As technology maintains its seemingly unstoppable march and the millennial generation officially becomes the largest demographic at work, these times promise to deliver not only a year of transformation for event design, but also of opportunity. There are three main factors that will drive this change. Two of them I have just mentioned: people and technology. The third is often overlooked and it is by far the most relevant when we have conversations around event design. It’s tolerance. I don’t mean tolerance in the traditional sense, but in fact, what type of experiences our audiences are willing to tolerate. We live in a world of immersive, personalized experienced, fueled and enhanced by technology with brands and experiences, designers falling all over themselves to impress an experience-mad demographic. This volume of experiences available is making the millennials event connoisseurs, and this poses a problem for event designers.
The millennial generation uses social media to display and denote status among their peers, events are the currency which buys status. Unlike Baby Boomers and Gen X, millennials will not tolerate shoddy event experiences when they have so many exceptional choices to choose from. This means we must start thinking like they do and understanding their event priorities. Our events must incorporate social media, whether they are internal or external and this is proving a bitter pill to swallow for some brands who fear free rein in the social space. We must also create personalized and interactive content that doesn’t revolve around sitting for hours in plenary sessions. Our content needs to become modular, adaptable and even changeable mid-event.
Machine & Peer Learning
We are going to begin seeing voice search and virtual assistants into event design. Very soon, over half of all searches will be performed by voice search, and 20% will be performed without any screen at all. Touch screen agendas and info points are on the way out and we need to understand now how we design engaging content that operates via voice and AI. All event designers must also keep a close eye on the rise of influencer marketing. This is not just a digital phenomenon. Last year, Paris Fashion Week opened their show with all the high-end designers you would expect, only the models were YouTube and Instagram influencers. Using these guys instead of models more than tripled Paris Fashion Week’s engagement from the previous year, not to mention the increased reach accessing all the followers simultaneously as content was drip fed post-event. With marketers reporting influencer-lead campaigns on Instagram being 90% more effective, and utilizing peer influences at internal events amplifying reach across businesses by 561%, we need to ensure this is in our strategy for event design. Deploying faceless, brand henchmen to do our dirty work won’t cut it with our new expert audience.
The Fly in the Ointment
One of the biggest unknowns surrounding the future of event design is the advent of 5G. We really can’t predict the impact it will have. If we revisit 4G, without it, we wouldn’t have video-laden social mobile services, Uber, Airbnb, the list goes on. Nobody predicted these innovations and the developers capitalized on the strength of a signal to surprise us all. 5G will be similar. What we probably can assume is the continued importance of VR and AR at events will be supercharged. With services like Facebook Spaces getting a significant push in 2019, the advent of 5G will no doubt also see the rise of our first truly virtual delegates. It’s an exciting time to be in event design if we remember technology is just the delivery system. First and foremost, our content needs to hit the emotional mark. Let’s keep a keen eye on our audiences, their behaviors and challenges and design experiences that do what they want, not what we want.