That’s one of the key findings from the just-released 2020 Global Meetings and Events Forecast from American Express.
NOTE: This report was released before the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 illness it causes shut down the live events industry. However, its conclusions should still hold once the outbreak subsides and in-person events resume, get the most professional assistance from these corporate event production companies.
This detailed an comprehensive report runs to 100 pages. It cover a wide range of topics from travel, budgets, and venues to trends and technology, for internal and external meetings. Results are reported globally as well as with breakouts for North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Central and South America.
While it would be impossible to summarize the richness of the study’s findings in a brief article, here are four of the most important takeaways from the survey.
The Industry Outlook is Positive
As noted above, the survey found that event pros are strongly optimistic about the industry in 2020. Though there are (always) challenges, planners and others believe events have “cemented their place” as drivers of communications, growth, and engagement with customers, prospects, employees, and influencers.
In the words of the report’s authors, ” With so much possible upheaval looming in the near future—Brexit later in 2019, the US federal election in 2020, ongoing global trade wars, to name just a few—it would be understandable if industry professionals were nervous. But they are notably more optimistic than they have been in recent years.”
Respondents from all regions predict growth, with confidence that the events industry is “mature enough to weather any temporary storms” and offers “an abundance of opportunities.”
Planners Will Focus on Attendee Experience
Given that the most important measure of event success is attendee satisfaction, it’s no surprise that, per this report, “The attendee experience continues to grow in focus with meeting owners and planners.”
While getting the logistics right is essential, “theming and content are beginning to take on more of the planner’s mindshare, which is great news for attendees,” according to the study.
As the industry expands, there’s more competition for attendees. Prospective guests will choose which events to attend in the coming year based on the quality of the networking (who else is likely to be there), the content and learning, and the overall experience. That has event planners increasing their focus on:
- Personalization—giving attendees not just a choice of sessions and tracks but the ability to customize an itinerary aligned with their individual objectives and interests.
- Unique venues—destinations and structures that are distinctly different from the standard big city hotel or convention center.
- Interactive technologies—games, visuals, and activities that expand on and enhance the live event experience.
And of course, the biggest buzzword in the industry: “engagement.” During events, planners are incorporating more local food and culture, offering unusual offsite activities, and redesigning sessions to be more participatory and less passive.
Post-event, organizers are keeping attendees engaged with their content through mobile apps, chat channels, and content—videos, podcasts, blog posts—that extends the value of the event.
Event Technology Continues to Expand
Though the event technology landscape now encompasses hundreds of solutions, the report speaks broadly of two categories of technology: logistics and experiential. There’s some overlap, of course; for example, an online registration form is clearly in the “logistics” bucket, though it is also the first element in the event experience.
Per the study, event pros are “excited to make use of new technologies, from back-end systems that make bookings easier to client-facing software that enhances the onsite experience.”
It also notes that a majority of planners spend more time “focused on the experiential aspects of their events than the logistical aspects. And this trend should continue, as the technology is enhanced and delivered to planners as a fully integrated end-to-end solution.”
Given the incredible breadth of event technologies, from event management platforms to mobile apps to collaboration, networking, social, display, wearables, and more—it’s not clear what a “fully integrated end-to-end solution” would be, exactly.
Fortunately, event organizers have a choice of core management platforms at multiple levels and a wide array of best-of-breed point solutions that can be connected to automate common tasks while optimizing the attendee experience.