue, digital registration, interactive tasks and even access to post event discussion forums.
Granted, such effort is only truly required for the biggest events spanning several hours or days but their existence is a means of wooing guests before they arrive and engaging with them long after.
Video already plays a significant part in the majority of conferences. Long gone are the days of guests sat for hours on end focused (partially at least) on one lecturer doing his or her utmost to hold attention spans and fend off boredom.
Nevertheless, video as we know it is changing. New 360 degree footage – a type of Virtual Reality – is set to re-define the very concept in 2019.
The effect is realised using multiple cameras that film overlapping angles simultaneously. The individual footage is then stitched together into one single spherical video piece. Crucially the colour and contrast of all the angles are calibrated and made uniform – all but physically placing viewers into the heart of the action.
Why is this important? Because it broadens the reach of events, connecting remote audiences from far and wide. Sure enough virtual attendance will open up an entirely new market, with tickets for the online experience being made available by those organisations prepared to invest in the very best camera equipment. Expect to see more companies onboarding in the next twelve months.
In a bid to entice more attendees event organisers the world over will be keeping a close eye on Google and their ‘wireless buds’ development.
2019 will prove a big year for the latter – technology that allows for real time translation in up to 40 languages. The benefits of such advanced audio speak for themselves and – potentially at least - open up a previously untapped market.
Just how reliable those translations prove is right now open to debate, certainly Google’s own web translator is hit and miss to put it kindly. In time however, this service will only improve, convincing many conference facilities to take the plunge next year.
Always a crucial ingredient of conferences – quite literally – refreshments are growing in importance. In 2019 there is an expectation that even greater focus will be placed on the food and drink served at such days. Indeed organisations are increasingly viewing sustenance breaks as a means of highlighting their brand.
Forwarding an altogether different menu will at worst leave an impression and hopefully impress attendees expecting little more than a cheese sandwich. Going the extra mile involves adventurous, continental recipes and maybe even the inclusion of a cocktail menu. Imagination will win the day.
No longer an afterthought, food is a key component to a successful conference.
Global warming is very much upon us and as fears for the environment intensify so too does a demand for everyone to improve their carbon footprint.
Admittedly, the opportunities for conference centres to do so is limited, certainly in comparison to big business like the transportation and electrical industries. Nevertheless every little helps and in 2019 there will be an expectancy for event organisers to do away with plastic cups, cutlery and straws as a bare minimum.
Similarly those with a greener outlook will be upping the pressure to use electricity efficiently as opposed to liberally. Being seen to care about the environment demonstrates a shift in attitudes but one very much anticipated next year.
Anybody working in marketing will preach the importance of long-term nurture. Gone are the days of luring customers – or attendees – for a single purpose come sale, as emphasis instead turns to building on that relationship over time.
What this means for those charged with organising events is a need to invest in marketing automation software, the kind that will attract potential customers and duly move them through a theoretical funnel.
Hopefully this will lead to them attending an initial event but – if executed correctly – tapping into resources thereafter until they become a loyal customer relied upon to attend several events every year.
Platforms geared towards achieving that goal include Hubspot and InfusionSoft, expect to hear more about them in 2019.
AI is only being accelerated and those who frequent theme parks may have noticed that facial recognition has become more widespread in recent years. It is surely only a matter of time before such technology becomes a staple of all conferences and conference centres alike.
Benefits include a faster sign-in process with the help of a smart-phone, improved security, and even the ability to tag fellow attendees in social posts as your device will recognise them even if you do not.
Fear not, receptionists will remain an integral part of every good conference centre, their workload however could be significantly reduced.
As touched upon earlier in this article, conferencing has moved beyond a lecturer merely lecturing. The prospect of a conference needs to excite or at the very least intrigue, and too few speakers are able to generate that dual anticipation.
This would explain a rise in experiential events, as company owners acknowledge a need for camaraderie as much as education.
Conference facilities that double up as team building centres stand to benefit most from this shift in attitude. Combining work and play will be the key to many a successful event in 2019. Breaking up intense learning with a spot of chocolate making, FootGolf or even an obstacle course will ensure companies get the very most out of their package.
The 2018 heatwave brought into sharp focus rising temperatures with sizzling summers no longer an anomaly. This has understandably triggered a desire to stage conferences outside where possible. Granted, such requests cannot always be accommodated but a growing number of conference facilities are recognising the need to at least provide that option.
2019 will see more venues placing tables and chairs out in the open, with improved and extended WiFi to boot. It is perhaps atypical but no less effective.
The prospect of being cooped up in a confined space for several hours whilst the sun beams is an unattractive one. Providing an unexpected alternative will win plaudits and business.
Finally security – and the significance of it – cannot be underestimated. The UK is still reeling from a spate of terrorist attacks and bigger, high profile gatherings have had to take precautionary measures as a direct result.
The threat to run of the mill conferences is – thankfully – less severe, nevertheless underlining the importance you place on the safety of attendees is no bad thing and something only likely to continue in 2019.
Here at Lane End we believe in constant re-invention, as highlighted by recent upgrades to The Quadrangle building. Learn more about the development here.
If you would like to learn more about conference trends and what Lane End can offer please contact us.