Upcoming trends to look out for in 2015
This article first appeared in Business Events Africa, Vol 35, No 1.
By Keith Burton, managing director of African Agenda.
Much is said and written about all the current technology trends out there – from mobile conference apps to hybrid events and geo-fencing – and how they are impacting on traditional conferences, but it is not all about technology. Changes in human behaviour also affect how people interact with conferences and make decisions as to whether to attend or not. Let’s focus on two areas addressed by Corbin Ball, of Corbin Ball Associates in his trends analysis for 2015:
Short attention spans and information overload mean new event architecture is required
We know more and are getting told more all the time. With so much information available at our fingertips, and via the incredibly powerful computers that are our smartphones, we are able to take in more information than we can healthily process. This easy access to all sorts of information may be increasing productivity but it tests our multi-tasking skills. The result is ever-decreasing attention spans.
How does this affect conferences? Corbin Ball identifies five results of our shorter attention spans:
- Shorter presentations, TED-style.
- Interactive sessions.
- Audience engagement tools and technology.
- Pictures (worth a thousand words) convey an idea and get attention.
- Short video (worth a thousand pictures) is the most efficient way to get an idea across.
A shift from the “delegate or attendee” to “participant” has happened
An expert at the podium and “top down” formats that prioritise old-fashioned learning styles are out. “Bottom-up” is in with participants requiring and demanding a far bigger say in content as well as delivery style and where active engagement is non-negotiable. The whole meeting dynamic is changing and through the collaboration of the various mobile technologies and social media, attendee engagement options are now extensive. Corbin Ball identifies numerous ways in which this is playing out:
- Participants are engaged before, during and after conferences via social media and apps.
- Live “social walls” are used to integrate all of the conference social media outlets.
- Gamification is used to increase participant engagement.
- Matchmaking and networking options are being built into many mobile event apps.
- Room set up is part of the recipe as well and passive cinema-style seating does not contribute to interaction.
- Participants expect personalised communication.
- Speakers are using participant engagement tools and apps.
Conference apps include polling and other engagements tools.
Lastly, and this is not new, networking is the most important (perhaps intangible) element to the conference experience. Networking value is the differentiator for many conference goers. Never to be replaced by technology, a conference that places special emphasis on delivering connection opportunities will do well. So plan for connection and create ways to bring like-minded people into close proximity at the conference.
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