Periscope is taking events by storm. With this video tool, an attendee can live-stream her event experience to all her Twitter followers—it’s unedited, as-it-happens footage that’ll reveal if your event is flat or fantastic. Event planners could offer incentives for people to broadcast pieces of the event live, says Norm Aamodt, CEO of Event Strategy Group, and expand the reach of their messaging to external audiences. As with any social media platform, however, the attendees are in control, and “how they decide to use it will play out over time,” he adds.
In: One-to-One Sessions
“The pressure is on event producers to create an authentic, personalized conversation with attendees,” says Aamodt. “We’re trying to take the connection between event host and attendee to a more personal level.” One of his clients will be experimenting with one-to-one sessions at a conference next year. As Aamodt envisions it, an attendee will visit a central resource desk and schedule a 15-minute one-on-one appointment with an expert in the topic, issue, or product the attendee wants to learn about.
In: Downtime Gets Branded
Marketers are turning tradeshow downtime into an opportunity to deliver information. Branded charging stations are nothing new, but look for educational lounges, where the cappuccinos are served alongside tablets loaded with product information presented in an engaging (possibly gamified?) way. We are talking about downtime, though, so this won’t be “in your face” pitching.
Event attendees today expect to be heard, so companies have to be ready to engage in two-way communication. Yes, you have a corporate story to tell, but you need to figure out how you’re going to incorporate feedback, too. At one extreme is an ESG client who has all the event-related tweets scrolling on a screen behind him as he is presenting—without monitoring. It’s a risk, but it sends a message. “We’ve been producing events for a long time,” Aamodt says. “There was one CEO who would relish having an open mic session. People could ask him anything they wanted, and they did. He was so authentic, so real, that it translated throughout the conference. Authenticity completely validates your message.”
In: New Measurements
While social media and the ability of event attendees to communicate in real time to a massive external audience “are forcing radical change to our business,” Aamodt says, they’re also “awesome” because they’ve created new ways of measuring an event’s success—something that has historically been vague at best. Among the measures ESG is exploring with clients: “shared moments.” This includes every touch point, whether via social media or traditional media. A recent ESG client marked millions of shared moments. Whether that means anything depends upon the goals you’ve set, say, reaching a ratio of 500 to 1 (500 shared moments per one attendee).
This type of measure gets organizers in a mindset of thinking “beyond the four days” of the show and to the entire, long-term, external reach of the event.
Out: The Moroccan Bazaar
Many traditional tradeshows are like the physical representation of information overload. Aamodt sees a streamlining of the mega-booth and a trend toward uniformity and simplicity. Engagement and information-sharing are what’s relevant, not the grand space. For example, “rather than traditional booth builds, all exhibiting companies are given a 10-foot booth, and then you bring your own graphic,” he says. “It’s more cost-effective, and it looks better.”
Out: The Keynote
At least, as it’s traditionally been done. Aamodt referenced Guy Kawasaki’s dictum that a keynote should be “30 minutes, 20-point type, 10 slides.” In fact, ESG regularly coaches keynoters to present in segments of 20 minutes or even 10 minutes. Aamodt goes even further, asking, “Why have a general session at all? I have an idea for conference of 3,000 people, where you have one integrated show floor and then multiple stages surrounding it. You announce who is about to speak and on what stage, and people gather around—like a town square.”
Out: Virtual Reality
Check any trend list and you’ll probably find virtual reality very much IN. For events, though, this is one place where Aamodt sticks with tradition. “This is a tough one. I have a problem putting on glasses and watching something that isn’t real,” he says. “I’m a fan of being in the moment and seeing something that is real. The reason we do all of this is that face-to-face works. You have to look eye to eye.” When he was in a previous position, he recalls, he got a visit from someone selling software that could create a virtual tradeshow environment. “I said, ‘That’s great, so why are you sitting here and not doing this virtually?’”
(On the other hand, holograms are in—for clients that can afford them. Keep an eye on the Microsoft HoloLens, set to own this space.)
Out: Breakout Rooms
Why splinter the group and diffuse the energy of everyone you’ve brought together? In his previous position doing events for a major software company, Aamodt created the “unified event floor” for the company’s annual user conference. “It was one big room, 13,000 people, and all the sessions, food, and exhibits together.” Anyone who’s left a show floor to ride a few escalators to the “meeting rooms” can appreciate this strategy. “It’s homey,” he says.