As John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid tell us, “The way forward is paradoxically to look not ahead, but to look around.”
Tradeshows have undergone more changes during the past five years than in the preceding 100. The changes are due mainly to a fast-growing array of new technologies and tools--but also to changes in expectations and how people find information.
Event planners have the daunting task of staying current on new and emerging trends and always shifting strategies to meet customer preferences. Looking into our crystal ball we spoke with industry veterans Lew Hoff and Tim Patterson. Here we’ve compiled some of their predictions for technology, mobile, social media, and new and emerging trends.
What will the future hold for trade shows in terms of social media networks and mobile internet access? What about gamification, the data revolution, software automation, QR codes, and connecting attendees with the right tools to improve their experience?
Here are some highlights of Hoff and Patterson's take on what's next--and what's now.
Changing expectations of event participants
Event experiences for attendees, exhibitors, and speakers will have to become more personalized and customized. Event organizers will seek to delight these important event stakeholders. And so the organizers will harness the marketing power of the good experience. Only a truly good experience will turn event participants into advocates--and repeat customers.
What can gathering event data provide event participants? Collecting data and making sense of it can allow organizers to better predict what attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and speakers want.
What about QR Codes? They are not going away. Lew Hoff sees the popularity of QR codes continuing to grow as a quick way to exchange contact information. He says, “Especially since Apple is silently telling us to stop asking for near-field communication. With AirDrop, Apple has duplicated the most useful feature of near-field communication -- sending files all without bumping.”
Social media becomes more valuable
The power of face-to-face interactions will continue to have great impact beyond the event and within social media channels. According to Tim Patterson, “Social media seems to have been designed with events and tradeshows in mind. It’s a limited, chaotic time and social media is good at spreading information and moving people around. Whether tweet-ups, contests, or just plain old-fashioned publicity, social media helps because it is immediate and you’re able to respond in real-time.”
“Steering people toward specific platforms, such as Twitter, to get people to get involved. Other platforms such as Instagram or YouTube can also bring more engagement by offering content that is (here it comes again) immediate and shared in real-time," said Tim Patterson.
What's next for social media? Patterson says, “Some new company with a new idea always throws a wrench into things. What was the world like before Twitter, Facebook, YouTube? Who are the next companies that will force companies to adjust to a new reality?”
What future developments should we look forward to?
Wearable tech like Google Glass presents many possibilities for improving connections at events. Imagine looking at attendees and learning there names and job titles without looking at their badge. With advances in facial recognition technology that's emerging on Facebook and Google, we can imagine this would be extremely helpful; How about Joe from Sheboygan that you spent a crazy night with at last year's event and now you forgot his
name? Simply access your CRM and the memories will come flooding back, or match him up with a Google or Facebook image search.
“I'd imagine tech like this can help attendees navigate the show floor better," Hoff said.
Tim Patterson is the co-owner at Communication One Exhibits. He is the @tradeshowguy on Twitter; author of ebooks and webinars, public speaker and trainer. Read his blog, listen to his podcast and grab some freebie tradeshow downloads at TradeshowguyBlog.com
Lew Hoff, president at Bartizan, has spent the last 40-plus years focused on bringing buyers and sellers together, face-to-face, at tradeshows. Follow @lewhoff on Twitter.