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Event orchestration | 15 January 2019

2019 Event Trends: Predictions from 23 Event Experts

Brandon Rafalson

Learn about the biggest event trends that will dominate the space in 2019 from experienced industry professionals. Featuring experts from General Mills, SEMrush, OpenX and other leading brands.

A recent report on 2019 event trends shows that events are more effective for achieving business goals than ever before.

The vast majority of marketers consider live events to comprise the most critical marketing channel over content marketing, email marketing, paid ads and other channels. Plus, organizations are investing more in events this year than they did last year.

The Upshot: It’s clear that 2019 is going to be a huge year for events.

What’s more, there are a number of emerging strategies and technologies that stand to take the events industry to new frontiers.

To shed some light on the biggest event trends of 2019, we collected predictions from 23 event experts. 

Some of the topics discussed include:

  • Chatbots and personalization
  • Wearables
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Values-based events
  • Intimate events
  • Event apps
  • Cybersecurity

For the more information and expert advice, download the Event Marketing 2019: Benchmarks and Trends Report.

Kimber Lancaster1. Kimbre Lancaster, Senior Global Event and Field Marketing Manager, Split

Similar to the personalization we’re seeing within products and marketing strategies, we’re going to see a continued trend of bringing people closer together at events via a more personalized experience. If you even look at the way that people are moving away from social media platforms (Facebook, Snap) to more personalized interactions (Voxer, Facebook Portal, Meetup Groups), people don’t want a cookie cutter, dry experience. 

They want to feel a part of it. They want to be moved. They want to be connected.

Creating smaller, curated experiences is going to rise, as is richer networking opportunities through tools like BrainDate, or event-specific Slack groups or Community boards. People want to meet other people trying to solve the same problems, and if we as event organizers can get better at creating those opportunities, that’s what will get people to come back.  

Aleksandra Panyukhina2. Aleksandra Panyukhina, Head of Event Marketing, SEMrush

Just like disruption has been all over the marketing industry in the past couple of years, I expect it to challenge the events sector as well. Event marketers should focus on creating unique concepts for every single activity, avoid the commonly used patterns, and put the experience and emotions of attendees first.

Segmenting and hyper-targeting events to very specific audiences is another trend that we will be observing.

There is no way to deliver the best experience possible for every attendee while staying generic.

As a company, we are focusing a lot on creating unconventional experiences and building emotional connections with our audience. A big part of this is determining how we can segment our audiences by where they are in the customer journey and then tailoring the event content to their unique needs.

Joshua Arnold3. Joshua Arnold, Manager – Experiential Marketing, General Mills

We have found consumers who have participated in our branded events, walk away with an incredible brand perception and see a value in what they experienced. 

As a result, we believe events provide brands with the ability to create ongoing relationships with key audiences to achieve their business objectives.

We plan to further develop and analyze attendee feedback in a seamless and entertaining way to ensure our brand experience delivers strong face-to-face interaction and more compelling brand engagement. 

Thomas Spano4. Thomas Spano, Director – Events, OpenX

We find that the biggest trend in the event industry is the move toward smaller, more intimate experiences, vs larger environments that feel like a fishing expedition. We anticipate moving to this model over the next few years where we focus on people-based event marketing vs industry-based. 

Mike Butcher5. Mike Butcher, Founder, The Europas

It’s hard to predict. We live in a very chaotic world. I don’t want to sound too self-regarding, but the main thing is to maintain your values. Your values are important.

Chantelle Attarian6. Chantelle Attarian, Master of Programs and Events, Romemu

One event industry trend I am anticipating to take off in the next couple of years is increased collaboration and focus on charitable giving and social justice at events.

This will affect our ongoing event strategy in that it will require us to consider how to incorporate charitable giving and social justice in all events moving forward, even reframing the way we think about events.

People are becoming increasingly socially and environmentally conscious and responsible. Allowing people to act on this increased awareness at events is a win/win!

Corbin Ball7. Corbin Ball, Owner, Corbin Ball & Co.

I think that the top event technology trend for 2019 will be significant advances in data integration and analytics from the event technology providers.

Major players are making advances in integrating their wide range of products.

As significantly, cloud-based event tech companies are putting effort into interoperability and analytics with other event tech companies (i.e. Bizzabo and Boomset) and with CRM systems such as Salesforce. The result will be that the attendees’ likes/interests before, during and after the event can be precisely quantified and then brought back into a customer/member record.

On a global basis, this can be used to improve future events and make mid-course corrections during existing events. On an individual basis, this will lead to much better personalization for marketing to an attendee or for improving an association member’s event experiences.

