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The next big thing: trends driving the future of events in Australia
In my 18+ years in this industry, I’ve seen many changes occur, particularly in the realm of technology. The increasing prevalence of the Internet and connected devices like smartphones and tablets has fundamentally changed the way we interact at events.
With further shifts coming for the industry, such as the rise of Millennials and VR technology, it’s an exciting time for the sector. We’re passionate about technology and all that it can facilitate, and we think it’s important to think as many moves ahead as possible. Technology advances at an incredible rate, almost as quickly as audience demands change. By taking some time to explore how these elements are changing and interacting, we hope to better serve our clients and evolve the conversation across the industry as a whole.
That’s why Hire Intelligence is producing this report. As a leading technology rental company for corporate and government organisations across Australia, the UK and Ireland, Hire Intelligence is at the forefront of emerging tech trends. Here, we bring you insights taken from our extensive experience, in-depth research and conversations with leading event industry professionals from around the world. I hope you find the following report useful and that the trends discussed help inspire innovation across your future events.
Neil Levin, General Manager, Hire Intelligence Australia & New Zealand
Events in Australia are big business. It ranks 8th amongst the top 50 countries for business events, a group that accounts for USD $1.03 trillion (AUD $1.48 trillion) of event spending every year.
There’s money to be made by savvy Australian businesses that invest in the right event infrastructure and remain on top of key trends. Especially as Australia increases its global presence as an attractive destination for consumer and business events.
The event sector in Australia is experiencing healthy growth as a result. Nearly half of event professionals ( 46% ) plan to increase the number of events that they host in 2019 and 48% plan to hold as many events as last year. This means only 6% will produce fewer events than last year.
The same professionals state that their budgets are staying stable or are on the increase - a positive sign for confidence in the sector overall.
Indeed, the Australian event sector has experienced strong growth ( 4.6% ) over the past five years and is estimated to reach USD $5.7 billion (AUD $8.2 billion) by the end of 2019.
Fuelling this rise is a demand for industry services associated with the event sector. As this report will later show, investing in the right services around key event trends improves the attendee experience, retention and the bottom-line.
As a result, some 8,335 Australian businesses and 33,465 employees are dependent on the event sector.
Major markets for event firms include private businesses hosting promotional events, industry associations, Government departments, academia and households purchasing music, sporting and other entertainment tickets.
Part of this growth has been driven by Australia’s rising reputation as a safe and politically stable destination to hold events. It has a competitive edge over other top-ranking countries, like the U.S. and the UK, given recent political turmoil and the risk of terrorism. As José Miguel Moreno , Vice President, Global B2B Sales Strategy for Melia Hotels explains, “The main factors for destination selection include security – perhaps in terms of terrorism or even labour conflicts – a stable political situation, good weather conditions, easy air connectivity, excellent service, and a great property. All of those considerations are critical for meetings and events.”
Challenges facing the sector
That said, a potential challenge facing Australia is accessibility. Compared to other destinations in Europe and the U.S., air travel to Australia is often lengthy and expensive. Yet, a growing appetite across APAC, particularly in China and Hong Kong, poses a solution. With clever marketing and investment, Australia could become the go-to destination for APAC-fronted events.
A boom in business and consumer spending on events comes with the need for event professionals to discover new ways to make their events stand out. Ticket sales remain a top revenue driver for many organisations, with professionals feeling pressured to maximise sales while proving return-on-investment (ROI).
Keeping on top of trends
Remaining up-to-date with event trends is an effective way for professionals to drive ROI and sales while meeting the changing needs and concerns of attendees. In particular, Hire Intelligence has uncovered three trends that are set to shape the industry now and well into the future. They are:
VR and AR technology becoming a core component of the event experience.
Increased scrutiny on the sustainability and environmental footprint of events.
The growth of Millennial attendees with differing needs and ambitions.
As the market leader in short-term technology rentals in Australia, the UK and Ireland, Hire Intelligence is at the forefront of tech trends and changes. As such, since the company’s launch in 1992, the team always have their eyes open for the ‘next big thing’ in technology. In early 2019, Hire Intelligence realised that this wealth of insight could be useful to its clients and peers, as well as helping the industry evolve and encouraging the conversation around its development. As a result, we elected to create a series of reports, of which this is the first.
