5 New Year’s resolutions for events and exhibitions in 2019

January, 7 2019

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Things are looking rosy for the events industry. It’s an industry that adds £42.3 billion a year to the UK economy - and this number’s growing steadily.

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges. Brexit is looming, budgets are tightening, GDPR is here, changes to ePrivacy laws are on the horizon. With so many hurdles to contend with that are out of our control, it’s vital that event organisers focus on making their own events the best they possibly can be so they thrive and flourish.

In our thirty years in the industry, we’ve plenty of experience in preventing our clients from making basic mistakes: mistakes that can have a huge impact on an event’s chances of success. So, with the new year now begun, here are our top five resolutions for events and exhibitions in 2019.

1. Stop thinking tech-first

“We want to get people excited. Let’s use AR!” “How can we attract more people to our stand? How about a VR experience?” There’s a great temptation to jump on the latest tech purely because it’s a current hot topic, but is that really enough?

Digital tech is everywhere - to the extent that brands are now embracing the likes of vinyl records and snail mail to stand out from the crowd. We’re suffering from innovation fatigue, with so much going on in the tech space that using tech to wow is becoming more and more of a struggle.

For event organisers, this means that the latest tech on its own isn’t enough: it needs a true purpose. It needs to be tied back to your event goals, to showcase something that turns delegates from passive attendees into active participants (more on this later), to have a function that’s more than just trying to wow people with flashy gadgets. Then - and only then - will it create the impact you really want.

2. Think green first

When designing your event, is a focus on sustainability the norm? For some, sustainability isn’t on the agenda at all, for others sustainability is a ‘nice to have’. But the tide is turning, and environmentalism will be a key focus for the industry going into 2019.

Indeed, the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers has published a new report and roadmap that pave the way for a more sustainable industry, underpinned by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Rapiergroup, as an event agency, has ISO 20121 certification, highlighting our commitment to sustainable events. And if you’re looking to go green in 2019, here are some ideas that may help.

3. Let your hair down

What does your event look like? Does it follow the tried and tested route of a big keynote address, a variety of talks and workshops, and an exhibition floor featuring all of your industry’s big names?

There’s nothing wrong with doing something that works. But in a world where Millennials - who are defined by a need for instant gratification, interactivity and collaboration, among other things - are making up an increasing proportion of the workforce, does your tried and tested route still work as well as it did?

The most memorable events have an element of fun. How big or small this element should be is up to you. You might want to consider including live, immersive storytelling elements or a novel form of entertainment, giving your event something in common with summer festivals. You may want to take learnings from the retail sector, where brands are focusing on hands-on experiences, niche and bespoke offerings, and building on relationships within their industry to create something more exciting than what consumers are used to.

Think creatively in 2019. You may well find it’s the only way to cut through the noise.

4. Get rid of attendees

Obviously you still want people to keep coming to your events - there wouldn’t be much point in organising them otherwise. But is the word ‘attendees’ really right for this day and age?

Take a look at your website, your show guide, your email and social comms. Throughout, replace the word ‘attendees’ or ‘delegates’ with ‘participants’, and see how a reader’s perception of your event changes.

A seemingly small shift in semantics can lead to a huge shift in thinking - and in your brand image. Do you want those who attend your event to be passive attendees - or do you want them to be active?

53% of event professionals claim that those who attend their events want higher levels of interaction with the speakers. 91% of high performing businesses are investing in experiential event marketing - which is active by its nature. The key, though, is to let people know they won’t just be sitting and listening from the very start.

Switching up your vocabulary can make an attendee feel like a participant before they’ve even bought their ticket. But it’s not just about the language: you need to keep them engaged and interested and give them opportunities to play an active part in your event on the day, too.

5. Love your attendees (sorry, participants)

The focus on the people that attend your event shouldn’t stop as soon as they’ve paid for their ticket. While you should set out your goals before the event, these goals are unlikely to be achieved if the participant experience isn’t a positive one.

And there’s plenty that goes into keeping participants happy. Put yourself in their shoes and assess every single touchpoint before, during and after the event to see if it would wow you. How do your marketing messages come across? Are you consistent across apps, chatbots, emails, phone calls, reminders and social media activity? Do you have the right people in place to staff the event? Is your food offering what your audience wants? Is the layout easy to navigate?

Every element, no matter how small, contributes to a participant’s overall experience, and could determine whether or not they’ll be back the following year, and whether they’ll spread the word in a positive way. What this means is that every single touchpoint - no matter how insignificant it may seem - needs the same laser-sharp focus.

It’s never too late to make resolutions for the year ahead. And with the events industry set to face Brexit and other challenges this year, it’s time to focus on getting the fundamentals right, standing you in great stead for a successful 2019 event.

Want to ensure that your next event is a success? As well as making your New Year’s resolutions, don’t forget to download our free ebook.

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