State of the Industry 2010 - Looking Ahead
Optimistic for a stronger 2010 and understanding a forever-changed event industryby Meredith Mcllmoyle | Published in January 2010 Features | economy
Optimistic for a stronger 2010 and understanding a forever-changed event industry
There’s every reason to believe that 2010 will be better than last year, but how much better, and what will that mean for you?
The economy is showing signs of turning around, however at this point we’re still far from a return to the economy of three or four years ago. We’re in a different era, and even those who have the money to spend-—companies that were not hit hard or that even thrived during the economic downturn, individuals and organizations that invested well and are benefiting from new business—have gotten used to the idea of moderation, rather than glitz.
The good news: Events have been acknowledged as an important part of our country’s recovery and many companies are opening up their event budgets for first and second quarters of 2010. Those event budgets will continue to be tight and there is still a trend toward last-minute planning, based on last-minute budget approvals. If you are fortunate enough to be a part of an event that does have the financial means to be grand, be prepared to make sure it doesn’t look like the budget was grand, for fear of appearing wasteful to attendees and the public.
What is the long-term future for events? History would say that we will forget these tough times as soon as the economic crisis is no longer visible in the rearview mirror. However, industry experts agree that the world of events is forever changed. Planners and suppliers alike need to be ready to be more creative, more accountable for results, more informed about trends and technology and truly committed to our partnerships.
Trendwatching.com uses spotters all over the world to identify consumer trends. Consumer trends, of course, influence event trends. For 2010, the 10 things Trendwatching.com wants us all to pay attention to are:
1. Business as unusual. That means “for the first time, there’s a global understanding, if not a feeling of urgency, that sustainability, in every possible meaning of the word, is the only way forward.” You must be a good corporate citizen. Period.
2. Urbany. In 2008, for the first time in history, more people lived in cities than in other areas. Urban people are, according to Trendwatching.com, more sophisticated and demanding, more willing to try things, and “super-wired.”
3. Real-time reviews. Your event may be reviewed while it’s in progress. You’ve got to either be fabulous all the time or involved customers in your processes so you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. (You can do both, of course.)
4. Fluxury. Luxury is a category in flux (get it?). It’s not necessarily going to be defined by bling or other symbols of wealth. It might include time, peace and quiet, perks, friends.
5. Mass mingling. Although people will more and more “live” online, they also want to get together with real people in the real world. (Great for events professionals!) This isn’t an either/or thing, however. The social media are becoming key to helping people get together with others in the real world, not just the virtual one.
6. Eco-easy. Sustainability needs to be easy for consumers—and alternatives to it may need to become harder.
7. Tracking and alerting. Consumers want to be able to track and be alerted about nearly everything, not just their Fed-Ex packages.
8. Embedded generosity. Consumers respond to giving initiatives that seem painless, such as having a portion of a purchase donated to a worthy cause.
9. Profile “myning.” Not everyone has a personal website, but an increasing number of ordinary people do – and even more are on social media sites. They want and need to protect their personal “brands” from mining by advertisers and companies. Hence the “my” in myning.
10. Maturialism. Mature materialism means consumers who are sophisticated and willing to experiment; they are informed and expected to be treated like it.
The Event Solutions Keys to 2010
At Event Solutions, we put together our own list of things to consider when planning events this year:
Tight budgets. Being creative with your events allows you to create a celebratory atmosphere for your audience, yet respect the restrictions your client is under. We may well see a holiday season at the end of this year that resembles the one we just had, with picnics or casual cocktail parties replacing the black-tie dinner.
Multi-purpose design pieces. Make your décor do double or even triple duty—at the same event. Ask your designer to redesign items so they can be used on the general session stage and the during the evening awards dinner, for example.
Family-friendly entertainment. Even when there aren’t children involved, the trend is away from the risqué and revealing (not unusual during an economic downturn). Offer entertainment that everyone can enjoy, including kids, parents and people of all faiths and tastes.
Digital décor. You can design an entire room with digital technology, without the cost and time of loading in big props. If you are at all intimidated by the increasing array of digital technology for events, make sure you’ve got someone on your team who not only understands it, but loves it.
Event greening. If we all make a few changes that we can afford, the impact of those small changes will make a difference to the environment. Increasingly, clients and their guests expect that. Don’t get overwhelmed by greening your entire event, just pick a few manageable choices: recycling any and all materials, solar trucks to provide power, recycled paper products, donating leftover food or providing transportation to reduce the number of vehicles traveling to the event. (And be sure to point out the efforts you’re making, so they’re appreciated.)
Experiences. People are looking for unique experiences, and your event can offer that, whether it’s an outdoor adventure, a GPS scavenger hunt or an on-site cooking lesson. Brainstorm ideas with your staff—and try them out before the event.
Technology. Technology is the story for events today. Not just because it’s exciting, but because it creates new opportunities for high impact at lower costs. Integrate text message screens, live Twitter feeds, audience response systems, informational touch screens and other cutting-edge technology to stay at the front of the quick-moving information wave.
Slowing down and pampering. There are energy drinks and instant information and rush, rush, rush on the one hand, and a craving for slowing down and being pampered on the other. Spa-type atmospheres, comfortable seating and pampering guests with comfort foods, peaceful entertainment—even manicures— is perfect for some events.
Audience engagement. Create opportunities for guests to participate in the experience by doing such things as painting pieces of a large mural, singing with their friends and colleagues or even helping prepare the meal they will be eating. These all make them feel a part of the event, not just a passive observer.
Sensory experiences. Because every moment and dollar counts, the trend is toward events that stimulate all of the senses and leave the guests feeling as if they have had a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Scent machines, on-site food cooking (great aromas), textured fabrics, spectacular lighting, live or digital music…all create the sensory experiences your guests crave.
Creative partnerships. Work with your suppliers to re-invent your relationship. Find ways to both identify new business and to service existing clients together; it’s vital to small business owners.
Diverse event spaces. Design your event in a way that allows your guests to have the kind of experience they are looking for: quiet areas for conversation, interactive spaces or fun, high-energy areas—and, possibly, all in one event.
Bottom-up planning. Your audience isn’t just an audience; it’s part of the community you are developing. Members of that potential audience should be part of the content-creation process.
Hybrid events. Find ways to incorporate the new world of virtual events into your live event experience. Virtual tools allow for better tracking of ROI, long-term audience engagement and inclusion of guests who weren’t able to attend the event in person.