The Evolution of Event Attendees
By: Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, CEM, Chief Marketing Strategist of mdg
As chief marketing strategist at mdg, an agency that focuses on generating attendance for physical and digital events, I need to know how to identify audiences, what kinds of messages will compel them to attend an event and how to deliver those messages to those audiences via the right medium at the right time. Of equal importance, I need to work with organizers to ensure that the content and experiences being offered will meet the wants and desires of the communities the events were created to serve. In the year ahead, I’ll be working with my clients to operationalize the following trends, which IAEE’s Future Trends Task Force has identified as critically important:
(1) LOCALIZATION. This trend is defined as the creation of event experiences that celebrate the city or region in which an event is held. Since there will almost certainly be a lingering concern about travel for a while, attracting audiences who want to combine business with pleasure in a desirable destination can be an effective means of countering this sentiment.
(2) THE INTEGRATION OF PURPOSE. Consumers are actively choosing brands whose corporate missions sync with their own personal values and that contribute to the greater good. Aligning your event or organization with a charitable organization could add authenticity, integrity and credibility to your brand. Beware, however, as disingenuous, inauthentic, and/or half-hearted approaches will be easily identified and can actually do more harm than good.
(3) COMMUNITY BUILDING. This trend is defined as the bringing together of attendees (both off and online) in ways that foster community, such as networking opportunities, group activities, collaboration and a celebration of attendees. Think about new to the industry professionals, LGBTQ groups, mentor programs, student groups, regional groups, executive programs, etc. And think beyond your show dates. Events that succeed in community building create greater brand affinity, retain membership and grow attendance faster than those that don’t.
(4) HEALTH & WELLNESS. You’re likely starting to see a trend among the trends — many aren’t just event trends, they are societal trends. Health and wellness certainly falls into that category. As people are becoming more conscious of everything from diet to exercise to mental health, it’s important that show organizers provide activities and options to support a healthier lifestyle. This can include schedules that leave some breathing room between content and sessions, meditation and yoga offerings, quiet places to take a mental break and recharge, etc. Additionally, offsite organized activities like golf tournaments and fun runs can provide sponsorable networking opportunities and shared experiences that foster engagement between attendees and exhibitors.
(5) CELEBRATING DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION. It’s important that our events provide an environment that is not only inclusive of diverse audiences, but celebrates them. There are many things that producers can do to be inclusive, including ensuring that the venue is completely accessible to people of differing abilities, that there are food choices based on dietary preferences, that activities are age and ability appropriate, that reg forms allow for the capture of diverse demographics and that, in general, the speakers and audience represent a diverse population.
(6) INVESTING IN FUTURE LEADERS. This equates to actively recruiting and engaging those new to the industry, whether students, recent graduates or those starting their second careers. If you look at demographic trends — specifically, the number of baby boomers leaving the workforce every day — it’s very apparent why this is will become increasingly important. In addition to your recruitment efforts, ensure you nurture this audience onsite. Consider pairing them with an event mentor, hosting dedicated networking events for them and offering tracks dedicated to emerging professionals.
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