This report centres on three key trends that are already impacting the sector and that will fundamentally change the way organisations plan events. Extended reality technologies, sustainability and the rise of Millennial attendees may seem unrelated, but they signal a shift in the status quo. The report has found that almost 90% of event professionals are already embracing virtual and augmented reality and 75% of consumers think about sustainability when making a purchase. Finally, nine in ten Millennials have attended a live event in the past year. These are not isolated trends, they are all impacting the sector in different ways and cannot be overlooked. Soon, the majority of attendees will be Millennials, using some form of virtual reality to engage with organisers and consciously deciding on environmentally friendly purchases.
As you will read in the report, the traditional way of running events will no longer work. Evolution is needed. This report outlines the changing needs of today’s attendees, linking this to the future of events and offers practical advice on next steps to organisers.
Trend 1: Events and VR/AR technology
It’s increasingly common to see VR (virtual reality) headsets strapped onto the heads of attendees in the corridors and stands of seminars and exhibition halls. Experts anticipate that over one billion people will regularly access VR and AR (augmented reality) content by 2020 . As the technology hits the mainstream, its use in events will be expected by attendees and may even become the status quo.
Increased use at events
Indeed, 87% of event organisers planned experiments with AR technology (and 88% with VR) in 2018.
The same respondents foresee VR and AR technology - jointly termed extended reality (XR) - being adopted en masse by the sector in 2019. It’s important to realise that extended reality media products need not be elaborate worlds created for video games. In fact, 20% of Australians already use a type of AR in the form of Snapchat filters. XR assets are increasingly cost-effective to produce and present and are no longer viewed as clunky gimmicks. Rather, event producers recognise that they are an innovative way to increase interaction and engagement with a wide variety of products and services.
Billion dollar opportunity
Some, like Matt Coleman, Head of Innovation at Magnify World, predict a USD $1.11 billion (AUD $1.6 billion) revenue opportunity for businesses that adopt VR and AR technology over the next two years. As a further confidence boost for the technology, Coleman notes the involvement of several tech giants in developing it, "Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook from Apple have both said AR and VR are the top platforms they are investing in – they are targeting this industry to be number one."
Unique benefits for Australia
VR offers a particular benefit for Australian events. Inaccessibility, as previously mentioned, is a factor that may deter some companies from hosting events in Australia. However, using VR as a means for long-distance event attendance could convince them to invest. Live VR-streaming of important workshops, seminars and speeches offers a compromise for attendees who are unable to fly directly to Australia.
Using AR at events
Likewise, AR holds potential applications as a wayfinding tool for attendees. Superimposed elements can direct people to different workshops, facilities and provide event information. City-wide exploration can be encouraged through AR notices and events. The AR app Pokemon GO became a worldwide phenomenon that quickly engaged users to explore, battle and work together. A similar approach could be taken as part of an event, to gather people in one area and encourage collaboration.
Greater learning experiences
The learning element of VR and AR cannot be overlooked. Further detail, graphics and demonstrations can be overlayed through the technology as a speaker gives a presentation, making meetings and keynotes much more engaging and interactive.
This technology has already been used with great results in a number of industries. For example, digital tour company Yaturu has developed a headset that combines AR and VR, which allows visitors to Israel to look over historical sites and see information about their history, as well as narrative stories about what occurred there. This kind of innovation could readily be adapted for events, with guides, relevant digital assets and event/attendee interaction transmitted directly to the user’s headset or phone.
Balancing online and in-person events
Such immersive technology will drive deeper connections with attendees, making events more memorable and desirable. However, event organisers will have to tread a fine line between improving the event experience and cannibalising sales.
For some, experiencing a product demo or concert in VR will be favourable to in-person. They’ll get closer to the action without any of the frustrations of live events. Plus, viewing an event from the comfort of your own home will give attendees greater control over their event experience.
Consequently, solely online and virtual summits are growing in popularity. However, organisations should be wary of dedicating their event resources to only growing an online event series. The demand for live experiences is growing across the generational board but particularly amongst Millennials. Since 1987, the share of consumer spending on live experiences has increased by 70%. People state that they still want to attend events in person, for the experiential element as well as to forge meaningful connections with others.