Kristin Fertz8. Kristin Fretz, Sales Operation Manager, Betts Recruiting

I think event industry trends show that people are more likely to show up to events that give them ACCESS to enriching experiences, venues or people they typically cannot find on their own. This challenges brands to be more thoughtful and strategic with the types of experiences they provide offline.

Betts Recruiting is adapting to this by creating brand partnerships with organizations & engaged communities we may not typically reach through our staffing services. Although not everyone is a fit for our client’s hiring needs, Betts can still be a thought leader in professional development and career growth by creating top-notch event and offline experiences.

Emily Fullmer9. Emily Fullmer, Director of Global Events, GreenBook

I anticipate that corporate events will begin to reflect the experience of attending a B2C event. This will mean an inevitable shift towards experiential sponsorships and exhibitions.

In the short run, this might be expensive to implement. But over the long run, cost efficiencies may be gained from the development and scalability of applicable technologies (augmented reality, projection mapping, etc).

Event strategies will need to balance both impactful content and exclusive experiences, whereas the former has long been the focus of corporate events.

Jasmine Cortez-Vera10. Jasmine Cortez-Vera, Senior Manager – Marketing & Events, Knotel

With an increased saturation of B2B events, the line between B2B and B2C event programs are becoming more blurred. It’ll be even more important for event organizers to prioritize the attendee experience and figure out how to build experiences around those pillars – peer to peer networking, valuable and engaging content and experiential event elements all come to mind.

No matter what type of event – big or small – the attendee needs to be put at the heart of it all. 

Jessica Powell11. Jessica Powell, Chief Marketing Officer, FUNDConference

Our industry trend is showing people within our ecosystem (investors & entrepreneurs) the need to streamline the entire process of  connecting and securing investment.

At FUND Conference we connect entrepreneurs and investors to facilitate deal flow opportunities. That being said, it simply takes too long for both parties to get what they need (investment dollars/additional portfolio companies) as it traditionally takes 4+ months to complete due diligence and close the deal.

With this in mind, we’re providing a mobile app platform for our #FUNDfamily to connect pre, post, and during FUND Conference. The ability to know who’s coming to an event before you arrive, share information with attendees prior (pitchdeck) to the actual event, set up private meetings within the app for day of show, ask for due diligence materials right from the app itself, is going to allow for a new dynamic within the conference world.

The events we now go to in order to meet new people are going to become the events we want to go to in order to connect F2F with the people we’ve already met & established a relationship with.

George Mendham12. George Mendham, Director – Operations and Innovation, MPG

I would love to see virtual events take off! There are platforms out there offering it as a service but I’m not sure how viable it is. The other thing is how we  can incorporate wearable tech into event networking and event programmes.

Nikki Katzur13. Nikki Katzur, Senior Marketing Manager – Events, CBInsights

I believe chat and chatbots are going to be huge for events in terms of communication prior to the actual event itself.

We recently installed chat on our event registration page and have been able to engage with hundreds of prospective attendees.

Many of these chats have lead to ticket sale conversions and happier attendees, as they are able to get their questions/issues resolved immediately.

Further, I believe personalization will continue to be important – we know that each event attendee cares about a range of factors from specific speakers to networking and we aim to segment our outreach and communication.

Bryan Haupt14. Bryan Haupt, Founder & CEO, Crypto Marketing

Given the trends I see with the creation of numerous AI’s, I see bots being made that can truly automate the majority of the marketing process for events like mine.

These bots will be capable of identifying and targeting specific persona’s that I am looking for and with this they will give these persons specific ads that I create for them. Then I will be able to specifically target these same people with additional offers that make my offers look more and more attractive as I narrow in on what these people want and what the analytics teach the AI bot as well. 

Kathleen Booth15. Kathleen Booth, Vice President – Marketing, IMPACT

With so many events getting larger and packing more into their agendas, we’re seeing an increasing number of people looking for smaller, more intimate events where they can form deeper connections with both other attendees as well as speakers.

We’ve already reacted to this by designing IMPACT Live as a single-track conference that keeps all attendees together in one room, keeping presentations to a maximum of 25 minutes, and booking speakers who are willing to stick around for the full two days of the event.

This format means you never miss out on a presentation and you’re still able to pack a lot of learning into two days. Because our speakers attend the full event, attendees really can get to know them on a more personal level. That kind of access just isn’t possible at larger conferences and events.

Peter Cartier16. Peter Cartier, Marketing Manager, CPG

When examining event industry trends, we’re excited to see more and more clients utilize Hyper Personalization at their events. In the end, events are communication tools that must be designed strategically to get an important message across.

