What do you think about the current needs of conference delegates in an event? What are the main components?
I think the needs of future delegates will be in line with the needs of today’s delegates. Conference organizers are driven to create a gathering of industry experts, who can share the latest information, meet new people and build relationships. Future technology and innovation will allow us to be faster, more efficient, share information for completely and efficiently connect with presenters and delegates – but their needs will remain the same.
What do you think they will need in the future? How could you describe the profile of the ‘event attendee of the future’?
I believe events will soon have two distinctly different audience groups: a broadcast audience and an attendee audience. The broadcast audience will view content and participate in presentations and sessions online – their aim will be mostly to absorb and share information. The attendee audience, however, will be looking to meet people and build deeper relationships, something which requires face-to-face interaction. These two audience groups will become sharply defined in the future, so conference managers need to start thinking about how to prepare two different content feeds and different sets of experiences for both audiences, and consider how the two groups will work together.
How will they interact with new and evolving technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR)?
As AI and AR grow in popularity and accessibility, they will play an integral role in every industry. The primary roles for AI and AR will be to showcase innovation, technologies and solutions. Their secondary roles will involve expanding and augmenting the conference experience for participants by providing way-finding and check-in and helping people connect with information. These technologies will also provide a platform for content management, the ability to rapidly gather current industry information, present content and on-the-spot models and idea testing.
In the future, how do you think they will want to be communicated with?
Through one's preferred device – be that a mobile, a personal AI assistant like Siri or Alexa, or bespoke online and mobile platforms that host information. Future event professionals will need to give their audience customisable solutions that meet their personal preferences, especially around their volume and frequency of interaction. Whatever the platform, the audiences will continue to demand control.
How will venues need to adapt in order to meet needs of the future delegate?
A venue will need to prepare to broadcast information to larger and broader audiences and will need to put the infrastructure in place to support this. Venues with pipelines for high-volume data and technologies for way-finding will become preferred destinations for conference organisers.
How will delegates of the future want to engage with each other and build connections?
Events can be either ‘a moment’ or a ‘launch pad to build a community’. If organizers design around the latter, they will approach a conference as a platform that creates, houses and nurtures leading-edge innovation, and an on-going community engagement platform for sharing, collaborating and innovating. Delegates will be less focused on attending an event and more focused on joining and building a community.
What practical advice can you offer to event planners so they can prepare to meet these future needs and remain on the front foot or even stay ahead of event trends?
Learn to broadcast, reach beyond the walls of the venue and prepare to touch a bigger audience. Use technology, not as a gimmick or a trendy element, but in a way that can improve the event experience and the conference content. Most importantly, focus on creating a sense of community for the delegates that lasts far beyond the event date.
**An edited version of this insight was first published in Biz Events Asia e-magazine (2018 Volume 2, p. 36-38) on 26 August 2018