Predictions 2019: The year ahead for events, by Jo Webber

January 22, 2019 Jo Webber
This article first appeared in Campaign Middle East.

Live events, brand experiences, face-to-face marketing (call it what you will) has finally come of age as a credible channel for B2B and B2C marketers alike.

Far from being eclipsed by digital marketing, the two channels have proved to be complementary. Our essential need for human interaction is magnified in the modern digital world and brand marketers are taking full advantage of both platforms.

The future of events will combine the physical and digital worlds seamlessly, allowing event organisers to activate brand experiences that resonate, engage and promote change. The digitalisation of events also means great data capture and measurement – behavioural insights are invaluable to marketers.

So, what are the key event trends for 2019?

“Tech with a purpose” – attendee engagement

Tech for tech’s sake is a definite turn off. However, when deployed with a clear objective and as an enabler, tech enhances the customer experience.

Social platforms are already used for easier registration and checking out who else in your network, personal or professional, is attending the same event. Networking or meeting friends and like-minded people is a key driver of visitor attendance, and tech is proving to be a great enabler here.

Event marketers are heavy users of social media but the real game changer is user-generated content. Getting your audience to share and amplify your brand increases your reach exponentially. Devising and creating ‘insta’ moments throughout your conference, brand experience or exhibition is a sure-fire way to harness the power of your key influencers and customer groups.

Empowered engagement is a major trend for 2019. Smart technologies such as NFC and RFID allow visitors to engage with brands, content and other delegates on their terms. Using smart badges or bracelets with NFC or iBeacon technology brings an event to life. From highlighting new products and high-value content, to keynote speaker session alerts or breaking industry news – it all contributes to an empowered, curated experience. 

Gamification, already hot, will be mainstream. Creating immersive experiences that are fun, memorable and play to our natural competitive instincts are a great way to tell your brand story. Want to engage your sales team in a new product launch? Digital gameshows, information downloads, and interactive seminars allow delegates to collect points, create personal leaderboards and claim rewards. And you get rich engagement data into the bargain. 

Use AV and AI to surprise and delight

Moving video walls, film studio-style motion graphics, OLED digital displays, projection mapping, and even holograms will surprise and delight attendees, creating the WOW factor for your event. ‘Death by PowerPoint’ is not an option as audiences expect you to reimagine your content using the latest tech. The rewards are significant: higher brand recall and behavioural change are there for the taking.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and will continue to grow as the technology matures. A report by Huawei Technologies states that 86 percent of global companies will adopt AI in some form by 2025. Sophia the Smart Robot (worth a look on YouTube) has been seen frequently in the event industry this year. From being a panel member to a presenter and a delegate, Sophia has gained a reputation as an effective way to use AI to engage audiences.

Data, data, data

A key driver of the adoption of digital is measurability. Digitalising events affords the same potential for tracking – from the cost per acquisition (CPA) of a delegate to social media reach, to return on engagement, to sales and conversion data linked back to your CRM. The data exhaust is extensive and invaluable for both cost attribution and behavioural insight. One of the oldest marketing platforms is competing alongside the new.

In the UAE, digital platforms have gained a strong foothold, particularly with the government-backed initiatives such as Smart Dubai 2021, encouraging the use of technology. This commitment to digital transformation will reinforce Dubai’s standing as a major destination for the rapidly growing global live events industry. That has to be music to the ears of live event and digital marketers across the region.

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