Posted on Tue 22nd Jan 2019 at 2:48pm
Jo Mayer, Head of Marketing at Showlite unveils 5 top event trends for 2019
This is getting more and more difficult. Technology is moving so fast now, that even the wildest predictions may seem a bit old hat by the time January comes around again. But in the spirit of the new year, I've tried to pick 5 trends that I believe will be shaping the world of events over the next 12 months.
Body & Soul events
Consumers, whilst still buying physical product, have widened their scope and have been buying experiences and memories in steadily increasing numbers. The desire for a "better life" over "more stuff" is exemplified by the ubiquitous bucket list that has become a familiar cultural feature. Following this trend, I believe we are going to see more participatory events dedicated to improving the body and soul launched in 2019. From fitness and training challenges to faith-based festivals and mindfulness workshops, audiences want to live better and longer. With a 300% increase in vegans over the last 10 years, veganism is clearly going mainstream, so events are going to have to adapt their catering to include more plentiful vegan and vegetarian items, as well a stronger focus on healthy eating and food miles all round.
With China's policy shift towards recycling waste plastic, including putting a 25% tariff on imported plastic, waste plastic has been piling up in Europe and North America. As a result the pressure to reduce single use plastics is rapidly increasing. Expect to see the announcement of new online marketplaces for buying and selling recovered materials and event companies partnering with sustainability solution providers to close the recycling loop on specific waste items, e.g. carpets, beverage cups, food waste, paper waste etc.
Chatbots don't just spit out typed messages anymore, they've learned to speak thanks to advanced text-to-speech and speech-to-text technology offered by providers like Google and Amazon. Speaking chatbots will be great for information points, directing event-goers to the nearest restroom, cafe or specific stands. Expect chatbots to engage you in a survey as you leave an event or experience. Whether you have adopted Alexa into your life or not, voice control and interaction is rapidly becoming the norm in the home and on the telephone. Software solutions are removing the technical barriers to creating your own bespoke chatbots, making it as easy as designing a simple flowchart and filling in the blanks.
Freelancing and e-Lancing
From Uber to Deliveroo, the gig economy is already well-established, even if the employment law wrinkles haven't all been fully ironed out yet. You can already book and pay for event staff on-demand, in the same way as you might book a taxi or a takeaway. Barriers to entering this market are low thanks to white-label software solutions, so expect to see proliferation of specialised labour and service suppliers. The challenge for these suppliers will be establishing trust amongst event professionals, as well as complying with new employment law or legal precedents relating to sick pay, pension rights etc.
Yet more technology
It's a safe bet to say that technology will change the face of events in 2019, because that has been true every year since the invention of the lightbulb. Picking which technology will change the face of events is a different matter.
But looking at the cutting edge of technology at the moment, it's clear to see that facial recognition and analysis systems are becoming much faster, more reliable and less intrusive. There are many proprietary systems on the market already, and "face unlock" will be familiar to android and iOS users already.
Facial recognition and analysis offers some potentially great benefits to events, like checking delegates in automatically, and raising alerts upon unauthorised access to the venue or restricted areas. Although these systems are in their infancy at the moment, the trajectory of development looks as if it is leading towards completely novel applications too, including live sentiment analysis: the real-time monitoring of a whole audience's individual emotional responses to the content in front of them. For event professionals, this has far-reaching possibilities for tuning and optimising content on the fly, instead of improving on it after the event by reading feedback forms etc.
This technology has the scope to completely change the face of events for the better, no doubt, but computer facial recognition and analysis is likely to make audiences feel uncomfortable to begin with. There are also unresolved privacy and consent issues, and a question mark over whether 'facial data' qualifies as identifying data under the GDPR regime now in force.
So there you have it. The gig economy is blossoming, chatbots are picking up one end of the conversation, people want to be healthier, happier and wiser, and every face will tell a story.