Getting the best of both
A balanced approach, therefore, would take the best elements of a live experience and augment it with VR and AR. Event planners can offer an exclusive VR experience to attendees who cannot make the journey to a venue in-person, thereby increasing the reach of an event beyond its immediate geography. Coupling this interactive experience with social media will boost engagement and online attendance further, enabling attendees to weave in and out of relevant digital conversations happening around an event.
In action: The International Convention Centre Sydney
The International Convention Centre (ICC Sydney) is using VR technology to help business leaders and event organisers to visualise how their event will look in the venue. Developed initially as an app, the VR experience will help prospective customers view the scale and magnitude of the ICC’s facilities and technology.
The VR experience covers the venue’s 35,000 metre² of exhibition space, flexible meeting spaces, the 2,000-capacity grand ballroom and theatres. An interactive VR tour guides prospects through the venue. Alongside this, a VR showcase video has been developed in partnership with Tourism Australia.
Speaking during the launch of the VR tool, ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy detailed his ambitions for VR, “...the new VR experience helps clients get to know the venue and will help us reach our target of running 1,000 events annually by our third year of operation. We are already rapidly reaching this target, and will hit 1,000 bookings for the venue this month [September 2017].”
Since its opening, ICC Sydney has received several accolades and attracted a lot of media attention for its innovative marketing approach. It’s on track to deliver USD $3.45 billion (AUD $5 billion) to the economy over the next 25 years.
In action: eBay and Myer launch the first VR department store
eBay and Australian retailer Myer used VR to launch the world’s first VR department store as a new and innovative shopping experience for consumers. Through it, eBay sought to reposition itself as a retail innovator, moving beyond its auction house reputation and give Myer a new eCommerce channel for over 12,000 of its products.
Using a VR viewer that eBay dubbed a ‘shoptical’, consumers were introduced to a range of Myer products that could be purchased directly through VR. If a shopper gazed for a long time at a product, it ‘floated’ towards them and a prompt asked if they’d like to purchase.
It was vital that the VR experience signalled an evolution in the way people shop online. As Managing Director of eBay Australia and New Zealand, Jooman Park explained, "It’s been important to us that we don’t just replicate the e-commerce experience in a virtual environment. We are taking the best elements of traditional retail and expanding on them to improve browsing, selection, personalisation and efficiency.”
The VR department store updated stock levels and pricing in real-time, linking to the existing eBay online catalogue via an API. Since launch, over 15,000 shopticals have been given to customers with a special exhibition in Sydney enabling consumers to experience the VR store in-person.
In the months after the launch, the VR store received over 787 million media impressions, worth over USD $31 million (AUD $45 million) in earned media. This was a 3,750% return on investment. The campaign also won a Bronze AEAF award in the Virtual Reality category.
Thoughts from the industry:
“Slowly but surely we are seeing growing interest in Virtual and Augmented Reality, which is being led by conference exhibitors. VR has been used to share an experience from another location (e.g. being inside an oil tanker engine room) or to overcome logistical challenges of demonstrating products or services (e.g. virtual site inspections). We have a presenter in an upcoming conference who will use VR in his poster presentation, so delegates can experience being inside a protein. Holograms are another area that is becoming more cost effective and we expect this to be adopted more and more. But organisers shouldn’t just focus on adopting new tech at the cost of established solutions, namely the event apps. This is still an integral part of driving communication and knowledge-sharing at any event or conference and is by and large a ‘must-have’, not a ‘nice-to-have’.”
Prem Bhawnani, Technology Manager, Arinex
“Certainly styling has become more sophisticated but in terms of technology we are seeing it used in a number of ways to increase the attendees enjoyment and wonder. For example, photo booths have become photo mirrors, lighting has become more sophisticated to the point you can literally paint a surface with a paint that lights up like a fluorescent light, or people are using augmented technologies to give their guests an out of this world experience.”
Dean Salakas, Co-owner, The Party People
VR and AR technology is evidently here to stay. Especially given the significant ROI that can be gained through innovative uses of the tech. Many organisers remain in the experimentation phase of the technology, but this will soon change as more success stories like the eBay case study emerge.
