For our new Q&A series, Ask the Experts, we asked our event planner clients to share their priorities, areas of interest and biggest questions. To find the answers, we're talking to the top minds in the industry, including bloggers, planners, editors, marketers, consultants and event industry influencers.
Danalynne Menegus has vast experience in both B2B technology marketing and event management, and is always finding ways to make content fresh and relevant. You may recognize her as the managing editor and lead writer of Corporate Event News where her articles run the gamut from event tech to experiential marketing to destination and venue news.
How do you see the industry changing and what are the top 3 factors that will continue to change it, outside of economy and technology?
1) People are demanding more personalized, pleasant, engaging experiences across the board. The old school format of conferences with lectures and traditional trade show booths is already starting to change, because younger attendees and younger event planners don’t understand or want it. A decade ago the changes were to put in some lounge spaces and “power bars” for people to recharge their devices — now, those things are expected. More and more events are asking potential speakers to submit ideas that use a more interactive format.
2) The idea of “giving back” continues to grow. Doing things for a purpose and for good causes is resonating more, whether it’s a corporate social responsibility initiative, helping to stuff hygiene kits for the homeless, paint for hospital patients, walk for terminally ill children, planting trees or building houses, having a charitable element in events will become the norm.
3) Health and wellness. People are focusing more on the importance of balance, whether it be work/life balance, or sleep/play balance. This means more of an emphasis on a variety of options for food and beverage, seating, learning preferences and even scheduling. Having breaks in between sessions, for example, vs. going back to back.
Have you seen any "wow" moments pertaining to the logistics of an event?
I was an exhibitor at the first four years of AWS Re:Invent, Amazon Web Services’ annual conference, from 2012-2015. It was the first large event I’d seen in more than a decade that still held the excitement of a startup — and I think most of that was due to having a highly engaged community versus anything the show organizers did that was particularly exciting. But what they did do, they did right, and they definitely have the customer-first mentality. Every year, I’m impressed by how the event managers responsible for Dreamforce manage to keep everything organized and working smoothly. And I like that they opt for things like creative keynote seating, effectively “in the round” in a space designed to look like a forest that fits into their overall “Trailhead” theme.
Have you seen any creative rooms sets for groups of 50-100?
I’ve seen mixed seating at a few events, which I like. Some classroom seating, some sofas and tables, some large comfortable chairs, some rounds or crescents, some high tables with stools, and even a few beanbags in addition to the usual theater style seats. I prefer to have plenty of space around me, a surface to put my laptop on, or if no laptop, my cup of coffee, and somewhere to put my handbag. A power outlet is an added bonus! Mixed seating also fosters better communication: I’m more likely to engage in conversation with someone seated near me if I am comfortable and feel like I still have plenty of personal space.
Have you seen any arrival experiences that are equally efficient and innovative?
I’ve been to a few events with registration check-in available at the airport. It’s great to be able to get your badge and not have to worry about getting to the registration desk early and having to wait in line while on a time crunch. I’ve also experienced a number of things that are supposed to make registration easier, like bar codes to scan to get your badge printed. They can work, but a good chunk of the time they don’t – or they don’t take all contingencies into account, like needing to change information on the badge. I think that mobile check-in is likely to become more prevalent, similar to the mobile check-in that many hotels now offer. I’m not a big fan of the idea of facial recognition for check-in, but I think that’s going to increase as well.
For an events professional who has been in the industry as long as you have, how do you keep on top of the latest trends?
I rely on social media a lot — I belong to several industry associations and groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and even if I don’t actively participate, I try to scan them at least once every week. I also try to attend events in different industries, even if it’s just getting an expo pass, to see for myself what’s new and innovative. And of course, talking to people helps!
What do you think is more important to attendees - content, connection or creativity?
All of the above! Without having good content, it’s hard to justify attending an event, especially one that involves travel and a hefty registration fee. Building connections will raise people’s desire to come back to that event, to see the friends they have made in previous years. Creativity raises the “wow” factor and makes it more likely that attendees will share information about the event with their peers and via social media, attracting others to attend (FOMO is a real thing for many people!). As an introvert, content is my #1 — but I get more excited about events when I’m going to know some people who are there, and if there’s something cool or exciting that I don’t want to miss.
How do you see organizations qualifying the ROI of their events to attendees, exhibitors and sponsors?
Organizations typically are most concerned about sponsors/exhibitors, as that’s where the bulk of the event revenue typically comes from. I used to see a lot more large events offer exhibitors independent audit stats, but that seems to have decreased — maybe because the number of large third-party events overall has decreased. I recently attended an event where they offered significant discounts for exhibitors who rebooked onsite. As far as attendees go, event organizers are usually relying on data from their attendees to help them prove ROI internally, whether it’s attendee satisfaction ratings, session capacities or social media comments. In terms of getting them to attend, it’s more about creating a “justification toolkit” that offers stats, marketing information, and things like advice on how to ask your boss to send you to the event based on said stats and less quantifiable objectives like education and networking.
Danalynne Menegus is the managing editor of Corporate Event News. She is also a freelance writer, editor, and marketing consultant with 25 years of experience in B2B marketing. Danalynne has held senior event marketing, corporate marketing, and product marketing roles at corporations including Dell, Sybase/SAP, and IONA Technologies.
For more in the Ask the Experts series, check out our interviews with Rachel Wimberly, Will Curran, Dave Lutz, and Corbin Ball. Subscribe to the MeetingPlay blog and stay tuned to the blog for more event planning tips and insights.
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