Spice Editor Emma Gardiner spoke at Centennial Parklands Dining’s corporate open day. Here are her speech notes.
Trend 1: The Chinese tourism boom
The mining boom is over, the Chinese tourism boom is about to begin.
Now is a good time to get your website and marketing materials translated into mandarin, hire someone who speaks Mandarin or Cantonese, and understand Chinese visitor preferences.
Trend 2: Regional conferencing
Regional destinations are getting smarter about marketing to MICE groups and many have the facilities to cater for large groups. Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula, the Altogether Perfect collective of Newcastle, Port Stephens and the Hunter Valley, as well as Cairns and the Sunshine Coast are all ramping up their marketing efforts to attract conference groups.
Trend 3: The sharing economy
Uber and Airbnb are here in a big way and MICE delegates are going to want to interact with them when they are in destinations. Uber presents a risk to planners in terms of what could go wrong with guest pick up/drop off, as well as insurance, but has enormous potential to surprise people. You need to ask yourself if the risk worth it?
Delegates may also start opting for cheaper Airbnb accommodation, rather the hotel that offered with the conference ticket. Hotel marketers and PCOs need to look at ways to make hotel stays more attractive to people craving a local experience.
Trend 4: Instagram
A strong brand presence on Instagram or a group of influencers who are right behind you are the best tools you can have on social media. Make sure all your events have ‘Instagrammable’ content as part of the theming and design, and ensure that the hashtags are well-communicated to ensure maximum uptake and trackability.
Trend 5: Conference content co-creation and longevity via social media
Say goodbye to the days of anticipating what people want. Instead, ask them. Conference programs will be created based on feedback from potential delegates, as well as the organisers.
What’s more, conference content will have a long life due to Youtube videos and social sharing so you may as well harness it and host it on your site for the organic search benefit.
Trend 6: Hotel, airport lounge and in-flight networking
Hotel lobbies, airport lounges and even in-flight bars, are being designed to encourage networking. Offering free WiFi and casual, communal spaces, these areas are all about encouraging spontaneous connection. Consider this when you are planning an event or conference. How can you design the space to encourage more interaction outside of the official ‘networking’ times?
Trend 7: Wellness as a core value
If your catering menu is loaded with sugar, gluten and processed fats (as opposed to the friendlier Paleo varieties), you’re going to struggle to maintain a competitive advantage. Recent cultural phenomena like That Sugar Film and Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar book mean that processed sugars are becoming increasingly vilified. Ensure that your drinks menus include low-carb options, as well as interesting zero sugar natural options.
Trend 8: Mobile payments at events
If people can’t PayWave it or pay with their mobile, you need to look at your payment software.
Trend 9: iBeacons and geo-fencing in venues
An emerging trend that has so much potential, iBeacons can send push notifications to mobile phones within a certain range. These can be everything from information about what is happening in the nearby vicinity (ie – Booth 24 invites you to try its hot, fresh paella right now), what is happening in the venue (ie – the speaker talks you registered for are about to start in five minutes), or even directional information about where the nearest toilets, food outlets or where the booths on your nominated itinerary are located.
Geo-fencing means that you can run a mobile push notification program for the whole venue where everyone will receive the same message via their mobiles.
Trend 10: Multiple jobs
Gen Ys will have more than one job. Whether it’s dog-walking, freelance work, a passion project where they sell stuff on Etsy, or an ethical project where they volunteer, raise money for, or run a not-for-profit, there is a good chance that Gen Ys are multi-tasking.
Tips and tricks for a well-executed event
- If budget is an issue, do simple really well rather than doing complicated poorly. A good chicken sandwich and a glass of Champagne is better than a bad three-course meal.
- With food or beverages, if it’s meant to be cold, make sure it is. Same goes for hot.
- Don’t serve awkward canapes. If it requires two hands to eat it, it’s drippy or has a bone in it, leave it out.
- Moderate the temperature. Cold people go home. Hot people go outside.
- Moderate the noise level. Again, if it’s too loud to talk inside, people will go home or go outside. Make sure your venue has a noise proofing option if it has hard floors or a high ceiling.
- Ensure you book a space with natural light and outdoor area. People need air and light maintain their concentration.
- If you are not 100% sure that the AV will work, leave it out. A presentation that fails to start or keeps stalling is worse than no presentation at all. Same goes for microphones that cut out or speakers that squeal.
- If you’re hosting an event in a far-flung location, offer transport to and from the event or make it very clear how to get there, where to park and arrange cabs for the finish time.
- A ‘welcomer’ is a worthwhile investment. It doesn’t matter who it is – you can hire professionals or get a staff member to do it – just make sure that when people are arriving, they can find where they are supposed to be and ask questions before they are thrust into the event.
- Make sure there is a photobooth or photographer at your event so that you will have a record of who was there and can share the pictures with the attendees afterwards.
- Get people excited. Give them information before the event about what is going to happen in order to create anticipation. That’s why menu cards are so popular on tables.
- Give people a surprise. Always try and include a surprise element in your planning, whether it’s a performance, a special or personalised menu item or a take home gift.
- Thank people afterwards and ask for feedback (where appropriate).