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Wake Up and Smell the Change: 5 Macrotrends Affecting Today’s Attendees

If you want to get ahead of the changing expectations of your meeting and convention participants rather than just play catch-up, a new report from Marriott International and the Professional Convention Management Association is essential reading. “The Future of Meetings & Events” reports on five global macrotrends, how they are affecting the expectations of attendees, and how planners can recalibrate to adapt.

Here are the five trends:

Emotional intelligence: Attendees want to be treated as individuals and to be “understood on a deeper emotional level,” the study says. Meeting and events need to take a more proactive approach to customized experiences, and it’s the predictive analytics now available, that organizers need to mine in order to make personalization a reality. “With new, precise information on every participant, business event strategists will have to leverage data analytics to tailor the content of events such that it’s suitable for each individual, down to the right pace, amount of content, or style of interaction.”

Serendipity: Reacting to technology’s grip on attendee attention, the report says that it takes “unexpected, unplanned moments” to surprise people and create lasting memories that have meaningful impact. To get and keep participants’ attention, event strategists should “embrace and even engineer the unexpected, turning away from agendas to create meaningful moments, content, and interactions that participants will value and remember. Event strategists will need to plan flexibly and curate serendipity.”

Space design: More than ever, planners need to consider the interaction between physical space of an event—the architecture, furniture, fixtures, technological infrastructure—and their content and goals. In the consumer environment, the report says, “long-term, fixed structures are no longer fit for the new ways that consumers live and work.” And similarly, at events, attendees will “increasingly look for spaces that are designed for discrete needs, including wellness rooms, quiet work spaces, intimate settings, and loud, exciting spaces—each presented at the right time and to the right calibration.”

Meaning: In the same way that consumers are looking for brands that reflect their values, politics, or choices, event participants, the report says, “want to understand what’s important to a business, and experience events that deliver that message down to the smallest detail—allowing them to meaningfully connect with the experience and bringing purpose to their engagement.” Organizers should ensure that all aspects of an event align with an event’s message, and that “participants hear the message throughout.”

Sense of place: Generic is out, local and authentic is in, and the report finds that the most memorable events celebrate local surroundings. “With so much available online, consumers are putting additional value on the experiences that cannot be achieved on a computer or at home. Event strategists should think about events that allow for exploring surroundings, decreasing the emphasis on content to allow for adventure and outdoor exploration.”

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