Conference Trends 2013

London New Years Eve Fireworks 2012

We can’t believe the first month of 2013 has gone already! This inspired us to think about the changing landscape of the events industry and changes and developments we foresee for conferences in the next 12 months. It will be interesting to review this post in early 2014 and see if our predictions were right!

Times are still tough in the UK economy and throughout the world and event budgets are tight or in some case virtually non existent! This is however encouraging some fantastic deals and rates throughout the industry from venues and suppliers for those in a position to take advantage. Good event organisers are rising to this challenge to become even more creative in making every penny go even further!  We also expect to see conferences and events held in more unusual venues and spaces in the future and sometimes shying away from the shiny purpose built venues we love so much.

We have already seen many events moving to a single day rather than a multi day programme and non fee paying events slashing maximum available attendee places is understandably a definite sign of the times. There has also been a push towards “no frills” packages e.g. providing a basic sandwich lunch and doing without the biscuits/fruit/pastries at refreshment breaks in order to make the books balance and also simply to not be seen as being frivolous in these times of austerity.  In our opinion content is always more important than the niceties and we are happy to advise our clients how and where they can save money on their conferences and events.

If you book to attend an event and cancel at the last minute do expect to incur a cancellation charge. No shows and late apologies cost the organiser money for the place that is wasted and cause frustration because it is then often too late to fill the place from someone on the waiting list. Attendees often don’t seem to comprehend that by booking a place and not turning up to an event you may be putting the future of the event happening again into serious jeopardy during these challenging times.

Social media will continue to have a massive impact in the event industry in terms of marketing, developing online communities, live tweeting, sharing photos and extending the life of the event well after the lights are turned off and everyone has gone home. No longer does attending a conference mean turning off your phone, instead delegates are often actively encouraged just turn to silent and to engage fully via social media. Virtually all of the events we work on now set a dedicated event hashtag early on in the planning process and we are happy to advise on a bespoke event social media marketing strategy. Tweets are often visible even to those without active accounts via Twitter walls and feeds via event apps.  Speakers at events are also expected to do more, be it by writing a guest blog post or simply telling their followers about the events they are involved in and tweeting live from the event.

event app for android and iphone

Event App from Advanced Event Solutions Ltd

Reliable wifi is essential in any event venue nowadays, where each attendee is often using multiple devices to connect online. Venues with less than satisfactory wifi signal, complicated log in procedures and expensive charges (or indeed any charges full stop for wifi!) will soon find themselves out of favour with organisers.

Tablets are having an impact on events, not just in terms facilitating attendees to connect with social media on site but also in terms of some organisers favouring their tablet instead of their traditional clipboard to quickly access important information on the move!

A hybrid event is a tradeshow, conference, unconference, seminar, workshop or other meeting that combines a “live” face to face event with a “virtual” online component.  We are already seeing a rise in events which cater for both on site visitors and also engage with wider audiences unable to attend in person.  Hybrid Events are set to change the face of the events industry and will become more and more common over the next few years.

Now more than ever it is vital to measure the return on investment (ROI) for each event.  Instead of gaining feedback from attendees about how they rated the catering what we really need to measure is how much business was generated as a direct result of an event or how it has influenced and changed opinions of those attending.

We are seeing a movement by forward thinking organisations who want to be respected as experts in their field and are hosting workshops around the country.  These organisations are putting on a free half day seminar in their area of expertise and inviting a targeted list to take up free places.  The seminar gives an introduction into their services via a number of guest speakers and case studies.  Attendees can gain valuable insight into the subject area, ask questions and get free advice.  The seminars then generate leads and business over the medium term which more than compensates for their initial investment.  We are pleased to be working with a number of clients who see this formula as a vital component in their marketing strategy.

In 2012 we produced a number of events that invested in an event app to improve the attendee experience.  Sponsorship is sometimes elusive in the current economic climate with sponsors rightly demanding more and looking for a unique package in return.  A bespoke branded event app such as those provided by Advanced Event Solutions Ltd offers real tangible benefits to sponsors as well as adding value to delegates, speakers and exhibitors.  In this age of technology having information at your finger tips via a mobile phone or tablet is expected and demanded more and more.

Event Registration Management

The face of event registration is changing.  For bigger and slicker events gone are the pre printed badges laid out in alphabetical order on the registration desks.  Instead we are seeing a much faster and less wasteful way to check in delegates via barcoded registration technology.  The attendees barcoded ticket is scanned at the desk triggering their badge to be printed within a matter of seconds.  We developed this registration management system ourselves in 2010 and it continues to grow from strength to strength.  It can also be integrated with the event app mentioned previously.

Over many years the favourite staple presentation tool has been PowerPoint.  Many speakers are however now favouring Prezi.  Prezi is a slick way to visualise and share ideas and information via zooming technology.  It certainly looks beautiful and is easy to understand why it is attracting over a million new users a month!

We believe that we will continue to see those that have cut budgets and stopped running events start to return to funding face to face opportunities to learn and connect. We have already seen examples of this throughout 2012 as clients realise it is actually often the most effective and cost effective way to achieve their objectives and alternative methods are simple not able to provide comparable results.

Online event registration sites have come a long way over the past few years and hopefully we will continue to see further improvements.  There are some great sites out there but not one provider is perfect yet in our opinion – every platform has some annoying imperfections, oversights or are simply overpriced and there is still work to be done.  We have a good working knowledge of event registration sites and are able to advise our clients which of the providers are most suitable for their event and which are the most competitive in terms of commission fees charged on each booking and card payments.

Following on from the success of the Olympic Games 2012 we hope that the UK will continue to benefit from increased tourism and hospitality spend as one of the premier destinations for conferences and events.

2013 is set to be an exciting year for Events Northern Ltd. We already have a great list of events confirmed, including our first European Conference.  This blog post has looked at just some of the ways we expect to see changes over the course of 2013.  We would love to hear your thoughts on this blog post and to hear your predictions and trends for the 12 months ahead!


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