The German Convention Bureau (GCB) recently presented the results of a new piece of in-depth research, conducted over 18 months.
The ‘Business Events of the Future’ study comes from a Future Meeting Space initiative which the GCB set up in 2015, to develop a vision of how the future of events will look. It was presented live at Messe Frankfurt, as well as being streamed as an online event.
The study found that events will play an increasingly important role in how large companies communicate with their customers, and digital events will be a cornerstone of this communication. At the same time, however, it found that the desire for physical locations and authentic experiences has grown strongly. The role of events as a hub of international relations cannot yet be replicated in virtual spaces.
The study stipulates that online events need to be “perfectly staged, infused with emotion and smartly connected” in order to hold the attention of a discerning audience. On top of this, they need be more than just one-off occurrences, but part of a year-round communications strategy. Events will serve as a point of contact for customers 365 days a year, and provide constant visibility for brands.
GCB’s managing director Matthias Schultze commented: “With the results of the study we offer all stakeholders involved in events recommendations for how they can – depending on their objectives – successfully use business events as a communication tool in the future.
“Being authentic is the basis for emotional and unique experiences, thus establishing close, long-term connections with the participants – whether they are actually on site or digitally integrated into events.”
‘Business Events of the Future’ also found a number of changes on the horizon for those who work within the events industry. It expects that events roles in large companies will merge with ‘community manager’-type roles. Greater technical knowledge will be required from all on the organiser side, too. A fluency in virtual platforms and hybrid meetings will be an essential skill moving forwards.
Dr Stefan Rief, institute director at Fraunhofer IAO, commented: “When we started our third research phase in summer 2019, the pandemic was still far away and face-to-face events were everyday business. Only a few months later, virtual and hybrid formats experienced a quantum leap and this development was, of course, also an immensely exciting phase for our research. Our study results now aim at providing everyone involved in business events of the future with orientation and inspiration for their own work in these very special times.”
A catalogue of innovation
The ‘Business Events of the Future’ study is not the only forward-facing piece of research the German Convention Bureau has put together under its Future Meeting Space initiative. It also publishes an ‘innovation catalogue’, which ranges over the latest technology and how it can impact the business events sector.
The 4.0 version of the innovation catalogue was published towards the end of last year. It examined virtual reality, augmented reality, cloud computing, data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, quantum computing and more.
One idea the catalogue explored was that of “avatar conferencing” – something CMW delves into further in this issue on pages 48-50, where we speak to the creators of new avatar-based virtual event platform enso.
Avatars allow delegates to move around inside a virtual space – in enso’s case a Peruvian mountainside for its World Indigenous Forum – and interact with one another. The GCB’s research found that avatar conferences benefitted from higher engagement levels, holding attention for longer than video calls while keeping travel expenses at a minimum. The use of new technologies to attend meetings in one virtual room also allows for interactions that previously would not have been possible.
Immersive learning is another option explored in the innovation catalogue. Training courses can be conducted in VR and AR in order to increase the level of engagement. One example of this is a company called 3spin Dream, which provides immersive training courses for staff inside virtual reality environments.
Heike Mahmoud, from marketing conglomeration the Seven Centers of Germany, commented: “Digitalisation processes and new technology options will have a huge impact on our future daily business. Therefore, it is imperative to get a general overview of the new technological tools and top innovations in this fast-growing market.”
Kati Rittberger, of organiser Xing Events GmbH, added: “The coronavirus has sparked a multitude of discussions on how we can shape events in the future. As a software company, one trend that we see as having a lasting impact on event analysis is AI. Predicting the success of an event can help us make the right decisions at the right time.”
The GCB’s next research project will be “The changing ecosystem of events”, which it will be working on throughout 2021. The Future Meeting Space network will be looking at the challenges of the post-Covid era in its study, with a focus on the new opportunities created in the changed ecosystem of events.