Millennials and Gen Z seek better technology, unique experiences at conventions
By Stephanie Ramirez
“The line between consumer music festivals and corporate events will continue to blur, as elements of the former become a means of engagement for the latter.”
— Cvent 2019 Event Trends Report
There is no doubting the power of live events. In fact, 84 percent of leadership—vice presidents and C-suite—believe in-person events are a critical component of their company’s success, according to a recent report from Bizzabo, an events technology company. And 41 percent believe that events are the single-most effective marketing channel over digital advertising, email marketing and content marketing.
Live events must evolve rapidly in this ever-changing human landscape as younger generations enter the workforce. Companies must be dynamic, flexible, and above all in tune with current trends.
Attendee desires and expectations include sustainability, use of technology, and unique venues and experiences—all top components of a successful event, according to Bizzabo’s report and a 2019 Event Trends report by Cvent.
Sustainability practices top the list for a majority of event attendees. “There are so many things you can do to cut down on waste at an event, such as reusing lanyards, recognition pins and other accessories given out,” says Marie-Ann Douchet, senior event planner at event management firm Fly mee Away. She also suggests shopping local for welcome gifts at the destination to give business to the area residents instead of shipping pallets and boxes to your venue.
Another way to promote sustainability and at the same time build convenience is to use apps over print. “I recommend to my clients that they use an app where all of the speaker bios are placed, as well as the entire event itinerary,” says Douchet. “Some apps allow you to conduct real-time polls or allow attendees to post pictures before and after the event. Companies are more likely to attract millennials and Gen Z if they are using this kind of technology during an event.”
While sustainable event planning is slowly becoming a must for all sizes of events, it’s now imperative for large-scale events—especially those that set the tone for the event industry, reports Cvent. Reusable cups and other similar ideas are small nods to sustainability that will be appreciated by the audience.
But event planners can approach events more holistically when it comes to reducing the overall carbon footprint with live streaming. Materials and waste account for a mere 1 percent of the carbon emissions breakdown for a given event, while travel accounts for 73 percent, according to Cvent’s event industry study.
Having people in the room to see and experience everything is a key component to the success of any event. However, live streaming keynote speakers and certain training sessions can actually support a company’s sustainability goal by cutting down on travel to an event, and by reaching those unable to attend.
“Not everyone can afford to go to an event. There’s a demographic that companies can reach for a lesser price point where you don’t have to travel and you don’t have hotel cost,” said John Killacky, managing director of national sales and marketing for Bartha, an event production company serving the direct selling industry. “Streaming has come a long way and is now much more affordable. From a direct selling standpoint, I think streaming is a great investment because it will give some of those newer people the opportunity to participate without breaking the bank.”
Bizzabo reported that among emerging technologies, 30 percent of marketers believe that live streaming will impact events the most. Sixty-seven percent of audiences who watched a live stream purchased a ticket to a similar event the next time it occurred, according to a recent blog post from leading software testing and review company, TechJury.
“Streaming technology is much more advanced where you are not just looking at a talking head on a screen anymore,” says Killacky. “Streams can be switched so you can see different content, different camera angles or audience reactions, so there’s a lot more impact. Streaming your event won’t cause low in-person attendance. “Ninety-five percent of the people are most likely going to want to be present [for the in-person experience], so it’s definitely something planners should consider,” says Killacky.
“Festivalization,” Music and Holographs
According to Cvent’s report, 2019 has moved everyone further on the spectrum toward full-blown “festivalization” at events. Essentially, the line between consumer music festivals and corporate events will continue to blur, as elements of the former become a means of engagement for the latter. This trend is trickling in from larger society as a whole. According to Billboard, there are over 800 annual music festivals in the U.S. that entertain over 32 million attendees in total. Fourteen million of those attendees are—surprise, surprise—millennials.
“Silent discos are a big hit at events,” says Fly mee Away’s, Douchet. “You hire two or three DJs to play different music and everyone has their own headset so attendees can choose the kind of music they want to tune into. What is interesting is that the room is silent, and everyone is dancing to a different beat. It’s hysterical and can bring an element of surprise to your attendees.”
Advances in event technology are allowing forward-thinking planners to break away from defined parameters and use technology to increase engagement, capture valuable data, and cut time and costs, according to a 2019 study from CWT Meetings and Events.
For a client event coming up in 2020, Killacky said they will be using 3D holographic projection for the first time. 3D holographic projections exist freely in space and are visible to the entire audience. He said the scene from Star Wars where R2D2 projects an image of Princess Leah saying, “help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope,” is the best reference to explain what this tech will produce, except the graphics will be much better.
Unique Venues and Multi-Sensory Engagement
According to the Cvent report, 92 percent of planners and property professionals alike said they believe events are more likely to be booked outside of a hotel than they were five years ago. Events are popping up in the most unorthodox places, and that’s only going to become more common. The race is on to see who can think furthest outside the traditional ballroom box to create more enticing, millennial-friendly experiences.
“Venues can be pricey,” says Tiffany Jones, an experiential marketing and global events strategist for Beyond the Event. “But, there are affordable unique locations being used like rooftops, golf courses and warehouses. Planners need to consider nontraditional places to hold their events.”
Along with a unique venue setting, Jones recommends what she calls “multi-sensory audience engagement.” She says it’s not just about the production, it’s about the experience. Video-mapping, shorter sessions, multiple stages for recognition and branded lounges are just a few of the things planners can incorporate into their events.
Lounges provide attendees a unique space for working, relaxing and more importantly, networking. Face-to-face networking grows as screen time increases, according to the Cvent report.
Today, networking is the second biggest motivator for attendees to actually make the trip, behind content. However, it’s not just scheduled face-to-face meetings they’re craving; it’s also the spontaneous conversations that come with serendipitous networking.
“Distributors like to meet with their teams,” says Jones. “I’ve attended events where I see people standing on tables talking to groups of people, so one of the things I have been advising my clients to do is to create meeting spaces throughout the venue so leaders can meet with their teams.”
Jones adds, “For very little cost, we can scatter some bean bag chairs in rooms throughout the venue where people can meet.”
Cvent’s report summed up event experiences by concluding that meeting attendees have valued the virtues of the “hallway conversation,” with many saying just that one connection was the most valuable part of the experience.
As the bar continually climbs higher for events, planners will have to create more immersive experiences. Venues will need to partner more closely with planners to bring these experiences to life, adding value as creative collaborators in the face of sky-high event expectations.
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