A-Z of business events

ora Lydon
looks ahead to 2018 and beyond to see how the business events landscape is changing – here’s what you need to know

A is for apps.
2018 may be the year you allocate some budget to create your own event app. Many of you may already use them for attendee check-ins but we predict they’ll soon be the gold standard. Delegates go nowhere without their phones so be sure that everything from the agenda to directions to menu choices are all a click away. You can also use it to poll audiences during the event to help fully engage them, and for post-event feedback – well worth the investment.

C is for chatbots.
Thanks to technology you can now run your event smoothly with the help of artificial intelligence. Think about how you could set up help stations with tablets to direct people, answer their questions or show them information. As customer support, it’s a great option and minimises the need for extra staff to man the room. In a busy venue you may like to use a text version, while in intimate spaces a voice interface can respond with accurate information.

E is for EAs.
You’re changing the face of business events as more of you than ever before are involved in event planning. In fact, EAs represent the largest group of corporate clients for the meetings industry and are just as experienced as professional conference organisers at managing all aspects of events. An impressive 92 per cent of all EAs organise company events and our most recent in-depth study into business events (in collaboration with Meetings and Events Australia (MEA), the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) and the Meetings Industry Association) found that nearly 42 per cent of you manage most or all of your organisation’s events. For some, this may add up to more than 50 a year (as agreed by 24 per cent of respondents), while a majority of 61 per cent have run an event for more than 100 in the last year. Meanwhile, 12.5 per cent say the largest event they’ve pulled together in the past year was for more than 500 people – clearly, EAare prolific organisers of all sizes of business events.

F is for focus.
Results from American Express Meetings & Events’ 2018 Global Meetings and Events Forecast suggest that 2018 will bring about meetings that are shorter but more focused. “Meeting owners are prioritising attendee experience and engagement over scale,” commented Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and GM American Express Meetings & Events. “As a result, we expect to see shorter, more focused meetings.”

I is for immersive experiences.
Engaging delegates will become even bigger news in 2018. Your guests want something to write home about so think about how you can make your event a real experience. For your next event why not try to incorporate:

  • A cool networking area. Why not set up a custom café area or craft brewery.
  • A complete experience. Combine themes, props, food, entertainment and technology so guests can really feel what your event is about.
  • Don’t tell, show. If it’s a product launch then make sure everyone can try it for themselves and at a conference use high tech visuals to demonstrate your points.

L is for… longer lead-times.
We don’t need to tell EAs that event planning needs to be done nice and early – but major venues say lead-times are getting longer, with some already taking bookings for 2020 and beyond. So, do try to lock in your venue as early as possible and always plan well in advance.

M is for money.
And it’s likely that in the future your costs will be higher than a few years ago. According to the 2018 Meetings and Events Future Trends report from CWT Meetings & Events, the cost per attendee per day increased across the globe this year – and it’s likely to continue rising in 2018.

N is for navigating.
Most attendees will tell you that, at large events, the biggest inconvenience is trying to get around a venue. While GPS systems don’t work indoors, you could check to see if Google Indoor Maps is available at your conference venue. Looking to the future, beacon technology and augmented reality are developing technologies that could offer a solution to indoor mapping.

O is for optimism.
And it seems PAs are full of it as they look forward to events next year. The American Express 2018 Global Meetings and Events Forecast predicts industry growth and a desire from planners to consolidate their spending. So, the forecast is for increased budgets but the wish to spend it with fewer suppliers.

S is for safety and security.
The global landscape has never been more unpredictable so delegate safety should always be a the forefront of your planning. By stepping up visible security you can reassure guests – and don’t forget to request ID from all of your delegates. You’ll also want to make sure you have cancellation policies written into any contracts you sign so should the worst happen right before your event you have some peace of mind. And check with the venue what procedures they have in place in the event of an emergency well in advance of the actual date.

R is for room layouts.
Forget everything you think you know about how best to set up a room for a meeting – in 2018 anything goes. Consider ditching boardroom tables for a more informal plan of sofas and easy chairs – or you could even find yourself ditching the room altogether and opting for a walking get-together. Think carefully about what your guests will need – whether that’s to be energised (try a walking meeting), networked (a standing meeting where participants mingle freely?) or relaxed (bring those sofas in). But, just because it’s the latest fad doesn’t mean you have to try it – there are always going to be some situations where a traditional set-up is vital. Don’t follow trends just for the sake of it, but do feel free to go against the norm if it works for you.

T is for Tweeting.
And that’s precisely what you want your guests to be doing. As the Millennial generation increasingly take up more of the workforce (by 2020 they’ll form 40 per cent of the workforce say CWT Meetings & Events) your event needs to speak directly to them – and social media is where it’s at. Make sure your event has plenty of Instagram-worthy props; think about whether each element encourages people to get onto Facebook or Twitter and share their own experience with the world:

  • Use AV to your advantage. Can your tech team set up a live scrolling wall, streaming the best social media posts to the audience? A laptop, projector and screen will do the job.
  • Develop and share your event hashtag and think about how to promote it. A competition for the best Tweet or most liked picture? Depending on the event style you could hire a branding-capable photo booth so every picture contains the event details when it’s shared online.
  • While the event is in the planning stages start building an online community – use Facebook to poll attendees as to which speakers they’d like to see, upload teaser videos to YouTube and build excitement via Twitter and Facebook.

V is for virtual reality.
Can’t secure that top speaker due to travel restrictions, budget or timing? Well, thanks to technology and the trend for virtual reality you could have them appear virtually. And if top speakers seem out of your budget think again. If your chosen venue has the necessary tech – or you can bring an AV company on board with the know-how – the sky really is the limit. Geographical and budget restrictions no longer need apply.

Survey – EA Insight. Respondents to Executive PA Media’s 2017 business events survey tell us:

  • “Being event tech-savvy should be part of every event professional’s ‘toolbox’. It’s not just the realm of the in-house tech team or AV supplier anymore.”
  • “Think when developing your function menu: the timing and style of food is very important for corporate events with Executives and Board members attending.