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How to deliver impactful event experiences? We asked the experts

Celine Khor, Head of Brand Experience, John Doe Communications
With so much competing noise and ever-tightening budgets, the need to deliver immersive, innovative event experiences to keep your audiences coming back year after year has become a key challenge, but also a real opportunity for event organisers.

This is how trends like ‘design thinking’ have emerged and turned the traditional event planning process on its head. Traditionally, marketers would plan events and then figure out how to get attendees and sponsors interested. Design thinking does the opposite – first you develop a deep understanding of the people you want to attract and then you use this knowledge and understanding to deliver events based on their interests and values.  

To understand how to enhance attendee experience and deliver memorable experiences, we caught up with experts from our speaker line-up for the upcoming EventLAB 2019to get their thoughts on how to deliver impactful events, and what they think are the latest trends the industry should leverage.

Q: How would you define a memorable event?
Celine Khor, Head of Brand Experience, John Doe Communications: Events can be memorable in loads of ways, including negative ones. The key for me is to get people filled with a particular feeling: wonder, contentment, delight, excitement, even nervousness if it were the prelude to something good. All that can be achieved with the combination of the various basic event components, plus excellent service, and a very smooth journey.  

If you can come away from an evening or experience remembering only the highlights – the atmosphere, conversations, music, people, then the event has fulfilled its mission. On the flipside, if you end up remembering the queues, waiting for the bar / cloakroom, or going hungry because there wasn’t enough food, that’ll undo any of the positives and can seriously undermine the whole experience.    

Mark Bannister, Head of Technical Production, George P. Johnson Experience Marketing: We look to change behaviors through moments of interaction that attendees experience at an event.  Often it is touches of surprise that last, but these need to be effectively woven into the overall messaging to be able deliver on clients’ end goals, whether they are sales focused, community building or to educate.  An event that can successfully create these moments, will achieve ROI and make an impact among attendees.

Q2: What, in your opinion, will be the top three trends that will have the biggest impact on the events industry in the next ten years?
Celine Khor: I expect trends for bespoke, customisable experiences will carry on – whether this is done via storytelling, bespoke takeaways or high-tech solutions. The idea of creating truly outstanding moments for delegates is crucial. Event concepts that get people talking and drive returns (i.e. formulas that people can come and experience multiple times and still enjoy in the longer term) will always have the edge, as they provide a way to measure ROI.

‘Immersive’ is still a very powerful notion and as technology develops, the idea of transporting people and creating magical journeys that can appeal to all the senses is one of the more exciting trends, as 5D tech begins to make truly extraordinary experiences possible.

As technology develops, we can also expect to see more varied and frequent use of AI (artificial intelligence). I think a lot of brands will be exploring ways not only to deliver their brand message during events, but also to harvest data there and then. This means that the event will become more than an experience – it’s a chance to set the correct conditions for capturing information about the consumer and potentially affect behaviour in a much more impactful way.

Mark Bannister: We are already working hard to keep ahead of the sustainability trend.  Clients are moving from merely considering to actively pursuing sustainable policies and showing a new level of willingness to make the impact of the events we organize more sustainable.  Event audiences are also growing – the attendees at Cisco Live have increased by at least 12% year on year for the last four years and this shows no sign of slowing down – it is a trend repeated across our client portfolio.  We will need more venues of size and scale to sustainably accommodate this upsurge in delegate numbers.  Finally, I see a continued increase in the use of digital experience to help enhance and embed messaging within the event. Interactions outside of the breakout room that help bring case studies and learnings to life will continue to grow and develop, with floor ‘activations’ becoming a standard inclusion in all styles of events and meetings.

Q3: How could venues and organisers work better together to deliver memorable event experiences?
Celine Khor: Having been in both roles, I think there’s a lot of scope for venue teams and event organisers to work together far more closely than they typically do. Organisers tend to be focused on their specific event concept and goals and priorities; however, venues would have probably seen many variations of the same idea, and therefore will have unique insight on the best way to execute it, which organisers could explore. Small location-specific details can make a real difference to the flow or feeling of the event, so getting advice on the best way to guide people through their journey and paying close attention to what consumers can see / hear / smell, helps create a solid base for the event experience.

Often there’s no choice but to work with tight deadlines, but the main impact you can have on better planning in my view is to give yourself time – in this case, enough time for as many venue visits as may be necessary, and enough time to pick all relevant brains and explore all possible scenarios for the event journey.

Mark Bannister: Collaboration is key – both venues and organisers need to work closely together. For example, venues need to provide branding opportunities for event organisers to bring messaging to life. Technological innovations provide so many solutions for this. I’m excited by the use of the latest LIDAR scanning devices that create very accurate point cloud 3D drawings of venue spaces, which can be effortlessly imported into CAD, a 3D render software, and even into virtual reality (VR) software, greatly reducing the amount of time in the planning stages of an event, when usually organisers have to visualize a space in person to plan accordingly.

EventLAB 2019 will provide a comprehensive education programme in the Learning Hub, featuring thought-leaders, influencers and key players from both within and outside the events industry. All education sessions fall under five themes: “Engagement, Innovation & Technology”; “Leadership, Professional Development & Culture”; “Partnerships, Sponsorships & Sales”; “Current Affairs, Regulations & Compliance”; and “Marketing, Social Media & Branding”.  

The event showcases an exciting speaker line-up, which includes a mix of key players, thought-leaders, industry influencers, and innovators such as Mark Bannister, Head of Technical Production at George P. Johnson; Celine Khor; Head of Brand Experience at John Doe Communications; Ben Naughton-Rumbo, A.l. and Growth Consultant  

Event LAB 2019, taking place from 14-15 October at Business Design Centre, London, will see approximately 1,800 one-to-one business meetings taking place.

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