Attendees’ desire for immersive experiences is predicted to rise

Attendees’ desire for immersive experiences—a growing trend in the meetings industry—is expected to reach new levels in 2019, according to a new study.

Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s (CWT) 2019 Meetings & Events Future Trends Report notes the rise of “festivalization”—designing an immersive business event that includes the best parts of a consumer festival—to better address attendees’ needs.

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“Festivalization is a real trend,” said Vincent Schlegel, marketing and strategy director in France for CWT Meetings and Events. “It is the idea of gathering internal or external shareholders around a central theme with the possibility of offering an immersive journey rich in experience, emotion and sharing. Everyone does not live the same experience, and that’s what’s interesting.”

This shift requires meeting planners to focus more on co-curation of sessions, social media activity and novel venue design, workshops and visuals. It also means planners will have to engage attendees more in the planning, designing and implementation of every facet of meetings. The report forecasts that 2019 will see more events that engage attendees in the process of content creation through questionnaires, identification of topics and speaker selection.

MoreHow to Keep Attendees Engaged

“Pre-event, it’s important to plan what the business wants to achieve, but also to understand how attendees are thinking and feeling,” said Paul Stoddart, managing director for CWT Meetings & Events in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg). “Speak to the audience before the event to find out their views and objectives so you can deliver an event that is [effective].”

4 Tips for Boosting the Attendee Experience

Get the content right: Plan ahead, with attendee input.
Tech can be a trap: Use it selectively. It should be purposeful and drive the objective of the meeting.
Coaching can help: Make sure the speakers and presenters are engaging.
Look out for your attendees’ well-being: Be sensitive to their individual needs.

Shaping Events in Real Time

Active involvement of attendees in the planning process should continue throughout the meeting. Providing opportunities for them to shape the content can be accomplished, in part, through the focused use of technology. Q&A sessions, polls and networking with other attendees are other quick and easy means to help determine the content of meetings on the fly.

Large, global events that last several days often require sophisticated apps, but smaller events can utilize the benefits of microsites, which mimic an app and can be use on smartphones and tablets. Many attendees now want a meeting experience that more closely reflects their ordinary lifestyle in terms of messaging and chat, and new tools such as WhatsApp Business simplify this process.

“Top-down approaches no longer work on millennials, who now represent an important or even preponderant part of our audiences,” Schlegel said. “It’s getting harder to keep them focused. Unless you ban smartphones and tablets, which would be perfectly counterproductive, it is necessary to adapt content and formats.”

How to Make Meetings Fun and Memorable in 2019

Look for unique venues: Find novel, stimulating places where attendees can engage.
F&B can make or break an event: Make it hyper-local by connecting it to the destination or venue.
Shake up seating: Alternative designs can increase attendee engagement.
Personalization: Leverage it as a registration tool.

Providing Immersive Experiences

For many, the notion of immersive experiences conjures up images of off-site, downtime activities in which attendees deeply explore local cultural offerings, often through hands-on activities. Attendees are increasingly seeking these experiences, but they also want to be more immersed during meeting sessions.

Engagement can be increased through simple changes, such as moving the stage to the center of the room to create a sense of shared experience, rather than passive observance—and by booking speakers who establish a multilevel, immediate connection.

The report notes that speaker engagement can be scientifically analyzed using facial coding and neuroscientific tools such as Datakalab to measure attendees’ attention and emotional commitment.

Immersion also needs to be enhanced during incentive trips, the report states. Whereas a trip to a stellar resort in an exotic destination was formerly enough, some planners are now finding that a complete buyout is necessary for attendees to have the experience they desire.

Post-Event Feedback

To obtain optimal feedback after a meeting, it’s important to establish clear objectives before it begins. Feedback can be generated in many ways, including surveys and questionnaires, as well as by studying how people have engaged by sharing or liking posts on Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms.

“Start-ups are creating technology to measure social media responses that can be adjusted to a client’s request,” said Saskia Gentil, vice president of Strategic Solutions for CWT Meetings & Events. “This can help demonstrate to clients how meetings and events are adding value.”