The 4 REAL Event Trends of 2016 You Should be Focusing on

2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year for events. The industry is expected to continue on an upward growth curve, event planners will be asked to do more with less, marketing budgets will be bigger, and technology will have a huge role to play in keeping things fresh. Getting familiar with the trends that are going to shape the event industry throughout the year is important. This allows you to formulate your strategic plans and innovate in the areas that require it.

Knowing and following the latest trends is great, but we feel it’s a good idea to pick the ones that will have more meaningful impact and be a smarter choice to embrace. One example would be the noise around augmented reality and how it’s expected to become a bigger part of events in 2016. While this has great potential, we feel it’s a bit too early and wouldn’t do much to improve the event-going experience, outside of tech shows and product presentations.

Being “trendy” shouldn’t be done for the sake of it. Instead, you should consider your organization’s strategy well and select the trends that would fit the best with your events, audience, etc.

What trends should you be focusing on in 2016? Genioso picks the trends that can have the most impact and make this year truly great for event-goers and profs in the industry alike.


Focusing on experiences

An ongoing trend of recent years is the prioritization of the overall event experience. In 2016 this trend is even more prominent and your events are judged not only on their revenues – engagement levels, overall participation, and memorable experiences matter more than ever.

With events becoming more experience-based the key is to engage attendees through the full life cycle of the event. Remaining relevant means adapting or upgrading your approach, technology, and skill sets in order to entertain a broader spectrum of learning styles and to engage attendees on a deeper level. The modus operandi in 2016 is to have your event architects, planners, and marketers all brainstorm together to see what can be done to improve…

  • content delivery and immersion
  • interactions and networking
  • marketing opportunities for organizers, suppliers, and attendees

The need to be more creative in how you approach events is bigger than ever. BizBash’s 15 Most Innovative Meetings 2015 has some excellent examples of experiential innovations from the past year.

It’s interesting to note the growing importance of the venue as part of the event experience. New and exciting locations are in high demand, with organizers looking for unconventional, intimate, extraordinary, or downright crazy places to hold their next event. What do a ferris wheel, a graveyard, a truck, and an ice bar have in common? These are all places that wouldn’t normally spring to mind when you’re considering event venues, but have been used for that purpose and to great effect.

Another factor with a role to play in the industry in 2016 is how an event can help break down any barriers between its participants. Event architects have to design experiences that challenge the attendee’s way of thinking and actively encourage them to work in teams. While Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram remain omnipresent, it is still fundamentally important that people communicate with each other in person and face to face. That way connections made at the event are more likely to continue and bring new business opportunities, which is the greatest value an event can offer.


Event tech remembers how to KISS

When formulating your strategy for 2016 you need to consider the event tech that best aligns with your objectives and vision as an organization. At Genioso Event Magazine we are huge admirers of the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle and are happy to report that it’s a trend for event tech in 2016. Innovation is great, but without ease-of-use and a focus on convenience, tech soon becomes uninspiring and even confusing.

Unfortunately, a vast array of event technology in recent years had its priorities wrong and focused on radical innovations. This year it’s time to go back to doing what tech does (or, at least, should do) best – making life easier for people.

With technology moving fast, event planners are faced with a difficult dilemma. On one hand they understand the need to stay current and keep up with the latest developments in the event tech field. On the other, they realize that pouring money into solutions that may or may not stick around, is bad for business. With budgets shrinking, many planners choose to balance the books by not investing in event tech. The usual reasons are that they either can’t implement the tech fast and easy, or that the tech itself isn’t simple enough to reach high levels of engagement with attendees, or delegates.

Some areas of event tech are definitely here to stay. The ability to stream events in real time, make virtual meetups, social media sharing are all becoming vital parts of the event experience. The main draws here are easy to see – truly global outreach and higher levels of engagement. It’s a way for event content to go beyond the limits of the venue through technology and live on past the event itself. All tangible benefits that make this an area definitely worth focusing on.

