In the future, business events will be multisensory and authentic
As part of the corporate communications mix, business events are set to play an increasingly important role. At a recent online event, Future Meeting Space – an innovation network set up by Fraunhofer IAO and GCB German Convention Bureau – has now presented the results of 18 months of intensive research in this field. The study, which is free of charge, looks at the changed circumstances for the event industry and stakeholders’ shifting expectations.
Right now, the event industry is in the middle of a period of profound change. Looking further ahead, what role will business events play in the corporate communications mix of the future? This was the key question examined in the third and recently completed research phase of Future Meeting Space, an innovation network set up by GCB German Convention Bureau and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO. The results were presented at an online event streamed live from Messe Frankfurt on February 22 to an audience of several hundred people around the world. Among the essential findings was that events are set to become an increasingly important element in the communications mix of organizations. At the same time, events will become increasingly hybrid in nature. This in turn will require that each of these worlds – digital and analogue, virtual and real – is perfectly staged, emotionally rich and creatively combined with one another. In a highly digitalized world, however, people also crave authentic experiences in real places. In particular, face-to-face meetings continue to play a vital role on the international level. To date, it has proved impossible to recreate this chemistry via a virtual platform. Such events still demand a degree of personal, physical interaction.
The growing relevance of business events as authentic communications tools
Going forward, events will no longer be isolated occurrences, divorced from all other communications tools. Instead, they will form part of a multisensory, omnichannel marketing strategy. In the future, rolling events will take place in a kind of nonstop loop, building their own community 365 days a year and generating a continuous brand visibility. “This study gives stakeholders guidance on how they can use business events as a marketing tool for their own specific ends,” explains Matthias Schultze, managing director of GCB. “Authenticity is key here. It forms the foundation for a unique, emotionally laden experience that forges close, long-term bonds between participants, irrespective of whether they are there in person or just virtually.”
New challenges for event organizers, venue providers, agencies and marketing organizations
The purpose and function of business events have changed in line with shifting circumstances. This in turn has impacted the kind of expertise and services that stakeholders require – or are required to provide. Agencies and organizers, for example, are now increasingly involved in building and managing social communities around a specific event. Venue providers, meanwhile, are becoming event designers with specialized know-how in conception and technical realization. And convention bureaus are busy working to identify new trends, promote partnerships and establish themselves as a highly connected hub within their own regional ecosystem. For all of these tasks, digital competence and a systematic approach to data management are vital. In a dynamically changing situation like the present, greater agility and flexibility are also required. These two qualities were also in demand during the recently completed research phase. “When we started on the latest phase of our research, back in summer of 2019, there was no pandemic, and face-to-face events were very much the norm,” explains Dr. Stefan Rief, head of the research unit for Organisational Development and Work Design at Fraunhofer IAO. “But within a few months, there was a massive increase in both virtual and hybrid events. It was a really exciting period for our research. We hope that these new results will provide all of the stakeholders involved in future business events with the guidance and inspiration they need for their own activities in these unusual times.”
New topics for the fourth research phase
This year, Future Meeting Space will turn its attention to a new field of research: the changing ecosystem for events. This research will analyze the challenges of the post-COVID-19 era and investigate the new opportunities offered by the changing ecosystem in the events sector. On this basis, it will then seek to devise scenarios for real, hybrid and virtual meetings in this new environment.