As we begin 2010 (and a new decade), it seems like a good time to look to the future and ask, what’s next? In December we invited event professionals to send their predictions for the new year in Twitter-friendly 140-character bites. While voicing some diverse views of where the industry is headed, the responses we received from more than 70 planners and vendors coalesced into a portrait of the topics we’re likely to be thinking about in the coming months. You’ll find 57 of their comments here, and my own speculation below:
Budgets will come back—but not so fast. Marketers who get it will continue to spend money on events because they know how powerful such gatherings can be. And companies that have kept their remaining employees holed up in the office doing the work of two people will eventually need to train them at a meeting and/or motivate them with an incentive trip. But most people expect this to be a slow, steady increase.
Social media will get smarter. Those of us who have been monkeying around with Facebook, Twitter, and the like will explore more effective ways to promote events, connect people during events, and get instantaneous feedback. Publishing a hashtag to all guests will become commonplace for hosts who want to promote their gatherings; hosts looking to clamp down on leaks about internal meetings will get serious, too. And the folks who keep meaning to ask their interns to explain what a tweet is will finally get on board. The mandate will change from “We need to be on there” to “We need to figure out what people want from us here.”
Whether any of us will be on Twitter in five years is an open question, but we’ll be able to publish thoughts and opinions instantly somehow. And that will continue to affect events.
Marketers will adjust their target audiences. We’ve already seen events geared toward bloggers. Now guests with thousands of Twitter followers and Facebook friends will become a new sort of V.I.P. Looking beyond the media and traditional “influentials” who attend every party in town, brands will hit the road to interact directly with consumers.
Going green is evergreen. If 2007 was the year everyone finally started talking about eco-friendly events, in 2009 coming in under budget was the indisputable, well, bottom line. Now a focus on green methods that save money—reusing materials, scrapping unnecessary and wasteful flourishes—will become standard.
We’ll all focus on value. Why will a C.E.O. approve an event budget? Why will a planner hire a particular caterer? Why will a company pay to send employees to a conference? Because someone has made a compelling case for why each action is worthwhile.
Lead times aren’t the only things shrinking. As attention spans dwindle, so will the amount of time allotted to speeches, general sessions, venue walkthroughs, load-ins. Mostly this is challenging for folks behind the scenes, but it’s also better for guests. Each time I gave a presentation at a BizBash trade show in 2009, I crammed a speech that could easily last an hour into 25 minutes. It was always better for the consolidation.
I wish you luck in navigating these changes. I hope we can help, in our magazine, on BizBash.com, and at our own events.