Same. Same. Same. Why? Why? Why?
The hottest trends and how to stand out from the event crowd.

Are you sick of attending the same old events, time and time again? Same format. Same content. Same. Same. Same. Are you a marketing director or brand manager looking to wow with your next corporate event? Acknowledging and embracing the latest trends and tools will set you apart in the eyes of your clients and customers, ensuring maximum ROI and true differentiation in market.

Don’t waste your time following fads that never amount to much. Instead, self-educate, stay on top of trends, embrace change and produce remarkable work, relevant to your brand and valuable to your customers.

Below are some of the trends that are already here and others that are just starting to take hold:

Going Live!
Over the past year, social media has cemented its position as the number one medium for up-to-the-minute news from around the globe. Now, more than at any time in history, people have access to news from around the world, as it breaks, in the palm of their hand. With the introduction of features like Facebook Live, traditional news outlets can now reach viewers with breaking stories, anytime, anywhere. The trend for “going live” has seen social media cement itself as the place to keep on top of global issues, current affairs, industry news and even brand developments.

Savvy marketers are also embracing Facebook Live as a way of widening their event reach, meaning it has become a great tool for boosting brand visibility. Why not run a live feed throughout your event? Interview attendees, capture the keynote speech, showcase your products. Your news, direct to customers, with no fear of PR spin, or biased media coverage. Just remember to have fun with it, make it informative and use it not in isolation, but in conjunction with your other powerful social media channels. Instagram Stories is another excellent way of covering “live” events. Just remember that after 24 hours the content in Stories is gone forever, so make sure to post a few of your best photos and impactful videos on your timeline too for safe keeping.

WOW Factors
While creating a WOW Factor is hardly a new concept, the ideas and execution of such activities change almost daily. Staying on top of trends is a full-time job. A great way to keep abreast of what’s trending is to spend some time in the tech world. As the events industry (alongside every other industry) becomes increasingly digital, we need to keep track of the latest developments coming out of Silicon Valley (or Silicon Roundabout if you’re reading this from the UK).

Great resources such as Recode, TechCrunch and Venture Beat are all packed full of the latest developments. Attend tech and innovation conferences, watch some TED Talks, add a few tech-focused sites and incubators to your social feeds, and curate your digital world to make sense of it all (Flipboard is an excellent app for this). Cutting edge technology only remains cutting edge for a short time. Products and trends are quickly found and utilized by the events industry. Think drones, projection mapping, live streaming, virtual assistants and 3D etc. Be the person in your organization who others come to for hot trends and WOW Factor ideas. Or work with event agencies who keep on top of these trends for you. Believe me, your business and career will thank you for it.

Data, Data Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Drink
“Data is the new oil.” How many times have you heard that phrase spouted out in meetings, on conference calls, in the media? Yes, data is important, but I’d actually argue that insight is the new oil. Or more specifically, actionable insight. Let me explain. Everyone has data, from big banks to small stall holders. We’re all collecting information, all of the time. However, without a way of accessing that data, making sense of it, finding the trends, figuring out what to do with it, it’s pretty much worthless.

Event registration technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. The future of events is most definitely digital, and wireless, non-contact systems, such as Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) technology, will most definitely feature more frequently. RFID wristbands are increasingly appearing at festivals and large-scale events, including Coachella. Most RFID wristbands contain short-range (typically 3-5 cm), passive tags and don’t require batteries; instead, they’re powered when placed near or tapped against an RFID reader. One tap and the information stored in the tag (credit card numbers, social media accounts, ticket status, etc.) is transferred, making registration, purchase and information sharing completely seamless.

Personalisation has also taken big steps forward. Before planning your next event, figure out what you want the end result to be. Why are you putting on the event in the first place? Is it new leads? Repeat business? Brand building? Cementing relationships? Whatever your objectives, build a data strategy into your event from the outset. What information do you want to collect and why? How will you collect it? Make sure you have someone capable of analysing the information and producing a plan to action it. Data is valuable, but only if the insight garnered from it is actionable.

Virtual Reality
While admittedly we thought VR would come and go as a fleeting fad, we have to acknowledge it’s actually developed some real staying power. With major investment into the technology (see Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement in October last year), reduction in the price for mass-market and the fun-factor of stepping into another world, the VR trend seems to be sticking around.

Virtual product tours are incredibly popular, especially among car manufacturers, who are able to showcase their entire range from one headset. Hotel tours, holiday packages, even wedding videos, they’re all getting the VR treatment. Word of warning, just make sure your real-life brand experience matches the VR hype, or there could be trouble ahead. #managingexpectations

Treat Your Stakeholders Like People
Whether customers, clients, prospects, partners or employees, your events will target one or more of these stakeholder groups. It’s easy to get caught up in today’s digital hype of analysing numbers, trends and data, but it’s so important to remember the people behind the spreadsheets. The importance of emotional intelligence continues to be a big topic in the corporate environment and nowhere in the marketing mix is that more important than events. Your face-to-face time is what sets you, your team and your company apart.

Millennials increasingly cite workplace happiness, work/life balance and contributing value as key factors when considering where to work. Incorporating topics like mindfulness, soft skills, and consensus management into your event schedules will not only stimulate interesting and diverse discussion, but it will also show how much your company values the emotional and mental health of its people. Why not take these ideas one step further by offering sensory lounges, quiet pods, or stress-reliever sessions where delegates can meet each other and enjoy some down time, without retreating to the isolation of their hotel rooms.

Throwing Formality Out Of The Window
If you’re organising the next G20, this one might not be for you, but there is a growing trend in the events world, of the “unconference.” In a combined career spanning over 30 years, my Remarkable co-founder Victoria and I have organised and attended more than our fair share of events. From conferences and gala dinners, to exhibitions and experiential activity, we’ve seen and done it all. Over the years, we’ve witnessed a very welcome shift in corporate events…that of Informality.

The days of completely one-sided conferences, where the minority speaks and the majority listens, are thankfully coming to an end. Yes, there will always be large conferences of that format, which are still incredibly effective, but today we’re seeing a lot more audience participation, two-way dialogue, and breakout sessions being introduced. We’ve been champions of the “unconference” for years, and we’re really seeing a shift to less formal speaker presentations, in the sharing of information. Whiteboard interviews, pub quiz education sessions, fire side chats, innovative learning tracks, workshops, sharing circles, audience participation, even nerf gun battles to determine speech length, we’ve seen (and organised) it all!

Informality is a hot trend as equality between thought leader and attendee increases. These informal sessions hold attention longer, are more memorable, and allow the audience to address issues they are most concerned with, rather than having to simply listen. The increased popularity of “Ask Any Question” sessions are a direct result of this movement. Open and honest communication, on any subject, direct from top to bottom. Trust between employer and employee, client and customer is so important in fostering healthy and long-standing relationships. Richard Branson, the poster-child for informal leadership, put it perfectly when he said of Virgin’s success, “Look after your staff, and they’ll look after your customers.”

In Summary
Today’s business world is increasingly digitised. The popularity of data, insight and customer personalisation in marketing is evident, and incredibly valuable, but that doesn’t mean we should hang our hats solely on the numbers. Remember that business is done between people. In a world so obsessed with Facebook likes and Instagram follows, take time to meet your clients, customers and prospects face-to-face. Events provide the opportunity to build and cement relationships, impress stakeholders and stand out from the competitive crowd. Show your human side, embrace change, keep on top of trends, and acknowledge the importance of emotional intelligence in the future of business. Same? Same? Same? Never again.

Rikki Webster is Co-founder and Managing Director of Remarkable, a Dubai-based event management agency, delivering outstanding creative projects with care, precision and flair.