Looking back at what most scholars predicted for the future is almost always good for a chuckle—some have been visionary but most of these soothsayers predicted changes in society that never emerged. And although some of you may be old enough to remember the ‘pre’ Internet days, some of you grew up only knowing the world we live in today: connected. Back in those early days, you had to jump on a plane to meet customers and prospects, without laptops, cell phones or email. Today, we have so many ways to connect with others that it can feel fragmented. And technology is only advancing faster and faster. By 2025, it’s estimated there will be 35.6 billion Internet of Things-connected devices, roughly 16.6 billion more devices than were present in 2018.
Today, we have so many ways to connect with others that it can feel fragmented.
So if we have a zillion ways to communicate and connect today, why do we still go out of our way to meet face to face? Because we’re social creatures who desire connection. Technology can never really replace being at a tradeshow and reconnecting with colleagues or shaking someone’s hand to seal the deal. People build relationships and partnerships at events that extend far beyond 3 days at the Anaheim Convention Center or a casino in Vegas.
But that doesn’t mean that technology hasn’t changed the way we live and interact, or that our expectations aren’t changing. The pandemic forced us to adopt and appreciate a digital-first world—from having food delivered to picking up groceries to checking your local store inventory to checking in online before a doctor’s appointment. We became more comfortable and savvy using technology. As a result, we expect that many of these digital experiences can, and will, carry over to our real-world experiences, and today’s events are evolving to meet those needs.
From entertainment to wellness to innovation, event producers and participating companies have a plethora of opportunities to deliver sensory, emotional, cognitive and rational components that can help cement the experience and improve loyalty and understanding.
Make the Most of Social Interactions
First, the event experience itself is changing. Although you might go to an event looking for new leads, you have to assume that anyone walking down the trade-show aisle has already seen your products or services online. As a result, it’s more important than ever to participate in events to be present and connect with existing customers and partners who expect to see you there. Fortunately, many event producers recognize this and are facilitating more intentional social opportunities to help you connect, as well as introduce yourself to foster new relationships.
Merge the Physical with the Virtual
Second, because technology lets us experience events in different ways, some event attendees might not be able to, or choose not to, be present in person. In these hybrid event models, you have to consider engaging event attendees in person, while also having a way to connect with virtual attendees. Some events are better suited to a hybrid approach, making it easier for event organizers to mesh the in-person and virtual experiences. They may even have ways to help virtual attendees get the most out of the event through social video engagements, simulcast sessions and workshops, and virtual 3D environments that replicate the actual venue. If you are participating in a hybrid event, be sure to find out how the event will work for both sets of attendees so you can take advantage of each opportunity.
Create Transformative Experiences
Finally, the buzzword for events moving forward will be ‘interactive.’ Gone are the days when events could just focus on education and exhibiting products and services. Today’s attendees want a more fulfilling experience, and events will find new ways to foster that engagement. From entertainment to wellness to innovation, event producers and participating companies have a plethora of opportunities to deliver sensory, emotional, cognitive and rational components that can help cement the experience and improve loyalty and understanding. Every event is different, as is every industry that drives these gatherings. The key is to understand what your attendees value and elevate your presence to meet those needs.