There is no shortage of talk in the events industry about virtual events and video conferences, but nothing can quite replace the experience and value of a live event. Yet live events are also changing, and we see new trends popping up all the time.
A good first step is to remind ourselves of the advantages of live events:
- Attendees enjoy an enhanced, shared experience, by seeing and learning together.
- Face-to-face interactions open the door for a full sensory experience, allow for reading body language, making presentations and networking at a higher level.
- Live events break down cultural barriers
- Live events have the opportunity to display shared values
- Participants walk away with a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the material presented at an event, as well as with more meaningful relationships/connections with fellow participants
So, what are forward-thinking event planners doing to make live events even more rewarding? According to the World PCO Alliance partners, the following three principles are shaping the future of face-to-face conferences and congresses:
- Co-Creation & Event Design
- Festivalization & Experientialism
- Co-Opetition & Convergence
Co-creation & Event Design:
Gone are the days where attendees were satisfied simply sitting in on workshops and talks and taking notes. They want more from the events they participate in—they want to experience a meaningful interaction with the environment and other participants, which means more engagement with their learning and networking.
Co-creation and event design refer to integrating certain techniques and elements into an event to capture and engage the audience with a positive and meaningful experience. It’s about looking at the event holistically—its overall flow, timing and what and how you want attendees to react and feel at key moments throughout the event. It begins with determining what the real purpose of the event is all about and what participants will gain by attending.
What are some ways to design your live event so that it fosters the co-creation and event design principle?
- Rethink room layout: theatre-style seating does little to encourage engagement. Instead, opt for small groups at round tables, or a u-shaped layout.
- Leverage technology: there are a number of technological tools that can encourage participation. A mobile app is a basic starting point, allowing attendees to personalize their entire event. Inviting attendees to share their event experience with their extended network through social media platforms is equally powerful and gamification can do wonders in drawing participants in with a fun and stimulating experience.
- Brief facilitators and speakers: as the event organizer, there is only so much you can do to maintain the co-creation spirit, which is why it is essential to communicate your goal to speakers. You won’t transform each one into Tony Robbins, but you can encourage them to foster co-creation in their sessions.
By implementing co-creation and event design into your event, you reward participants with more memorable experiences and empower them to be more active and innovative through their contributions, which in turn generates more ideas that build a reputation for your event as one of the leading ones in your field.
Festivalization & Experientialism:
“Festivalization” refers to more multidisciplinary programming that drives both the personal and professional development of attendees, as well introduces new perspectives. For instance, consider inviting one or several non-traditional speakers with a different “take” on your event’s industry. The different perspective could spark a whole new exchange that your participants will find stimulating. Or how about entertainment by live local talent in unexpected places, which can set a different tone and facilitate interaction among attendees.
As the words indicate, an experiential event is one that engages an audience with a real-life invitation to experience a brand and what it makes or represents. It's participatory, hands-on and tangible. Offering participants an edu-tour of a facility related to whatever industry is represented at your event is one example, or any activity that is held outside of your main event venue also counts.
Co-opetition embraces the mantra, If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Rather than pitting businesses against each other (competition), why not have them work together (co-opetition)? It’s a strategic alliance that allows for multiple winners. It can be something as simple as doing a co-location event or even creating a completely new conference or congress that pulls together a versatile demographic.
Now that we have examined some of the main trends in live events, what are the opportunities that these innovations offer your conference or congress?
- New event design and formats
- New audience convergence
- More engagement from participants—both before, during and after the event.
- New ways to track and share results/impact —you will need to determine how you measure the results and share your assessment approach with appropriate stakeholders.
Opportunities, of course, do not come without challenges, and integrating new elements into your conference or congress does pose some challenges, namely:
- The need for new talent: Finding designers, planners and facilitators that understand the future of live events and are competent in supporting your vision can be difficult.
- The need for co-operating supply partners: much like designers and facilitators, you need to partner with destinations, venues and hotels that “get” what you are trying to do.
- The need for more venue space: Events that are newly designed and/or experiential typically require larger spaces.
- Infrastructure – ensuring you have the technology backbone necessary to pull off the sessions you are including in your programming, as well as the facilitators themselves.
Organizing any event is complex enough without the added pressure of incorporating new elements or principles. On the other hand, competition to attract attendees and talent is getting increasingly difficult, and conferences and congresses cannot afford to not evolve. You want to start taking some risks and surprising your participants. Not all the chances you take will pan out, and that is okay. What counts is making sure your event keeps evolving.
How can attendees stay engaged in your event right through until the closing words? It’s a challenge that many meeting planners face. The World PCO Alliance partners shared some of their tips in the article, “Leaving the very best for last”(LINK https://epublishbyus.com/ebook/ebook?id=10045252%20-%20/28#/28), published by TTG Associations.