This week, more than 350 members of Meetings Professionals International (MPI) met in Krakow, Poland for the annual European Meetings & Events Conference 2015. This conference has become an important platform for planners, organizers, meeting architects, corporations and event suppliers to discuss the latest trends in the industry and make important connections through networking.
With a large focus on trends, MPI EMEC is always a good place to see what trends are shaping the event industry and what will influence conferences and meetings throughout the year. Many event professionals agree that audiences will continue having a big impact on the way events are designed.
From attendees to participants: Interactivity required!
Last year, we observed how event formats are in a state of transformation. As audiences have begun to actively participate in conferences, meetings and exhibitions, the focus has clearly shifted towards interactive, attendee-driven events. By offering a number of educational “campfire” sessions, MPI followed this trend and offered informal and interactive meeting formats throughout the European Meetings & Events Conference.
In his session, “Moving from ‘Attendee’ to ‘Participant’ - Audience Engagement Ideas to Improve Events”, industry and tech expert Corbin Ball (Corbin Ball Associates) explained how we are undergoing a social and mobile transformation as “attendees are becoming participants.” He suggested organizers should find ways to try and get people excited about becoming active in order to engage them and deliver a great event experience. An easy, but effective example: Many events use “Social Walls” (like Tweetwall) that display an event hashtag on a screen so participants have the opportunity to discuss presentations and sessions on Social Media.
By the same token, organizers need to know what their attendees want and expect in order to provide an engaging and high-quality event experience. "[By] tracking what your attendees' likes and dislikes are, you can make the event experience more relevant to them," said FreemanXP's Jane Baker in her campfire session 'The New Marketing Landscape'. A good CRM software helps keep track of attendees’ feedback and ideally saves the complete history and information on clients in the system.
Gamify your events and improve the event experience
Furthermore, gamification is still playing a major role in the industry and in particular on audience engagement. Long before it was named a “trend,” the principles of gamification were being used in numerous educational contexts and in consumer marketing. If you look at it objectively, it all comes down to the basics of human behavior: Don’t we all want recognition? Don’t we all want to get something in return for our work?
As events become more interactive, gamification elements can be of great use in keeping audiences motivated, satisfied and engaged. Scavenger hunts or competitions address peoples’ basic needs for winning and succeeding, and most importantly, they make use of the psychological phenomena of rewards. In this context, Corbin Ball mentioned a quotation from Bunchball in his session: "People have fundamental needs and desires - for reward, status, achievement, self-expression, competition, and altruism among others."
For further ideas on how to incorporate audience engagement elements in your events, I recommend reading our “Attendee Engagement 101” or watching our webinar on “Audience engagement and delegate experience at events,” led by my colleague, Mark Pritchard. Watch the recorded version here.