For those looking to use VR and AR, it’s worth looking beyond the immediate innovation to consider how you can build a long-term strategy and consistent approach to VR and AR content. Both case studies show a longer-term approach to VR, with the ICC using the tool for the foreseeable future and eBay proving that a VR retail concept can work. Initial projects can prove use cases and build capabilities, but the outlook should always be on the future.
How can you go further than the current use cases? How can you find the next major use of VR? Taking such an approach will ensure your VR and AR use isn’t a one hit wonder.
Trend 2: Events and Sustainability
High profile celebrity and press endorsement have put sustainability at the forefront of many attendees’ minds. In Australia, the War on Waste TV programme spurred action. In the UK and the U.S., it was the emotive scenes of an albatross feeding plastic to its chicks in Blue Planet II. Now, over 90% of Australians are concerned about the environment and sustainability and 75% of consumers globally consider an organisation’s CSR efforts when making a purchase.
More than price-driven
Today’s event attendees are driven by more than price. They want to align with organisations that match up to their values and expectations. Many would pay more for sustainable products and services - events included. Over 60% of Millennials would happily pay a higher price to guarantee sustainability, with 55% of Generation X (36 to 54-year-olds) and 46% of baby boomers (55 to 64-year-olds) stating the same. The generation after Millennials, Gen Z, mirror the intentions of their Millennial counterparts. Meaning that spend on eco-friendly products and services will likely grow as Millennial and Gen Z income increases.
A perception gap
Yet, only 11% of event professionals believe that sustainability will have a big impact in 2019. This highlights a significant gap between the sector’s perception and attendees’ desires. Bridging this will be crucial to avoid alienating attendees and continuing to engage with a growing lucrative target market.
As emphasised by Skift, a travel news and research company, “Events with environmental certifications may have an advantage, but as expectations rise, this will soon be a minimum requirement.“
Leading event organisers will be the ones who heed this change now and get ahead in terms of sustainable business operations and accreditations.
Deciding on venue and location
Choosing a sustainable venue and location is one such change that organisers can do to reduce the carbon footprint of their event. Some venues are certified with aGreen Star or NABERS rating that proves their energy efficiency and compliance. At the least, organisers should request details on how a venue can improve the sustainability of an event. Ensuring that a venue is accessible by public transport can also reduce its environmental impact, as will a dedicated shuttle or car share service to and from the venue.
Logistics and marketing
To begin with, event producers should consider the amount of waste produced the organisers themselves. There are a number of ways that waste can be reduced before attendees have even started to arrive. These include ePosters instead of printed posters, large displays showing maps and crucial information as opposed to paper handouts, online event/conference registration with onsite badging on sustainable paper (no PVC badge holders) or identification on event apps are all ways to reduce waste. Careful consideration needs to go into things like the amount of energy used in order to facilitate these initiatives, because even if event producers aren’t considering them, you can be sure that many attendees are.
Waste disposal and catering
Other areas for consideration include the waste disposal and catering at an event. Recycling bins are a minimum, however, several event planners have gone a step further in providing composting bins.
While these initiatives are rapidly becoming an industry standard, there’s more that can be done. For catering, using local ingredients where possible will reduce the carbon footprint of meals and snacks. Water stations and refillable bottles will reduce plastic waste. Arranging for leftover food to be collected by local food banks will also boost sustainability.
In action: The Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games
The XX Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow was the first of the Games to secure the ISO 20121 sustainability standard. This was brought in alongside the London 2012 Olympics to measure the sustainability of large events. It’s a voluntary standard that ensures an event isn’t just sustainable and environmentally friendly, but that it also leaves behind a positive legacy.
The XX Commonwealth Games is the largest multi-sport event ever held in Scotland. Involving 7,000 athletes from 71 different nations. After the event, the Commonwealth Games Federation Chief Executive described it as "the standout Games in the history of the movement".
As part of its dedication to ISO 20121, the Game organisers considered the sustainability of their venues, transport, waste and food strategy. They also sought to improve the health literacy of the local community by promoting healthy living and teaching fitness and nutrition skills. Underpinning ISO 20121 is the aim that organisations improve their sustainability throughout the entire event management cycle. Considering the economic, environmental and social impact in every decision made.
This translated as ensuring that all competition venues were car free and that the Games headquarters was on a Green Tariff energy supply. Where possible, local companies were used for resourcing, including a local clean energy supplier.
