Author: Matthias Schultze, Managing Director GCB German Convention Bureau e.V.
The conference and congress sector is a "people's business". Personalisation, individualisation and face-to-face contact are on the rise, creating challenges for event planners and venue operators. Take a look at four areas of activity that you should focus on when next planning and implementing an event.
No matter if car accessories or muesli mixes, the rapid advancements in information and communication techologies now allow for customised products that very effectiviely cater for individual customer requirements in almost all areas of life (mass customisation). This global trend is not only pushed forward by technological innovation but also spawns ever more individual lifestyles, not last because of the rise of social media, which has direct effects on planning and organising events.
Power to the audience
Individualisation, mechanisation and social media have already considerably changed meetings, conferences and congresses, and this is only the beginning of an ongoing development because face-to-face contact and emotional experiences increasingly intersect with digital media. Dr. David Bosshart, CEO of the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, describes the consequences of this trend: "The informal part of events becomes more important than the formal one. Power shifts from organisers and speakers to the audience." Segments within the event industry become smaller as well as more specialised and individualised. In a world where there are no "standard biographies" anymore, "standard events" are a thing of the past, too.
4 core areas of activity
The conference and congress industry is very competitive. It is therefore important to be well prepared for the global trend of individualisation. Four core developments will define the future of the event industry, namely Generation Y, silverpreneurs, the sharing economy and customisation.
1. Generation Y: enabling transparency and active participation
Generation Y is defined by a desire for transparency, the need for actively taking part in things and shaping them and for being provided with explanations. These so-called millenials have been born between 1980 and 1995 and are thought to be particularly creative, emphatic and tech-savvy. They expect events to focus on collaborative working, knowledge exchange and networking. Their requirements on catering are a good example for individual demands because regional, seasonal and vegetarian dishes are as important as paying attention to food allergies or religious and cultural dietary rules. It is also important to provide opportunities for self-fulfillment beyond the event programme, e.g., "How to get organised" seminars, creative workshops, for example on how to cook exotic dishes, or outings in the surrounding area for further insights into the culture and landscape of the event location.
2. Silverpreneurs: paying attention to demographic change
Nowadays, people are not only physically fit and active well into their old age but also want to exchange their know-how with younger generations ("silverpreneurs"). The event sector therefore needs to provide suitable platforms for these encounters between young and old, i.e. accessible spaces where different generations feel equally at home. Technology as well needs to adapt to the requirements of older people with applications that are intuitive to use. Last but not least, the event sector itself should reflect this demographic change within its organisations and companies by composing teams accordingly and paying attention to how to promote which employees ("diversity management").
3. Customisation: providing participants with more options for shaping events
Customisation, i.e. providing customers with flexible products that are highly adapted to individual requirements, is a trend that has a strong impact on how events are planned and implemented. This applies in particular to travel planning and scheduling because participants not only expect customised content and processes and to be individually catered for but also want to have a say in the organisation of the event, for example when it comes to choosing speakers and topics.
4. Sharing economy: sharing knowledge
We can hire cars by the hour, book private apartments instead of hotel rooms and spend our professional life in co-working spaces instead of conventional company offices. If it's yours or mine, doesn't matter - so the sharing economy's guiding principle. Knowledge, things, resources and experiences are increasingly being shared, be it cars and sharing on internet platforms, events designed to facilitate knowledge exchange or when searching event locations. Similar to choosing your holiday accommodation on Airbnb, event planners can now select from a variety of venues online, including cool factory lofts, creative meeting spaces with an industrial touch or fancy penthouses. As a consequence of this sharing economy trend, the shared use of resources as well as networking increasingly take centre stage at events.