We sat down with resident meeting expert Melanie Senniger to discuss meeting trends for 2018. As a Certified Meeting Planner, Melanie has extensive event planning knowledge and has worked with top companies such as Docker, Riverbed, Cisco and our other clients to arrange successful channel events.
Channel Impact (CI): Let’s get right into some of your insight. What are trends you see in meetings and events that you think will play a significant impact in 2018?
Melanie: Right away, Augmented Reality (AR) comes to mind. AR could make a significant impact on the trade show and conferences industry. Conference attendees often complain that getting around an expansive convention center can become confusing and frustrating. AR technology will benefit the attendee in that it can provide step-by-step navigation surrounding the meeting.
CI: Will AR have the ability to maintain attendee and customer attention to address key points at these events?
Melanie: Absolutely. AR technology will also open the door to gamification within a meeting. Think an interactive scavenger hunt, or interactive booths, signs, banners, and displays. It will keep people’s attention, and make the education process fun and engaging. I can see where tech vendors may want to consider this technology for their large, global partner summits.
CI: That is really interesting. Are there other trends you see in meetings?
Melanie: Have you heard of Chatbots?
CI: Like what you’d use on the computer to solicit assistance from customer service?
Melanie: Exactly. Chatbots are another trend in meetings. It’s a way to conduct conversations via audio or text methods. According to Corbin Ball’s TechTalk, “The explosion and popularity of voice-activated systems such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home attest to the rapidly increasing capabilities of these systems.” Voice interface apps don’t work well in crowded environments like a conference or a tradeshow, so we’re seeing these text-based systems emerging as an excellent alternative to answering questions, gathering feedback and engaging attendees at events.
CI: It’s like a personal concierge for the attendee.
Melanie: You hit the nail on the head. For example, The Cosmopolitan Hotel has an AI text-based Chatbot concierge named Rose. At check-in, guests are given a card that reads: “I am the answer to the question that you never asked.” and “Know my secrets. Text me,” The card contains Rose’s phone number which you can text for a variety of services. Towels? Pizza? Restaurant recommendations? Rose will text you back and provide the services. I foresee many more hotel concierges and industry conferences offering up this AI/Chatbot service. I can see how a Chatbot can offer a more personalized experience when you have thousands of partners attending an event.
CI: So what are some new challenges being seen with events? Digital disruption? Social media?
Melanie: Digital disruption is a big challenge seen in events… which is one reason why virtual meetings will not replace face-to-face meetings. Even with increased virtual meetings on the rise, face-to-face meetings and tradeshows will remain viable. The main reason? Webinars and other virtual conferences are great for short info exchange. However, in today’s multi-tasking, social media environment, attention spans are short. Thirty to forty-five minutes is usually the maximum you can expect someone to pay attention while sitting in front of a monitor.
CI: That is a great point, and makes complete sense. With many projecting a rise in prices for hotel and air travel in 2018, it’s likely that companies will have to explore meeting options and do their research to see what cities will allow them to stay within budgetary needs. Some of those meetings will stay face-to-face, but others may be planned as virtual.
Melanie: Also, the rise of millennials in management has a large impact on driving digital and social media environments. Millennials embrace today’s technology and – regardless of whether they are an attendee or are on the team leading the meeting – utilize it across all types of communications. I was reading an article on forbes.com the other day that said by 2020, 75% of the global workforce will be composed of millennials. This means the process of how meetings are conducted and communicated is changing.
CI: What are a few points you’d suggest to tech companies that are looking to capitalize on their event feedback and attendee involvement with their partner events, moving forward?
- If you are hosting a meeting, ask for input upfront, and feedback afterward. What your attendees are saying about your event is a clear indicator of what is, and what isn’t working.
- Choose a location that is easy for people to go to, especially when travel is involved.
- Not only that, look at the time of year, the day of the week, and the time of day. For example, mornings are great for seminars, while after work is better for appreciation/networking events.
- Do your research and don’t compete with similar events during the same time/location – unless you can piggyback on them.
- Again, remember that the attendee perception is everything at an event. A simple registration process, incentives or door prizes, and raffles will excite your attendees and give them a sense of reward. Finally, in our digital arena, ask attendees and speakers to help promote the event to their peers via social media, and be active on your social pages so there are posts and activity people can engage with.
- Ensure there is a clear follow-up plan in place, one which will help you generate qualified prospects.
- Lastly, keep the knowledge fresh: give information to attendees via a USB drive as an employee giveaway. It provides the attendee with a convenient takeaway and keeps your meeting green.
CI: Melanie, thank you again for sitting with us and discussing these trends in event planning and execution. It will be interesting to see what 2018 brings.