The Chairman of the Glasgow XX Games explained why the organisers chose to go the extra mile, stating that, “Sustainability is at the core of all our decisions and not an added extra or bolted on strategy; it is about making positive and lasting changes in the way we use natural and human resources to improve quality of life for all; now and in the future.”
The Games contributed USD $938 million (AUD $1.36 billion) to Scotland’s economy. With 2,100 jobs supported by the event, many of which were in the local community.
In action: Climate Reality Leadership Corps
The Climate Reality Leadership Corps is a training programme to develop future climate change leaders. Three-day training events aim to educate potential leaders on the reality of climate change and how they can contribute to climate change efforts. The programme boasts former Vice President Al Gore amongst its alumni.
The three-day training events, that take place globally, are designed to have a positive social and environmental impact on their local communities. Processes are set-up to make each event as sustainable as possible. The organisation focuses on four key areas: cutting energy consumption, sustainable catering, waste reduction and attendee engagement activities. It follows the ISO 20121 and APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards. Carbon offset projects cover any remaining emissions impacts, including the environmental cost of attendees travelling to the events.
For one recent event in Denver , the organisation carefully chose the Colorado Convention Center, a sustainable venue that has earned the LEED Gold Certification - Existing Building Operations and Maintenance. This means that it shows a strong commitment to environmental leadership throughout its operations. The venue has also achieved certification with ASTM Standard E2774-11, which reflects its commitment to waste management, energy, air quality, water, procurement, and community partners.
To reduce energy consumption, all devices are on a power-down policy. This means they are only switched on for rehearsals and presentations. Food is served on reusable tableware, is sourced locally and is extensively vegan and vegetarian. Recycling and composting bins are found throughout the venue.
Thoughts from the industry:
“There has been an increasing interest and engagement with sustainability at the events we work with. One of the most prevalent ways this manifests itself is in a call for local products and craft products – attendees are keen to explore local brands at events and support local businesses. This is part of a wider trend where Millenials want to play a role in discovering and supporting new homegrown products, but also in protecting the environment. Using local businesses/products results in fewer emissions thanks to shorter delivery distances and craft products tend to have more visible, greener credentials than large corporate entities. There are also some great examples of how companies are trying to reduce waste by using technology (event apps and paperless comms) alongside some really innovative ideas, for example, drinks companies and suppliers are now using edible straws."
James Johnson, Former Senior Brand Manager, SouthTrade International.
“Event organisers are acutely tuned to the environmental footprint events can leave and so throughout the supply chain in Australia, there is great work being done to improve this. Encouraging delegates to offset their travel, enquiring as to suppliers’ sustainability policies during procurement and reducing waste onsite are some of the initiatives Arinex has in place. Exhibitions can tend to leave a lot of waste behind and so we work with stand builders to encourage exhibitors to use reusable and sustainable options when it comes to signage, furniture and build. Among clients, we have seen a huge reduction in printed programs as more opt for an event app; this not only replaces the program book but offers higher levels of engagement and interactivity and increases ROI for sponsors by providing more exposure. Another overwhelming benefit to an event app – and something Arinex is deeply focused on – is the data it produces, which can be harvested to help establish trends and opportunities, thus informing future planning. Venues are also doing a lot of work regarding food waste, ensuring it is locally-sourced (eg Adelaide Convention Centre) and that food waste is eliminated through charities such as OzHarvest (eg ICC Sydney).”
Brittany Hull, Senior Sponsorship and Exhibitions Operations Coordinator, Arinex
Climate change, pollution and plastic waste are increasingly in the forefront of attendees’ minds. Soon, sustainable events will be the standard, as opposed to something that sets them apart. By planning a long-term sustainability strategy now, organisers can ensure that they don’t stand out for the wrong reasons.
The attitude around sustainability is changing from a ‘nice to have’ to an imperative. Organisations that don’t measure up will quickly attract the ire of the public. Attendees may boycott events that they feel aren’t sustainable enough. Organisers must find ways to prove their commitment to the environment and the local community. Placing recycling bins throughout a venue won’t be enough - but it’s a start. Better still, invest in becoming validated by standards such as ISO 20121. External validation of your sustainability efforts will prove a competitive differentiator now - and a strong foundation in the future.
