2016 was a watershed moment for event planning. Traditional events rapidly gave way to experience planning as more event planners and organizers started recognizing that events need to be more than just a series of workshops and speakers. 2016 saw a distinct focus on handheld consumer technology and personalization as key event trends, with a heavy incorporation of social media tools like Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, and Snapchat playing a surprisingly important role. Last year also created memorable, valuable events also meant exploring ways to connect attendees to each other in real-time. Unique activities such as after-hours meet-and-greets, scavenger hunts, and pop-up parties brought events to life in new ways.
Now that 2016 is far behind us and that the dust has settled on the many 2017 trend predictions, we’re turning our focus to the best of these predictions that are actually sticking around. Have last year’s strong focus on personalization and virtual meetings continued to carry over into the new year, or is 2017 already presenting a whole new set of trends to surpass those introduced last year? Let’s take a look at what the rest of 2017 has in store.
1. Rise of Niche-Industry Events
Niche industries are gaining momentum faster than ever and so are events that service those industries. Be on the lookout for events catering to a wide swath of growing niche industries, such as affiliate marketing events like the Affiliate Summit, and more pop-up events from the likes of Uber, Airbnb, and other big names in growing niche markets. You’ll definitely want to pay close attention to how these event hosts interact with attendees, as niche industries tend to be highly consumer-centric.
2. Expect a Supplier-Driven Market
The U.S. economy is likely to continue to ride the wave of the bull market into 2017. With a strong dollar comes a high demand for events. Therefore, we’re expecting that 2017 will continue to be a supplier-driven market. This may mean higher venue and catering prices, but it will also lead to creative thinking from event managers. Expect to see more alternative venue formats, including telepresence, and much less formal "pop-up" events from even some of the largest organizations.
3. Alternative Format
If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that informal formats focusing on engaging talks provide a more interesting event format than the traditional one-to-many keynote approach. Expect to see far more of this in 2017, particularly with participant-focused "learning events." These events are also likely to be smaller to provide a greater sense of intimacy feel and more room for actual audience interaction. Indeed, many of these sessions may even run live through Reddit, YouTube, Facebook Live or other online formats. These live-streaming services will also create a space for remote participants to chime in with questions and comments.
4. Built-In Leisure Activities
Jam-packed schedules can begin to feel taxing, especially during multi-day events – this makes down time increasingly important. For 2017, expect to see a boost in fun, creative, and relaxing activities for attendees in search of a brain break between meetings. These will typically be thematic to the event, but all should incorporate the concept of the "chill zone." There's likely to be a lot of creative planning come from this end, so expect VR and AR to play a role in re-energizing attendees.
5. Focus on In-the-Moment Experiences
Event attendees increasingly desire more experiential events. In-the-moment experiences are an excellent way to build lasting impressions, especially if those moments carry a noticeable theme for the event. While everyone loves a swag bag, shared experiences set the bar higher with immersion of all senses and next-level tech –think gamification, holograms, and additional reality interactions.
6. Content will Continue to Reign Supreme
You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: content is king. Businesses are increasingly attracting new customers to their websites and seeing amazing conversion rates through high-quality content. The concept of the content-generated attendee will be among the most popular event trends in 2017. Event planners should focus heavily on curating meaningful, immersive, and data-driven meetings that encourage attendees to share the event with their social followers. This is one event trend that’s going to be hard to ignore for savvy event planners. Consequently, this will drive a demand for good content writers as well, so event planners should expect to have to fight over those as well.
7. Event Tools will Flourish
The growing complexity required to pull off the perfect event is going to drive more event planners to utilize third-party tools to get the job done. Scanning tools, integrated API, booth management, social engagement, event websites, marketing –all of it will be in a high demand. As the use of services is growing, planners are going to want to recognize a better event ROI more than ever this year. Moreover, having a unified platform is going to make managing all aspects of the event lifecycle that much more desirable, so planners should research the right fit for their event needs.
8. Smartphone Integration
Every year it seems that attendees find it increasingly difficult to disconnect, and it seems that smartphone distractions are unavoidable. It’s an unfortunate disturbance to speakers, panels, and demonstrators, but if smartphones are here to stay, we have to refer to the old adage of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join 'em!” With smartphone technology getting more personalized and increasingly connected, attendees are going to want to experience their event through their devices more than in previous years. This concept has given way to concepts that integrate smartphones as tools for live-polling, remotes, and online event schedules. This will mean real-time integration with smartphone apps, personalized views, and live updates through social partners.
9. Integration of More Immersive Technologies
2017 is going to usher in a new era for event trends with immersive technologies taking center stage. Between Samsung developing VR goggles compatible with their Galaxy smartphones, and the popular AR game Pokémon Go taking off, 2016 was absolutely the year that VR and AR tech came into the mainstream. Where VR places users in a new world, Augmented Reality places objects on top of the real world. However, the tech we’re most excited about for future events is the strides that are being made in mixed reality (MR). MR allows users to see the real world (like AR) while also seeing more believable virtual objects that are responsive to the actual world around them (like VR). The possibilities for the immersive mixed reality experience seem endless as this will allow attendees to manage schedules, interact with speakers, share their POV with remote attendees, and more –all while going hands free.
10. Next Level Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence has hit an interesting growth point. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Home all serve as personal assistants who have their own unique personalities. Will we see AI used for events in 2017? You bet! The possibilities for engagement at events is wholly untapped, but you can expect event planners are already in the works to find ways to serve as a concierge, aiding with check-ins, on-site directions, and email registrations. AI technology learns by observing user questions and responses, so as this technology is integrated, it will become more useful in delivering information on-demand.
11. Personalization & Customization
2016 already saw much of this, so expect personalization and customization extended as an event trend this year. Technologies that involve facial recognition, biometrics and sentiment analysis will be able to actively measure attendee mood, in an effort to boost engagement. Combine this with AI, and we'll see some very innovative event approaches with solutions that are tailored across the life-cycle of the event. We're probably a few years away from a Jetson-like world for events, but 2017 will definitely take us one step closer to getting there.
12. Real-time Data
We don’t need to tell you about the value of data, this proves itself in numbers when planning an event. However, real-time data, in particular, is going to be essential in keeping up with this fast-paced digital world. Planners are going to want to measure their event ROI moment by moment, with a strong desire to be able to adjust and change aspects of the event on the fly. The etouches event ROI tool provides organizers with a comprehensive view of the value their events generate — and the means to directly impact the outcomes. Our flexible tool measures and quantifies your event ROI in real-time against the goals you set.
What did you think of our event trend predictions? What trends are you going to be watching for in 2017? Let us know in the comments!