Technology drives what consumers expect from organizations. We want everything now, and we expect excellent customer service along the way. We want to feel noticed by the brands we interact with and expect to be secure throughout the purchasing funnel. The same goes for the events we attend.
Make no mistake, event goers are consuming a product. That product is the event you planned. In 2019 and beyond, event planners need to make sure the events they coordinate are organized around the modern consumer.
1. Experience is key
Econsultancy.com surveyed over 500 marketers and advertisers and found that 93 percent of them believe that customers would prefer to buy experiences, rather than products. When thinking about customer experiences at events, you need to think beyond the digital and classroom setting.
Workshops are becoming the preferred activity for many conferences and meetings. Attendees want to experience, not just witness, whatever the event is about.
Instead of long-winded speeches, or five-minute quick-hit digital moments out on the show floor, utilize shorter talks combined with activities that let the audience members learn first-hand how to apply what they learned. Most people learn by doing, so hands-on experiences have the advantage of adding more value than the “traditional” lecture style talks.
These workshops can also aid in reducing the stress levels of attendees by allowing them to focus on the activity at hand, and not just listening and taking notes.
Venues become much more important should you choose to incorporate more workshops into your events. Make sure to find spaces that allow people to move freely in order to facilitate interaction. In addition, be sure to budget enough time and money based on what presenters or facilitators need in order to run their workshops.
Experiences are more likely to be talked about and shared on social media. Ultimately, experiences that attendees remember create impactful memories that lead to more re-books and growing attendance over time.
2. Enhance Event Cyber Security
The digital age requires a more comprehensive approach to security. Along with physical threats, a continuous stream of cyber threats has even hit tech giants like Facebook, Under Armour and Target.
The personal data of millions, if not billions, of customers, have been compromised. Do not be the latest on the list to expose your attendees’ information.
Events need to handle vast amounts of data, which makes them attractive targets for malicious entities. Event coordinators need to be able to work with data security specialists alongside law enforcement so that events are secure digitally as well as physically.
Digital security professionals are responsible for ensuring your events comply to the following standards and legislative initiatives:
● Data Protection Act — The DPA controls how personal information can be gathered and stored. It makes sure that you, as an event coordinator, do not share any names, addresses or other personal information gathered without the express consent of the attendee.
● PCI DSS — The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. This makes sure events are going through all the measures necessary to protect their attendees’ payment information specifically.
There is a lot that goes into those protections, so the best way to make sure you are following these rules is to outsource your payment infrastructure to trusted third parties that are already PCI DSS compliant, like PayPal or Stripe.
● GDPR — The General Data Protection Regulation only applies if your event takes place in an EU member country OR if an attendee is a citizen of an EU member. This is important because even if your event is not in the EU, you still may need to meet these standards depending on who’s going to be attending your event.
The GDPR goes beyond personally identifying information and accounts for things like IP addresses and cookie data, which also must be made secure and secret. Not to be shared without express consent from an attendee.
All of the above should be standard, so make sure to employ all security best practices when planning an event. Make use of two-factor authentication. Usernames and passwords are too easily hacked these days. Physical items like USB keys or even just text to confirm from an attendee’s smartphone can go a long way. Make sure encryption is enabled by default for all communication, especially on the event’s WiFi network.
3. Sustainability Efforts at Events are Expected
Sustainability cannot simply be an afterthought. We’ve all seen the weak attempts with just extra recycling bins and posters on the wall about the recycled paper used for handouts.
These methods feel like afterthoughts and will fall way short of attendee expectations in 2019. Sustainability needs to be incorporated into event planning and execution from the beginning.
However, the cost can be an issue when planning to be as “green” as possible. For example, going paperless increases digital reliance and green transportation is much more expensive than traditional shuttles and cars. Be sure to budget accordingly.
Catering should be front of mind when thinking about sustainability initiatives in your events. Have a plan for recycling and composting all the food waste during and after the event.
Source foods from local area farms and stores whenever possible. A key to sustainable catering is to make sure your attendance count is as accurate as possible, in order to avoid as many leftovers as you can.
While sustainability is key, make sure you aren’t sacrificing the attendee experience for it. People expect efforts to be made in order for an event have as low of an environmental impact as possible, but if it makes the event itself frustrating and hard to manage, those efforts will no longer be appreciated but resented.
There are many quick tips and tricks to gain quick wins with your event. If you want to create events that are memorable, sustainable and secure, however, be sure to keep the above a priority when planning any event moving forward.