Over the past few weeks we’ve highlighted some important trends for the conference industry – from making interactivity meaningful to festivalisation and empowering speakers. Finally, we’re focusing on trends to help you influence delegates.
In an overwhelmingly divisive world, it’s almost astounding that nearly 90% of C-Suite executives believe in the power of live events and plan on investing more in them in the future. However, it’s less surprising when you understand how powerful conferences are for influencing people. According to a study by the Event Marketing Institute:
- A whopping 84% of event attendees leave with a more positive opinion of the company, brand, product, or service being promoted
- 65% say they better understand the company, brand, product, or service
But this doesn’t mean you can put your feet up and take it easy when it comes to planning and managing your event. Your delegates will likely attend several similar events this year, and you don’t want your message lost in a crowd of cookie-cutter conferences.
Here are the trends you need to understand if you want to better influence attendees in 2018:
1. Delegates Becoming Influencers
There’s tonnes of evidence that consumers find content created by other consumers far more influential than branded content. In 2018, savvy organisers will use this to their advantage by turning delegates into influencers.
Encouraging social sharing is a simple way to achieve this, but only a third of attendees actually post about their event experiences. So, it’s your job to convince as many attendees as possible to promote your conference on social media by creating unique, memorable and share-worthy experiences.
Approach this task strategically and not only will your event gain visibility, but your message will spread further and have more influence. For example, you could:
- Create Geofilters exclusive to your event that include hashtag versions of your message
- Craft moments that prompt delegates into using live video, a medium that’s extremely effective for selling tickets
- Ensure photo opportunities capture experiences aligned with your brand and message
With potential delegates more likely to be influenced by other attendees than corporate messaging, you can empower them to spread your message by putting them centre stage. If they want to talk about an idea, create a breakaway group for discussions, or workshop a new concept, there should be space to do so – why not take inspiration from Ignite or The World Café?
Additionally, you should always take measures to ensure absolutely everybody feels welcome and able to participate, otherwise you risk elevating certain voices above others. This will only lead to groups of people refusing to share ideas or listen to your message.
2. Engaging Delegates All Year
Your conference might be the only time of the year you engage delegates in person, but you should be reinforcing your message before, during, and after the event.
This year, more organisers will choose to share content before events, providing context that helps delegates better understand and enjoy the event. This also enables you to concentrate on influencing attendees without worrying about delivering background information.
Pre-conference Q&As can be easily conducted via Facebook Live and are another great way to ensure your audience has a good understanding of your event, as well as gather their opinions leading up to the event.
Post-event engagement is equally important, providing invaluable feedback on whether your conference was successful.
3. Encouraging Networking
80% of millennials say they attend live events to connect with a wider community, so it’s important you create a platform for delegates to network before, during and after the event. Controlling this platform makes it easier to shape conversations within your community and is an opportunity to subtly reinforce your influence.
Social media, online forums, and even real-world meet-ups are invaluable tools for building and managing your community throughout the year. Creating this space for your community to grow has the potential to also help your organisation grow – the “cult of Apple” demonstrates how powerful this can be.
4. The Rise and Rise of Remote Conferencing
Thanks to widespread accessibility of live video streaming and VR technology, you can engage people around the world without them ever having to leave their home.
This is events technology at its most meaningful because nobody is excluded from participating in your conference as long as they have access to a smartphone – giving you global reach.
The ability to influence delegates across the entire planet is extremely powerful at a time when globalisation is advancing so rapidly. It's likely a large part of why the virtual event market is predicted to grow to $18bn by 2023.
5.Interactive Experiences Boosting Influence
In recent years, experiential elements have been everything for conference audiences and to keep up with delegates' needs you consider how adding interactive touches can make your message far more immersive.
53% of event professionals say attendees want greater interaction with speakers, so these little touches are increasingly about empowering delegates to ask questions, voice opinions, and participate in votes, all in real-time.
This is excellent news for organisers, as audiences are more likely to be influenced when they’re actively engaging with content.
6.Event Apps That Listen
You might think influencing delegates is a one-way street – you talk, they (hopefully) listen. But, one of the most revolutionary things you can do to influence your audience is simply listen.
You can discover insights that'd never cross your mind simply by asking your delegates what they think or committing to better data collection and analytics. These insights will then allow you to make widely-felt changes for your next event.
Many conferences are introducing AI-chatbots to help attendees navigate events without tying up staff, but chatbots also serve another purpose. By simply examining the questions delegates ask, you can learn which elements of your conference are causing confusion.
Obviously, not everything you learn is going to feel important, but the less time delegates spend worrying about little details, the more attention they can pay to your messaging.
Although a lot of time and effort is dedicated to arranging the bells and whistles, your conference is only successful if you actually influence delegates. The key is determining exactly what you want that influence to be and using these trends to make that happen.
This will see events follow the trend away from simple lecture-style speeches, towards delegates feeling more involved. Organisers will therefore need to find ways to empower attendees to access exclusive content and participate in presentations.
Any new functionalities also provide opportunities for you to collect and analyse more delegate data, revealing what they loved and what they can live without.
This will all be a part of a larger trend in the conferencing industry, with organisers understanding their event doesn’t happen in isolation. More effort will be made to engage and influence delegates all year round, and budgets will be created with greater awareness that this year's investments can still offer tremendous value for events in the future – for example, data collected at your last conference is still useful when planning your next.
Click here to check out our conference trends 2018 infographic and make sure you don't miss the previous posts in this series of articles – Making Interactivity Meaningful, Festivalisation, and Empowering Speakers.
By Anthony Kelly
Anthony began his marketing career back in 2008 after studying marketing & business management at the University of Stirling.More articles by Anthony Kelly