7 key trends organisers predict for the next decade

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7 key trends organisers predict for the next decade

16-Jan-2020 by: Sophie Holt

Technology and globalisation have been the two biggest game changers over the last decade in the exhibition industry. We’ve left faxes behind and can be on a plane communicating with the world instantaneously! The world is a much smaller place than it used to be and that’s all in a decade’s work. So what might the 20’s have in store for the exhibition industry?

In this article, I share some of my own thoughts based on the data we’ve been gathering from both exhibitors and visitors over the last decade. I’ve also gathered predictions from some of the most well-respected individuals in our industry to bring you 7 key trends for the 2020s.

1. Niche or “niche feel” events

Now personalisation has been crowned one of the marketing buzz-words of 2019, it’s firmly ensconced in the event industry too. Both visitors and exhibitors want to feel like more than just a face in a crowd. I think events that can create a niche feel, either by narrowing in on a particular topic or pain point, or by creating personalised journeys through larger events, will start to disrupt spaces currently dominated by “mega events”.

As we have seen in the Global Exhibitor Insights studies, there is no correlation between visitor numbers and exhibitor satisfaction, so there is no inherent benefit to exhibiting at shows with big visitor figures. In addition some exhibitors are becoming sceptical about the reporting of unverified visitor numbers by some organisers, so I think the focus may shift from ever increasing visitor numbers to providing a high quality, highly personalised experience for both visitors and exhibitors.

Lydia Matthews, Group Content & Customer Director at Hyve Group says:

“I think customers will continue to expect unique and individualised experiences, over and above the traditional approaches and reasons for attendance. Where wow factor used to be an added bonus, I believe it has become the new normal. Organisers need to be even more creative, dynamic and disruptive in terms of the experience they’re offering, in order to create even more value for their customers.

We also know that experience isn’t one size fits all and that different people want different things from an event. Really getting to know your customers is the only way to create truly valuable and unmissable opportunities for them.” 

2. Talks and presentations delivered in different ways

In our Global Visitor Insights study, we saw that younger event attendees placed increasing importance on events being an enjoyable experience, in addition to meeting their business objectives. One of the most popular tactics for increasing enjoyment was “talks and presentations delivered in different ways”. Good news for anyone who’s had to sit though 80 of my slides banging on about Net Promoter Score!

The way I see this playing out is more content being co-created between the audience and the organiser / speaker.  Afterall, many people are content creators these days to some extent or another and we are used to sharing our views and experiences with our communities through social media, blogs and podcasts.

These co-created formats could be enabled by technology - or simply through small scale sessions and skilled facilitators.

Lucy Merritt, Head of Marketing & Communications, ExCeL London says:

“Looking ahead, I believe it will be crucial for brands to invest in differentiated experiences to create lasting memories and experiences that result in advocacy and loyalty, whilst helping to drive a sustainable business.”

3. Democratisation of events

I predict we will see the hard lines between visitors and exhibitors start to break down and participation in all aspects of an event feel more democratic. I see three things driving this:

  1. Many events are looking to transition from being marketplaces to being the place where communities can physically connect. This will mean recognising the central role that suppliers, service providers, academics and others all play in creating and maintaining a community.
  2. More people are having portfolio careers, where they are moving between more employers, job functions and even industries. This means people may switch between buyer and supplier several times in their career so may find the distinction we create between visitors and exhibitors doesn’t reflect their own perception of their place within the community.
  3. Helping exhibitors measure and increase ROI is a key challenge for many organisers, especially those who are looking to increase word-of-mouth buzz around their events.  Creating more holistic experiences, which help exhibitors engage visitors on a more equal footing and in a range of different settings, would be one way of achieving this.

Event Tech Live in London is a good example of an event that feels more democratic - there are no hard lines drawn between event tech suppliers and buyers; the content, networking and platforms are for everyone. And this reflects the fluidity of this sector, with many “exhibitors” having extensive experience client-side and a real interest in connecting with other suppliers in addition to buyers. 

4. Technology-driven events

Mike Sealy, Customer Experience Director at Informa Markets says:

“Customers will become much smarter and will expect it to be much easier to do business with their organiser/supplier through a simplified, seamless and  frictionless process engaging how they want (connectivity through any device) and when they want (‘always on’ access). Customer Experience will be top of the marketing, sales and service agenda for those companies who understand the correlation with loyalty and retention.”

Adam Parry, Editor of Event Industry News and Director of Event Tech Live says:

"As a sector we have been hungry to adopt and use technology to drive insight and the data we can glean has given organisers the building blocks on which to design and deliver future iterations of the same event or launch new niche events focused on their attendees and customers needs. Gone are the days of opinionated decision making, we now have the tools and technology that puts live experiences on par with digital marketing."

5. Sustainability & festivalization

Stephanie Selesnick, President at International Trade Information says:

"Over the next decade I think sustainability and festivalization will be two key trends. We have to do better with the vast amounts of waste produced at our exhibitions – and I think we are already seeing a good, concerted start. Consumer experiences in live events are going to have even more of an impact on our shows. Expos as 3-dimensional catalogs is no longer ok. We have to do better at educating our exhibitors to be our partners in enhancing the attendee journey."

6. The rise of digital natives

Matthias Tesi Baur, Founder & Senior Consultant at MBB-Consulting Group says:

"Digital natives have entered the workforce and will occupy first decision making position soon. The current generation of decision makers is used to concentrating on trade shows entirely when it takes place. The next generation will not see an exhibition as one exclusive event which requires stopping all other business activities during the time when it takes place. This generation will continue their business, private and online life whilst they attend a trade show. This will require a change of format with much more content, features and infotainment than before. It is extremely important to understand that these new contents and features will not replace the old requirements to meet in a secure and credible space to make business face to face. They will enhance this space. That means the new trade show formats must be an enhancement – not a replacement – of the current formats."

7. Customer Emotional Journey

Aurore Braconnier, COO at Racoon Events says:

“Over the next decade our industry will deepen the implementation of all new technologies (AI but also IoT, VR and AR) in our processes and interactions with customers and exhibitors to not only be more efficient but also improve their customer experiences

I think we will also start to focus more on the Customer Emotional Journey. I prefer this notion which, for me, gives a broader perspective than the traditional customer journey or experience as it includes the emotion and cognitive relationship to their experience which weigh into many of their decisions related to the event.”

Laura McCartney, Experience Manager EMEA at Informa Markets says:

"We need to monitor closely what cross-industries are doing. Our customers are already benefiting from brands that think outside the box, using intelligent data sources that help to make decisions for the customer, freeing up attention in the customer journey from attention to purchase. The bravest will look to remove steps along the customer journey all-together and will redefine expectations in the process. As an industry it won’t be enough just to keep up to date with these trends, we need to get ahead of them. We need to enhance the unexpected aspect of the customer experience, we need to delight our customers. Much of my role is currently looking at ways to eliminate pain points in their customer’s lives, even if they fall outside of our responsibility. The future of customer experience will be creating new solutions for old problems."

Have a few predictions of your own? Share them with us on LinkedIn or Twitter.


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