Trend 3: The Millennial Approach to Events
Millennials have attracted attention (and ire) for their different drivers and behaviour compared to previous generations. In particular, Millennials are extremely value-driven , seeking out organisations which share their personal values. As Millennial 20/20 Event Head, Lauren Greschner explains, "Millennials are driven by authenticity, connection, creativity, trust, convenience and digitalisation – this will forever change how businesses attract and engage with their consumers.”
A lucrative opportunity
Organisations would do well to heed the differing nature of Millennials. They represent an estimated USD $1.3 trillion (AUD $1.87 trillion) in annual consumer spending.
This number will rise as Millennials climb the career ladder and their disposable income grows. This offers a lucrative opportunity for event planners, as Millennials prioritise spending on experiences and events over material objects. Nine in ten Millennials have attended at least one live event in the past 12 months. 74% actively seek out events as a way to gain perspective beyond their digital world. If organisers can connect with Millennials and their needs, they will reap the benefits over many decades.
Competing for attention
Competition for Millennial attention is high, however, 27% of event professionals report that it’s a concern for them in 2019.
One way for organisations to stand out is through social media. Almost half (48%) of Millennials state that they attend events to have something to share on social media. Tapping into their instinct to share their experiences online is a powerful way of driving engagement and invoking a fear of missing out (FOMO) among the Millennial market. Especially since 69% of Millennials admit to feeling FOMO over events shared on social media.
The rise of Instagram
Of all the social channels, Instagram is a frontrunner for events. Two in three Millennials regularly use the platform. With 68% of them using Instagram Stories (compared to 49% on Snapchat and 44% on Facebook) and 70% live-streaming.
There has been a rise in ‘Instagrammable’ events due to the social platform’s popularity. Museums regularly hold pop-up events and exhibitions that are Instagram friendly and flower walls and photo booths have become regular fixtures at exhibitions.
Providing Instagrammable opportunities
Which give ample ideas for event organisers looking to take advantage of Instagram. Providing on-site photo opportunities that clearly link back to an event hashtag or location tag will increase awareness. Displaying hashtags prominently throughout a venue is vital to monitoring social posts and re-using them where possible.
Live-streaming of seminars and speeches can also be effective. User-generated content created by attendees can be repurposed for marketing future events. 85% of consumers find visual UGC more influential than brand-created photos and videos.
Personalising the event experience to each attendee is essential to meeting the Millennial’s desire for individuality. Festivalised events provide opportunities for attendees to customise their event experience. A range of options is advised to cater to many interests. Fitness, comedy, food tasting and film screenings are some extra activities that can be planned to diversify the experience.
To encourage attendees to share their experiences online, organisers must make it easy to find content, upload it and link it to the event. Smart photo booths or mirrors post content directly from the booth itself. Charging stations will keep devices available to capture content throughout the event.
Collaboration is the new norm
Collaboration is a common theme for organisations that engage with Millennials. Each individual wants the autonomy and freedom to shape their event experience and share it online. That may be through creating unique GIFs and videos in a photo booth, ordering ‘Instagrammable’ dishes at a venue or indeed, taking photos of the venue itself.
41% of event planners are Millennials themselves, with 64% influenced by peer recommendations. So, this collaborative mindset already exists within the event sector. In the future, the perspective will shift from planning an event in its entirety to developing a process that’ll be worked on by both organisers and attendees.
In action: Refinery 29 and Perrier’s 29 Rooms
Publisher Refinery 29 wanted to find a way to engage its Millennial readership with brands in the real world. It designed 29 Rooms as a unique and immersive experience for the Instagram-savvy generation. 29 Rooms was hosted in a 70,000 square foot Brooklyn warehouse and coincided with New York Fashion Week. Brands such as Google and Michael Kors were invited to sponsor and create their own immersive rooms as part of the pop-up event.
One brand involved in the activation was Perrier water. Its sponsored room was anchored in Perrier’s marketing pillars of art, culture and reflecting all things extraordinary. It suspended hundreds of balloons in its room, to take attendees ‘Beyond the Bubbles’. Lighting and sound further engaged people with the experience.
