Experiential. Interactive. Visual. Virtual. These are the buzzwords for 2017’s event landscape according to our pros-in-the-know.
Read on for a snapshot of what our industry experts say are the need-to-know trends, ideas to try plus some practical planning advice that dish out great insider tips:
Trending Now: The experience economy is alive and well. People want to be part of a unique experience and share it with others both in person and virtually. Also, living decor and interactive characters, or what I call “event animation,” continue to be popular. Layering in this visual and experiential content not only brings energy and interest to a venue, but can also evoke a sense of playfulness that adds to the overall feeling of an event.
Must-try Idea: Collaborative art. Be it old-school paints and markers or high-tech interactive digital murals and virtual reality, folks love to get hands on putting their creative stamp on a collaborative canvas. Interactive art also provides events with great conversation pieces, icebreakers and instant vehicles for social media buzz.
Must-have Tool: People are so visual these days that they want to see pictures of everything, but you don’t want to send clients links to your sources. That’s where the Microsoft Snipping Tool (or Skitch by Evernote for Mac) steps up as my go-to essential. Quickly capturing images for proposals or cropping photos to show only a feature element, this app allows you to send just an image without a hyperlink. Seriously, I use it every day!
Planning Tip: Today’s events are more than pretty parties; they need to have a story. While all events have a purpose, you need to really dig down and identify the narrative you want your occasion to tell for it to be truly successful. The story is deeper than the obvious purpose. Once you identify it, that understanding becomes the filter for all of your design decisions, making your event more cohesive and your message clearer.
Kimberly Beaune, CMP, CSEP, Event Storyteller, Creative Twist Inc.
Registration Sets The Tone
Trending Now: Sleek, efficient registration experiences made user-friendly with apps such as Check In Easy. It’s fast, mobile, paperless, gives you up-to-the-minute head counts, and tracks real-time guest check ins. I predict we will be incorporating more interactive event apps for planning, registration, live voting and social media.
Must-try Idea: Great events are multi-sensory with many layers appearing as one cohesive, pleasurable experience. Lighting is one of my secret weapon to accomplishing this. Clever lighting can transform a room’s atmosphere plus highlight architectural details, showcase food stations, bars and more.
Must-have Tool: Definitely a robust database that gives planners the ability to procure items and fulfill last-minute requests on the turn of a dime, 24/7! A big part of this is relationship building and being respectful and loyal to vendors so they want to help out in these situations.
Planning Tip: Online shared documents make collaboration with busy clients easy, letting you both work from the exact same version, do live edits and save paper! My clients love that there is a central place to review updated information such as critical paths and budgets without the worry of trying to find the latest version in a string of emails with attachments.
Francine Socket, Event Architect, Francine Socket & Associates
Trending Now: Augmented reality (AR) is becoming a huge focus of live events. Where virtual reality (VR) immerses individuals into a fully realized digital world, AR bridges the gap between the physical event space and the virtual elements used to reinforce the brand experience. Attendees interact and learn through the designed overlay of digital content on their surroundings.
Must-try Idea: Virtual reality art entertainment and using virtual reality to engage with audiences. For instance, VR headsets can be worn by attendees to see and experience event spaces or create personalized experiential engagement opportunities for attendees.
Must-have Tool: From a product perspective, LED walls are stepping up in new and innovative ways. Also video, especially products like VidYard, are driving customization and automation trends. Once we master how technology can provide the agility to react to instantaneous changes, we will be able to customize and personalize messages, content and/or services “on demand” for our clients and attendees.
Planning Tip: Leverage technology to measure engagement in real time. Also place more attention on understanding and selecting the right technology platform(s) for the message(s), content being communicated and method of sharing. We need to better understand the role technology plays in maintaining our ever-shortening attention spans with particular focus on interactive technology.
Victor Paan, Director Digital Services, Freeman AV, with input from the Freeman team
Social Media-based Entertainment
Trending Now: Today, event marketing must be interactive and social-media enabled. From an entertainment perspective, that means activities that invite guests to snap pictures with cell phones or in a photo booth with instant uploading and sharing via event-specific hashtags on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels. It’s a win win for everyone. Guests have fun posting images and companies and brands get long-lasting exposure.
Must-try Idea: Television shows like America’s Got Talent are elevating entertainment acts to new heights. High-end magicians, illusionists and mentalists in particular are finding a whole new appreciative audience for their brand of interactive talents. Whether you stage them as icebreakers or a feature show, these acts have the unique ability to make guests part of the act.
