Upcoming Event Trends in a Post COVID-19 World
By Ash Rowe, Senior Event Logistics Manager at the IET
In a post-COVID-19 world, there are four key event trends that I am forecasting to happen, and here’s why.
A Rise in Event Technology
The first is relatively clear cut and obvious. We’re likely to see a steep rise in the implementation of event technology. Event professionals have dabbled in mobile applications and other event technology for many years, but I think that COVID-19 will kickstart a new revolution in this area. Hybrid and Virtual events are of course on everybody’s minds right now but when restrictions lift, we are likely to see event planners looking towards technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual assistants and perhaps even facial recognition.
This trend will be guided by our delegates’ need for efficiency and experience, which will likely lead to a shift in dynamic for our events. It’s worth keeping an eye on technologies that emerge following the introduction of 5G as there will be endless possibilities that come with higher network speeds and significantly lower latency. In addition, the launch of next-gen games consoles will be interesting. We have already seen broadcasters such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, iPlayer and more begin to include PlayStation and Xbox as standard distribution tools but could we see events also transition to this platform? With the introduction of elements such as 3D audio, haptic feedback, 4K/8K output and much more, I think it is certainly interesting and is definitely a new avenue that could be explored!
Customisation is going to be a very hot area when events relaunch. With the rise in event technology will come a rise in options and naturally the expectation of our guests will be that they are able to control their own experience based on their needs.
Virtual and hybrid events will bring much-needed customisation to begin with but then we’re likely to see further options become available following this major industry transition. Elements such as smart badge technology will enable the build and execution of personal experiences and it can also go as far as to allow a customised welcome at your registration desk or to store that irritating cloakroom ticket that you also lose by day four of a congress.
Personalised virtual assistants or AI will likely help guide delegates through personalising their experience options, likes and dislikes. I believe that this will also come in to play outside of your event which could in turn allow further sponsorship opportunities of revenue generation. Imagine a delegate arriving at an airport and getting a notification on their mobile; “Welcome to London! The time here is 17:00. Registration for Conference X starts at 09:00 tomorrow. I’ve also seen from your profile that you like Italian food. Would you like me to book you a table at our partner restaurant, Italian Restaurant Y? They are offering a 10% discount for all registered delegates tonight!”
Localisation and Communities
I believe that we will see a rise in roadshows, satellite events and localised community events. Now, this doesn’t mean to say that large congresses or trade shows will cease to exist, but I believe we are far more likely to see other events sprouting from larger events.
During COVID-19, it has become apparent that relying on large scale events carries with it a certain amount of risk and we are currently unaware of the willingness of our audiences to travel. With the rise in virtual and hybrid options, there will also be many more options available to potential delegates for our events. It is, therefore, going to be paramount that events are brought to the customer.
This will subsequently lead to an increased need for community platforms to help unite audiences across the nation or globe. Event strategies are going to need to be looked at on a different timescale to allow for this but there will be significant benefits for event planners and delegates when this takes off. You will see longer periods of engagement, greater brand loyalty and significantly higher rates of repeat business. It also increases sponsor brand awareness in a multitude of locations and thus enables them to effectively engage with your audience based on the demographic of attendees.
Because of this, large scale events, in my opinion, will be about uniting a community and the offering and appeal of these events will become more significant and focussed on already established content or trends that have been discovered at satellite events.
Health and Wellbeing
A growing trend since 2018, health and wellbeing continuing to rise in importance.
A spotlight is likely to be placed on the types of food we serve, the availability of time for physical activity and mindfulness. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be expected to provide masseurs and yoga instructors at your event (although this is a possibility!), but it does mean that your event should be built with health and wellbeing at the heart of it. This generally means that you provide plenty of time for relaxation in your event programme, you encourage healthy choices and you provide spaces or opportunities to engage in healthy activity.
Perhaps at your next event you could introduce a scheduled run on the morning of your event, or you could provide a “quiet room” for people to relax or just get away from the hustle and bustle of event life. You could also have a physical activity-based game or session to allow people to engage in healthier behaviour at your event.
When it comes to food, we should be offering “power foods” as an alternative alongside gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options which are also regularly used for healthy living. There should also be more interesting alternatives to alcohol served at drinks receptions or gatherings. Long gone will be the days when orange juice and water are considered great options for those not wanting to drink. Think more along the lines of mocktails and fruit infused water when it comes to options for this.