Another area that is showing no signs of slowing down is event apps. It has to be said, though, that many apps of the past two years were somewhat lacking in terms of simplicity. Decision-makers need to have an easier time understanding the functionality an app brings to the table, whether it’s to help with the workload, or to improve the event experience for the end user. Functional, intuitive applications and services will be in high demand in 2016 and can make a real difference to how your organization is perceived.


Mobile is now the norm

When nearly 90% of Internet users access the web from a mobile device, it’s fair to say that mobile is not the future, it is the norm. So much, to the point where we’re not sure this should be included in our trend picks for 2016. But here it is anyway – you need to make sure your registration process is fully responsive across multiple devices and that you are offering the same brand experience on desktops, smartphones, tablets, etc.

Mobile has an even bigger role to play in 2016, one that goes beyond extra engagement, increased levels of participation, and keeping attendees in the know. It offers a very cost-effective way to implement on-site data capturing at the event. Mobile tracking technology can be used to get a more holistic view of attendees. The challenge here is to make sure the event audience gets enough in return for their participation.

On-site data capture is becoming a key ingredient in understanding attendee behaviour, needs and expectations. The challenge here is to implement such tracking technology in a way that is both cost effective and yields valuable information, while giving the event participant enough in return.

The widespread use of mobile devices means analysis of collected data will quickly become a major driving force in marketing and decision-making.


More independence and full data retention

While we’re still fresh on the subject of data, retaining all event and attendee data is a must for any business. All of it, owned by the event organizer alone. Shockingly enough, this hasn’t always been a concern for organizers using third-party solutions to handle event registrations and ticketing. Some of these third-party solutions collect the event data for their own marketing purposes and even share it with affiliates, partners, sponsors and even other third parties.  

So if this never crossed your mind, 2016 is the time to make sure you are the sole owner of all the data. That way you can grow your business in various ways:

  • building owned email lists and databases
  • improved content marketing
  • stronger client relationships

In 2012 one of our favourite comedians – Louis C.K., ditched Ticketmaster and started selling tickets entirely through his own website. This move allowed him to lower the ticket price for his shows, making it more affordable for people to see him perform. As an added bonus he was less dependent on large ticket retailers.

To buy a ticket, you join NOTHING. Just use your credit card and buy the damn thing. Opt in to the email list if you want, and you’ll only get emails from me.” – Louis C.K.

We love this guy! But obviously not everyone’s as popular as LCK. You still need all the help you can get in the form of mobile apps, attendee-engagement solutions, online event registration services, etc. So, while we’re not suggesting organizers should stop using such useful tools, we recommend finding solutions that don’t charge an arm and a leg, and let you operate as independently as possible.

Runner-up trends worth talking about…

Security – as unfortunate as it is, there’s no going around the fact that in 2016 security has to be tighter than ever. Venues and organizers need to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of everyone involved. People shouldn’t worry about their safety as part of the event experience.

Community building – technology and experiences have to work in tandem to bring people together and help conversations between attendees continue long after the event itself. Working in this direction leads to increased engagement and attendance numbers, as well as better ROI for the event participants.

Hybrid meetings – traditional pricing and content delivery have to be reevaluated. Webinars, video conferences, streaming, etc. are a very appealing way of delivering content at a lower price for people who wish to participate, but either can’t stay for the whole duration of the event or can’t physically attend.

Game of Trends

The meeting and event industry is moving pretty fast and, if you’re slow, you risk falling behind. It’s part of what makes being an event professional so much fun actually. You need to embrace reinvention. But equally important is setting your priorities straight and developing your strategy for optimal results, instead of going all out into being the trendiest of them all.

These are the trends we feel most likely to make a real difference in the industry this year. Did we miss something? What are your favourite trends, old and new, the ones you feel most worthy to be embraced today? Leave your comments below and join the conversation!


The images used are derivatives of photos by Tommy Olsson, Loryn, Markus Spiske, Michael Schwarzenberger, and relexahotels, licensed under CC0.