The more you personalize that experience (whether it’s through choose-your-own-adventure setups, festivalization, brain date networking, etc.), the more you can bring people together in a meaningful way through heartfelt, personal communication, person to person. Like technology, the tactics are table stakes because if your core message is lacking, it won’t instill belief – but when you truly connect your people, you can grow your business.

This fits perfectly with CPG Agency’s ongoing event strategy to create “Belief Through Experience” through purposeful, human-centric meetings and is why more and more business events are starting to feel like exciting consumer events.

Neil Berger17. Neil Berger, Account Executive, Derse

Given the rapid advances of IOT and Blockchain technologies, I expect that to be implemented more at events and trade shows. It’s funny because many do not fully understand the real world implications of these technologies, but I think that will begin to be uncovered in the coming years.

John Coe18. John Coe, President, B2B Marketing

We see the face-to-face industry (trade shows, seminars, events, etc.) increasing in the future as a human off-set to our virtual digital life. This is particularly true for individuals in smaller firms as they don’t have the daily interface with many individuals at work or the needed technical support. They seek education and training to keep up in the digital world.

We see the SMB segment as a growth opportunity for events, but the topics and reasons to attend need to be highly relevant to their business segment and needs. As a result, more niche seminars will be successful on specific topics. In essence, the seminar communications will have to generate the response of – “this is for me”.

The opposite is trending for individuals working in larger firms, as they are increasingly slammed with meetings and projects to then easily leave the office.  Attracting these individuals to face-to-face events will be even harder in the future. As a result webinars and content marketing will be more important in reaching these individuals.

Debbi Dougherty19. Debbi Dougherty, Head of B2B Marketing and Communications, Viber

The big event trends in the next few years will be more experiential events that use mobile and AI to bring chatbots, integrated translation features, scheduling assistants, interactive Q&As, and more along with unique experiences like AI-driven scavenger hunts to drive further engagement.

As mobile gets faster and AI gets stronger, the experiences and value it will bring will be worth the extra effort to offer it.

Mobile will drive that experience and be used to increase engagement prior to the event as well as during and after.

At Viber, we’ve already added a chatbot feature to our app that we use for our own events. It has made connecting with attendees much simpler and offers us the ability to provide a lot of useful information quickly and easily.

20. Cathy McPhillipsCathy McPhillips, Vice President of Marketing, Content Marketing Institute

Conferences in the marketing, content marketing and publishing industries have blown up in the past 5 years. There are over 300! Event differentiation and exceptional attendee experiences will separate the great, must-attend events from the others.

If what you’re doing doesn’t improve attendee experience and follow your mission, stop.

Save your money and your time for something that will. When events do this, they’ll rise to the top and be more profitable as a result.

At CMI, we’re in the process of putting everything we’re doing through this customer lens, and enhancing (or stopping) what we’re doing. We can’t be everything to everyone, but we can be the right thing for the right people.

Wayne Wallgren21. Wayne Wallgren, Director – Global Development, GlobauxSource

Certainly AI is a current hot-button, but I think we are a long way from know if or how prevalent it will become short term. Same with VR which I don’t think is anywhere as ubiquitous as some might have thought it would become by now.

I think even event apps still have more development coming to fulfill their potential. When these things become second nature is when we will know they have truly arrived.

Lloyed Lobo22. Lloyed Lobo, Cofounder, Boast.AITraction Conf 

I see smaller, highly curated events in exotic locations taking off. We’ve been hosting Traction CXO Summits as part of Traction as well as standalone alone events in different cities – they’ve been hugely successful in community building.

We try to provide unique memorable experiences at these events. For instance, Bizzabo’s Founders attended Traction CXO Summit and many months later you opened your email to me with, “Thanks for instilling a love for axe-throwing in our C-suite.”

The key to building a successful event is building a community. The key to building a community is to bring great value and experiences to a like-minded audience.

Will Curran23. Will Curran, Chief Event Einstein, Endless Events

One of the biggest trends that we’re seeing is related to cybersecurity. Just this last year we saw a ton of leaks. With the most recent Marriot-Starwood leak, it’s become clear that our industry is very vulnerable to cyber attacks. There is so much private and information being managed by event organizers that everyone needs to become familiar with the language of cybersecurity and enlist personnel with domain expertise.

Wrapping Up: Your 2019 Event Trends Predictions

While each prediction brings to the table a unique point of view, you’ll notice that there are many recurring themes around artificial intelligence, attendee experience and personalization.

What’s your big event trend for the year?

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