Must-have Tool: Your event suppliers are your greatest asset, especially if you run into unexpected issues on event day. You pay for what you get so be wary of booking on price alone. Work with companies who bring the right know-how and equipment inventory to the table along with the experienced agility to instantly and seamlessly activate plan B or fix challenges.
Planning Tip: Match guest list numbers to venue choice. Too small will make guests feel crowded. Too big and the event feels poorly attended and hollow. Background music is a powerful yet often overlooked element. Use music to create a welcoming vibe and set the tone, even if it’s by simply dialing into a satellite radio station or plugging in an iPod.
Adam Swaye, Swaye Entertainment
Break Out Visual Impact
Trending Now: Visuals, an important factor in any show, aren’t being used to the potential we are now capable of delivering. Live interactive step and repeats, video mapping onto 3D objects, 4K content and digital décor … make this the year you use at least one of these production elements.
Must-try Idea: Digital décor, although expensive and tricky to do, immerses guests into an experience. Imagine walking into a room where the walls, and often ceilings, are animated with video and still images. Goodbye pipe and drape. Plus you can eliminate so much clutter from traditional decorations, giving audiences a truly beautiful, spacious experience.
Must-have Tool: My team is my most effective tool, although there are plenty of software programs to help planners – Eventbrite, Cvent, Ungerboeck, etc. Take your time and find the right software fit for you and your team. While they are all quite similar to each other, finding that perfect one may take a little time but is well worth the effort.
Planning Tip: Keep it simple, keep it gorgeous and pay attention to lighting, sound, video and visuals. Please, move away from the themes! Listen to your team, various ideas and incorporate what fits into the design. Your team is your most valuable asset. Keep them smiling, keep them inspired and your halfway there.
Chris Tampin, President & Lead Designer, The Event Factory
Trending Now: Most virtual reality experiences are “throw on a pair of goggles and watch a cool video,” but 2017 will take VR a step further giving delegates a chance to create something in the VR world, like Metavrse’s Branded Painting Experience, making their experience more memorable. It’s great for tradeshows! Our eyes are on 2018, too. AV companies will soon be offering double-sided digital signage using LG Two Sided Monitor Display that will make for great directional and display marquees, video messaging or hanging as a programmed art/décor loop.
Must-try Idea: So many ways to brand creatively! Customizing dance floors with sponsor logo (or a twister game) is an affordable way to add corporate recognition or create a new sponsorship. Also, in addition to a Head Shot Lounge, work with your videographer to create a Video Resume Booth where attendees/students looking for a job or even sales staff, with script prepared in advance, can record a simple resume video. Attendees are then emailed a Dropbox file that’s sponsor branded.
Must-have Tool: A customizable and intuitive registration system is a must. We recently built a system for gala seating, letting attendees drag and drop their guests into their purchased tables – all automated (less work for our staff!).
Planning Tip: Treat every event as if you were going to submit it for an award. Be clear on client goals, take good minutes, and dedicate a staff member (or photographer) to photo-record load in, set up and behind-the-scene images that will be useful in jogging your memory for the following year or for writing that award submission!
Rachel Gilmour, CSEP, Project Manager, aNd Logistix Inc.
Interactive Culinary Partnerships
Trending Now: Partnerships! So many talented food artisans across the city mean so many partnership opportunities to raise the bar on our culinary repertoire to truly bring that wow-factor to events. For example, Kiss the Cook Catering partners exclusively with Magic Noodle to offer an interactive hand-pulled noodle station where its noodle masters create hand-pulled Chinese la mian. We then use our own recipes to fuse Italian with Chinese to create signature dishes such as miso carbonara and Choy sum pesto pasta dishes.
Must-try Idea: Edible centerpieces are a unique way to create memorable dining experiences. Picture a vibrant presentation on each guest table including charcuterie, cheeses, preserved and fresh prepared local fruits and vegetables, edible flowers and herbs as well as crisps and crostini artfully arranged on reclaimed wood. Our chefs craft each one using the same attention to detail and skill as a florist. Guests then graze on their table’s centerpiece throughout the event.
Must-have Tool: Three words: event management software. It revolutionizes the way you run your business and gives you all the tools you need to be on the cusp of every update and detail for multiple events on any given day.
Planning Tip: Budgets can often be challenging to work with, but never make the mistake of cutting back on staff. Delivering impeccable service should be always be priority, which is why at Kiss the Cook Catering we strictly adhere to our staff-to-guest ratios. Clients will have to understand that you hold a standard for service and, in the end, they will be grateful that you do.
Fia Pagnello, CEO, Kiss the Cook Catering