With the new year fast approaching, now’s the time to make sure you’re up-to-date on the latest event trends. Fall behind now, and your attendees will simply pass you by.

To stay relevant in a saturated market, you need to constantly up-level your attendee experience, reach new audiences, and best your competition. Here are the 2018 event trends you need on your radar to do just that.

2018 event trend #1: advanced event technology

The best event technology will make your attendee experience seamless — and make your event a must-attend. Here are the top two tech trends you can’t ignore in 2018:

RFID 

RFID (radio-frequency identification) wristbands aren’t just for music festivals. RFID can enhance your beer or wine event, your comic convention, or even your film festival in a whole variety of ways, like shortening lines — both at entry and for vendors within the event.

In a survey spanning 5,000 people who regularly attend festivals, 17% said they’re accustomed to using an RFID wristband to enter festivals and make cashless purchases. And nearly a third would like the option to do so. The only thing holding them back? A lot of festivals simply don’t offer RFID — but the ones that do truly stand apart.

Some ideas for using RFID at your event:

  • Seamlessly handle re-entry for multi-day events
  • Provide easy, personalized access to multiple zones within an event
  • Allow attendees to link their RFID bracelets it with their credit card to quickly pay onsite

Artificial intelligence

The event industry has been hyping AI for years, but now it’s part of many people’s everyday lives. While most of us still don’t have robot dogs or fully conversant refrigerators, we are familiar with digital assistants like Siri and Google Now. Using a type of AI called “machine learning,” these smartphone helpers only get better and better at serving you over time.

Progressive event organizers are now starting to use AI for things like chatbots, which can answer basic attendee questions swiftly through an event app, or even before your event, through platforms like Facebook Messenger.

Similarly, an AI matchmaking engine can interpret data that attendees have already synced with your event app from social media profiles like LinkedIn and Facebook. Using that data, it can make recommendations that would best suit an attendee’s interests. 

2018 event trend #2: Upgraded experiences

Three out of four millennials (who now make up a third of the U.S. population) would rather spend their money on an experience than buying something desirable. Here are two ways to capitalize on this experience economy:

Personalized experiences

When it comes to choosing events to attend, consumers have no shortage of options. But events that make them feel known are harder to find. Three quarters of millennials say they attend events to express who they are — so the more you can personalize the experience for them, the more successful you’ll be.

Of course, that mean who have to know who your attendees are. Why do they attend events like yours? What are they willing to spend on a ticket, or on a VIP upgrade? What makes the difference for them between a fine — but forgettable — event, and a must-attend?

If you’re not exactly sure, find new ways to listen to them. You’re probably already using social media to promote your event, but it’s also a powerful listening tool. Day-of, try using a location-based social analytics tool like GoBabl to measure attendee sentiment.

Multi-faceted experiences

Millennials are looking for more than just a general good time when they choose to attend a festival. Often, they’re seeking something more specific, like a new or unique way to mix up their daily routine.

Your attendees have countless options for how to spend their time — and just as many passions. One attendee might be a beer lover, a comedy fan, and an anime enthusiast, meaning there’s no one event that represents all of their interests.

Take a cue from Wanderlust, a mindfulness retreat featuring a 5K run, yoga, and meditation. Wanderlust offers a diverse array of activities that span far beyond athletics. Attendees can rock out at concerts, embark on hiking excursions, or listen to lectures from mindfulness experts.

2018 event trend #3: unique venues

Creating a one-of-a-kind experience for attendees starts with choosing the right venue. Thinking outside the hotel ballroom, event creators are seeking out less traditional options to wow guests.

Nontraditional spaces

People don’t just want a unique experience — they now expect it. One way event creators are meeting that need is through unique, intimate venues. In fact, demand for nontraditional spaces has grown by 3.8% in 2017 alone.

Booking a unique venue for your event requires going outside your comfort zone, but it’s well worth the effort. Holding your event in a nontraditional space makes it memorable. Plus, unique venues are often more versatile, making it easier to customize the space.

Some ways to take advantage of nontraditional venues:

  • Offsite receptions
  • Smaller, test events for expanding in new markets
  • Pop-ups
  • Support for your larger events

2018 event trend #4: Foodie-centric promotions

The more food and drink options your attendees have, the happier they’ll be. But there’s a more strategic reason to offer food at your festival: 84% of food festival-goers are likely to post pictures of food while at an event.

Add to your festival by offering food-based entertainment. Engage your audience with interactive formats like cooking demos or contests. If you want to go big, bring in a celebrity chef or hire a popular local restaurant to cater.

Speaking of food, 99% of millennials say they’d recommend a winery, brewery, or restaurant after sampling product at a festival. This number is a great motivation for food and beverage sponsors who are on the fence about participating.

Make your event stand out in 2018

To learn more about the latest trends, check out Stay Relevant: 6 Event Trends Shaping the Future of Festivals.

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