Top 11 predictions for 2014

Twelve months of working on Xavy and speaking to conference
companies every day have afforded me with a great overview of some of the key
challenges being faced by the industry, from the biggest to the smallest
players.

Here are a few predictions for what will be on the minds of
conference companies in 2014:

1. Delegate sales will continue to be squeezed
despite the demand for face-to-face events increasing

Budgets and time constraints will continue to exert pressure
on the paying delegate, yet the effectiveness of doing business face-to-face
will see demand for the channel continue to grow.  

However the demand comes disproportionately from suppliers,
which means sponsorship and exhibition (spex) money will continue to underwrite
a lot of events.

So while demand for face-to-face will not diminish, the
ability to charge delegates from the buy-side will continue to be put under
immense pressure, unless they can be offered exceptional value – which leads to
point 2.

2.  Mediocre events will suffer most

To succeed at charging both sides of a market, events will
need to display four main qualities:

  • Uniqueness
    – events will need to offer content and networking that genuinely cannot
    be found anywhere else.
  • Experience
    – event organisers will need to invest more, not less, in the onsite
    experience to create a memorable brand.
  • Flexibility
    – organisers need to embrace digital distribution channels and flexible
    event formats, as delegates demand to engage with brands on their terms,
    at times that suit them.
  • Stickiness
    – The three above elements combined should create ‘stickiness’ which means
    returning delegates and a loyal base of core customers, who become the
    bedrock of a successful community and an engine for growth.

3.  A shift from small conferences to LSEs or ‘winner
takes all’

Smaller ‘me-too’ events will continue to disappear, as
bigger events build up further momentum and the pull of their gravity sucks up
remaining sponsorship and delegate revenues.

In niche markets this may not equate to a Large Scale Event
of tens-of-thousands, but it will leave room for only one winner.

4.  Publishers will continue to encroach on
conference territory

Traditional conference companies will continue to find their
media partners encroaching on their territory and launching events.

To compete, conference companies will need to move into
publisher territory and become more adept at the frequent production and
dissemination of top quality industry news/content.

One ready source of high value, high quality content is
their live events.  Video is proven to be engaging and sought-after by
business professionals, so conference companies will need to invest more in
filming their events.

5. ‘Community’ will become the main buzzword

The fight for audience attention across all mediums is
essentially about building up a community, rather than maintaining a purely
transactional relationship with delegates (the traditional approach of
conference companies).

That will make the word ‘community’ a major buzzword for
2014 and a key focus for all the major players.

6.
Video will become central to most communities

Video has been proven to be one of the most engaging mediums
on the web, and given conferences are in the ‘live events’ game, they have
multiple chances per year to cheaply create excellent video content.

Video gives conference companies the chance to show off the
quality of their content, build up brand awareness, provide value to their
prospective delegates and create an engaged audience (to name just a few of the
benefits).

2014 will be the year that conference companies start to
invest more in the medium and, assuming they have a solid distribution
strategy, reap the benefits.

7. Marketing departments will focus on
analytics/conversion

Marketing departments will spend less time on social media,
and more time analysing the effectiveness of their communications channels and
website conversion rates.  This will lead to 4 additional changes:

  • They
    will notice how important mobile traffic is becoming, and start to focus
    on mobile optimisation strategies;
  • When
    they see the low return on social media marketing versus other channels,
    it will take a double-dip in their priority list; 
  • The
    cost and burden of generating fresh views and sign-ups from traditional ‘push’
    marketing will lead them to work more closely with distribution channel
    partners to help potential customers discover them via ‘pull’ marketing;
  • They
    will start to see how effective original, quality content is in building
    engagement, and they will therefore focus on creating more of it.

8. Producers need to focus on becoming editors

Producers will stop becoming pure-play programme managers,
and will be expected to become industry experts, editors and content engines.
 

This means companies that have one producer churn out
several conferences on unrelated topics will suffer, while those who let
producers focus on a smaller number of tightly related events will start to win
the fight to ‘own communities’.  

9. Operations teams will focus on risk management
& onsite experience

As delegate revenue remains under pressure, operations teams
will find themselves in a bind.

Some will be unlucky and simply become risk managers.  Others will be lucky, and tasked with
creating truly unique, compelling onsite experiences.

The majority will be tasked with both.

10. Sales
teams will be tasked with selling more annual, multi-touchpoint packages

While this is already happening, the pace will pick up in
2014, as clients demand more integrated solutions across offline and online
properties.  

This will mean developing a better knowledge of how digital
publishing works so the value can be fully conveyed to clients.

11. Portfolio
Directors and MDs will focus on brand and data integrations

It will be the job of mid-to-senior management to act as
stronger product managers, shepherding and forging brands from across siloed
departments, and forcing more collaboration such as sharing of data where
necessary.  

The industry will face many challenges in 2014, but it also
has an enormous number of opportunities in front of it.  

The key will be to avoid, in words of Peter Drucker
“slaughtering tomorrow’s opportunity on the altar of yesterday”.

Any comments? Email jdavis@mashmedia.net

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Author

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

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