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A new year is well upon us, hopefully it has been kind to you so far. It’s another huge year of event planning and it’s time to start preparing for what’s coming – it’s time to make yourself ready for the technology, trends, and changes that are bound to happen.

2014 was a pretty big year for the event industry – though admittedly, it was something of a rough one, as well. Faced with the echoes of a global economic recession, many event management professionals were by necessity forced to do more with less (though granted, event planners were hardly alone in this). 

We’re going to look at a few of the more exciting, noteworthy, and promising event industry changes waiting just over the horizon. 

Mobile Will Be Even More Mainstream – And Analytics Will Be Right There With it

There can be no doubt that Smartphones and Tablets have changed every single field they’ve come into contact with. The event industry is certainly no exception. 2014 saw mobile event apps become a part of mainstream event planning. Every attendee had a phone or tablet, and any event planner who didn’t bother using a mobile management platform quickly saw themselves falling behind the competition.

2015 will only see mobile become even more entrenched in the event industry. And yes, you should be excited about this – up to this point, we’ve mostly seen mobile applications offering improvements on existing processes within event management. According to meetings technology professional Corbin Ball, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

“Mobile event apps are not just about improving existing processes,” writes Ball. “They can be about providing entirely new services.”

Ball points to two trends in particular that will allow mobile tech in 2015 – low energy Bluetooth transmitters (iBeacons) and mobile analytics software. The former offers an immense and staggering variety of techniques for enhancing the experience of event attendees, including gamification, personalized welcome and alert messages, social information exchange, better attendee data, automated demonstrations, improved loss prevention…you get the idea. It’s big, though Ball warns that it will only prove effective if it’s used properly.

“Planners and event app developers must take care to use iBeacons very judiciously,” he explains. “IF attendees feel that this technology is an invasion of privacy with no payback for them or a “pop up spam” device, they will simply turn off Bluetooth reception or uninstall the app.”

Even in light of the formidable power provided by iBeacons, Ball points to analytics as one of the most important benefits of mobile event applications – something which he holds will become abundantly clear as we move forward. 

“The onsite meeting used to be the “black hole” of event data management,” says Ball. “Planners used computers before and after events, but during an event they were “flying blind.” Today, mobile event apps offer an unprecedented amount of analytic data – a goldmine of useful, real-time information to improve the event experience! Every touch is trackable!”

Speaking of analytics, let’s move on to our next trend.

The Internet Of Things And Event Management Will Intersect

By now, I’m going to assume you’re at least moderately familiar with the trend that’s come to be known as “The Internet of Things.” For those of you who weren’t aware of it, I’ll provide a brief summary: basically, every single machine, device, and tool we use is growing smarter, as we embed connected computer chips into our tech that allow us better efficiency, visibility, and data collection. One of the most noteworthy ways in which The Internet of Things will impact event management is through wearable tech.

“From smart watches to the miniscule smart ring to Google Glass, wearable technology is set to be big business in 2015,” reads a Carlson Wagonlit Whitepaper, echoing Ball’s predictions. “Near field communications are also coming to the fore, which can tailor messages for delegates by synching with Smartphones and other mobile technology.”

Imagine, if you would, an event in which every attendee at a keynote is automatically marked down. Imagine a show floor where every sale made by a vendor is tracked by an external server, and tabulated into a database for later analysis. In short, imagine an event in which everything can be tracked – and thus analyzed.

Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

We’re on the verge of making such events a reality, which means that big data, IoT, and event management are going to be getting very, very close to each other in 2015.

Cyber Criminals Will Turn An Imposing Eye Towards The Event Industry

Not all coming trends are positive. 2014 saw some of the largest, most high-profile data breaches in history. Although none of those breaches directly targeted event management, it would be foolish to assume that event planners are immune to digital crime. As the event industry becomes more lucrative and events become more connected, management applications and servers will become increasingly attractive targets for cyber theft.

“Hackers will almost inevitably target some events via online registration systems and/or mobile event related apps in the near future,” says Ball, continuing on to explain that it’s up to event planners to limit exposure and mitigate risk by keeping a close watch on their online security.

Social Media Will Be Integrated Even More Deeply Into Event Strategies

It’s fairly obvious by now that social media is important to event planners. It’s potentially one of the most valuable (and least expensive) means of driving awareness about one’s event, to say nothing of how it allows professionals to engage with their guests. 2015 will see more and more firms making social networks a central component of their event management strategy.

From the Carlson Wagonlit Travel White Paper:

“An increasing number of meetings and event planners will look to integrate social media into their event strategy in 201. Leading the way are France and the United Kingdom, where live-tweeting and the use of Facebook to boost communication as part of event strategy is becoming common. In North America, social media will be increasingly deployed as an easy and cost-effective way to enhance, optimize, and drive meeting attendee engagement.”

Of course, this push towards making social media more central to event planning is going to have a few unintended consequences – which Ball briefly touches on in his own piece. As a result, attendees are going to expect that they are given a more direct role in the operation of the events they attend, much as they play a part in shaping the brands they follow on Facebook or Twitter. Fortunately, the tools available to event planners will make it fairly easy to provide this level of engagement.

Event Management’s Going Global

For the past several years, we’ve seen the events industry span out and unfurl its wings across the globe. In 2015, it will continue to do so, with many event planners branching out to serve more international clients (or simply book at more international venues) even as they consolidate their businesses. Naturally, this won’t be without its challenges – many burgeoning event markets are crippled by either economic crises or political instability. Event management firms that flirt with globalization will need to learn how to deal with these issues on their own terms.

Everything’s Going To Get Faster

As the events industry becomes more globalized and technology makes event management more efficient, clients will begin to demand that things move far more quickly than they have in the past. One of the chief areas in which this will be reflected is lead times – moving into 2015, event management firms are going to be faced with significantly smaller windows in which they can book meetings and events.

According to the CWT White Paper, lead times in Germany have decreased by nearly 50% since last year. North American lead times, meanwhile, have dropped by a somewhat smaller margin – 9%. Still, it’s a trend of which every event management professional should be aware, as it means less time for booking, planning, and negotiations.

“Business is consistent, with short-term business becoming the norm,” says Destination Concepts Inc. “DMCs need to be able to respond quickly to requests and have the ability to produce amazing results with tighter turnaround times. Customization is back in a big way; DMCs need to be flexible, creative, and ready for some DIY style design that clients see and love on social media.”

“Clients are asking for customized solutions, but do not provide much lead time to allow for high-quality customized proposals,” adds a representative of Kuoni Destination Management.

The trend towards shorter lead times is, in turn, further driving the adoption of mobile event management platforms, which make planning, collaboration, and communication significantly easier for both planners and clients.

A New Year, A New Beginning

2014 was a pretty big year for the event industry, and 2015 is looking to be even bigger. Laid out here are just a few of the most significant trends we’ve picked up on as we step forward into the New Year. So long as you’re aware of them, you should be able to handle all the challenges they represent – and tap into all the power they offer.