Over 10,000 attendees interacted with 29 Rooms over four days. For Perrier, the campaign generated over a billion press impressions and 250 million social media impressions. There were over 730,000 uses of the 29 Rooms hashtag on Instagram and Twitter - with the event reaching half of Instagram’s total global user base.
In action: SAP Sapphire Now Conference
Launching in 2016, SAP’s influencer marketing programme aims to drive engagement for its key events, most notably, its flagship annual conference Sapphire Now . The event attracts over 20,000 CIOs and IT professionals on average.
When embarking on an influencer marketing campaign, the business solutions company wanted to find a new channel for the company, whilst also interacting with an emerging Millennial wave of IT professionals.
To begin with, 11 influencers were invited to Sapphire Now, to interview attendees and live stream the event on their various social media channels. Influencers were given access to SAP-branded image templates and graphics, enabling them to quickly upload content to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Dedicated SAP video and audio equipment were offered to help the influencers livestream the event on Facebook and Instagram.
The initial pilot was a success, with the influencers generating 17% of the total online conversations around the event. At further events, the use of influencers enabled SAP to ‘go viral’ with its IoT Launch event trending on Twitter. A year later, at Sapphire Now 2017, the influencers drove 25% of all social media impressions for the event.
Ongoing engagement with influencers has also driven lead generation. A recent ebook launched by SAP, that featured interviews with 32 thought leaders, was shared by its influencer network, ultimately earning 18 million impressions.
Thoughts from the industry:
“It is possible to turn just about any venue into an ‘Instagrammable’ product with creative styling such as great lighting, décor, projection mapping (which can be branded to the event) or visual-led food and drinks. If your objective is to have your guests share on social media, remember to give them clear instructions on which hashtags to use so that you can measure it. Millennials also love greenery at events – plants, flowers or shrubs – and these have proven benefits to concentration and mental health which is even better. Natural theming such as this brings the outside in and helps attendees feel closer to nature, which is particularly valuable if the event is taking place in a metropolitan venue.”
Nikkita Mitchell, Senior Conference Operations Manager, Arinex
“Personalisation, customisation and interaction are increasingly becoming a driving force behind the technology requests we receive. We rent out large numbers of smartphones and tablets to event producers, often with pre-installed event-management software. This allows organisers and their people on the ground to collect attendee data and target communications that directly relate to the attendee’s reason for coming to the event. They can also interact with them on social media and call attention to specific presentations/talks/workshops, as well as publish key takeaways and talking points to a wider audience outside the event.”
Warrick Clark, Head of Sales, Hire Intelligence Australia
Millennial attendee numbers are rising, as is their disposable income. Millennials already prioritise events over material possessions, making them a prime target for future-thinking event organisers. Yet, they come with very different needs and ambitions compared to generations before. Therefore, organisers must carefully study this unique generation and design events with Millennials in mind.
Conversely, this approach will help an organisation evolve its events ready for the future. As many of the drivers behind Millennial decision-making and behaviour link back to the first two trends described (VR and sustainability). The generation after Millennials, Gen Z, also mirror some of their differing ambitions and concerns. Organisers that adapt their events to meet Millennials may be killing two birds with one stone as far as the next generation are concerned.
This report gives a snapshot of three major trends on the sector. Beyond this, there are many more on the horizon. Time will tell which ones will stick and what will fall by the wayside.
The three trends were chosen specifically with this in mind. They have already gained enough traction to signal that they are here to stay. Organisations which fail to heed these early signals will soon find their events outdated and unengaging. Worse still, trends such as sustainability come with potential legislative action. If climate change continues as a prime concern for consumers, politicians may soon act to police the environmental impact of organisations and their events. It pays to be prepared sooner rather than later.
In all three cases, organisations that lay the groundwork now, will find themselves in a strong position over the next decade or so. By attracting swathes of Millennials who’ll be entering their prime earning years, developing environmentally friendly and sustainable events that correspond to new policy initiatives, and using technology like VR to drive high engagement and interactivity, events companies can get ahead of the curve.
As with all trends, however, these three will soon become normal for the industry. Organisations must always be prepared to identify and take advantage of the next development for the sector. If all event organisers embraced and prepared for change, the entire sector will leap forward. Indeed, those that don’t may find the industry leaps ahead without them. Leaving them in the 21st century, with everyone else already living in the 22nd.