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Adrian Bell of Action Impact

Middle East event trends 2015


Adrian Bell of Action ImpactDespite the crucial role of technology in the Middle East (the audience is fascinated by the new new thing!), the real value the meetings and events industry has become more and more apparent: bringing people together and enabling social interaction. Even with the increased use of new devices and technologies at events, people still are the most important asset to the industry.

1. Mobile event apps are (almost) the norm

This rapid evolution is supported by the Middle East’s high rates of smartphone penetration coupled with its supreme mobile data speeds. Event planners are finally beginning to understand how a well-designed event app can be integrated into the event experience to significantly improve audience engagement. However, much of current event app development is focused on digitizing conventional event collateral (printed event programs, agendas, exhibition guides, event notes, maps and even directional signage). A bit basic, but there’s a whole world of untapped potential just around the corner--providing entirely new services and novel event experiences!

2. High-performance venue WiFi is becoming necessary and ubiquitous

Free WiFi is the most desired hotel in-room amenity. With hundreds of mobile event apps now available, WiFi has become the lifeblood of event communications. This has not been without challenges, with hotels and other event venues in the Middle East scrambling to keep up with the exploding demand.

The great news is that the technology exists to provide very high-performance, high-speed WiFi connectivity to large audience groups--and many facilities in the Middle East are starting to catch up! Event planners are increasingly questioning venues’ abilities to provide good quality, high-speed, easy-to-use, and reasonably priced WiFi as key decision-making factors in making venue recommendations.

3. Middle East audiences are not “attendees” anymore; they are “participants”

Gone are the days when Middle Eastern audiences sat inertly through mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations! The entire dynamic of the event experience is evolving fast--instead of a prescriptive, top-down approach, event participants are expecting a greater say in content and also opportunities for active engagement. The powerful combination of mobile and social media technology is simultaneously enabling and driving this transformation. Additionally, mobile polling devices are actively being used to provide real-time feedback during events and directly inform post-event analytics.

4. Content and more content

In a place where multiple cultures are commonplace, properly curated content feeds attendees who hunger for knowledge. Offering digital content is a wonderful way to to articulate messaging. Provided through the right channels in the right way, engaging (and appropriate!) content generates an added value for event participants and strengthens the educational character of an event. With the massive amount of information available especially in the digital world, Middle Eastern content creators have to focus on easy-to-grasp content and take typically short attention spans into account.

5. Attention spans are shrinking

Human beings are increasingly saturated with information. As we desperately try to multi-task to keep up, most of us feel completely overwhelmed. One of the results is decreasing attention spans and this is directing influencing how events are being produced.

Examples of this include:

  • Far shorter presentations. Think punchy TED talk styles.
  • Big, bold and beautifully curated content. HD pictures/infographics--not endless text. Short, high-quality HD video.
  • Consistent audience interaction during sessions.
  • Active use of audience-engagement tools.

6. Social media powers events. 

Social media is huge in the Middle East. Channels such as Instagram and Twitter in particular are massive, so these coupled with the unbelievable mobile-phone penetration render social media as a “must-have” consideration within the digital engagement of any event. It can be of great help when it comes to reaching and engaging specific audiences and communicating about event activities and topics throughout the year. With relevant content being produced and spread over social media before and after an event, the perceived value of a specific meeting or show is much higher for attendees.

And a couple of future trends just around the corner …

7. Audience analytics will become the major benefit of mobile event apps.

The on-site meeting or conference used to be the black hole of event data management. Event planners used technology before and after events, but during an event, everyone went analog with paper surveys and questionnaires! 

Today, mobile event apps offer extraordinary access to audience analytic data--a feast of useful, compelling and real-time information to improve and inform the event experience! Every tap, every entry and every communication is trackable!

8. Event geo-fencing

Bluetooth low-energy devices such as iBeacon will provide a wealth of exciting new options for Middle East event planners and attendees. This new technology holds tremendous promise for events with all major app developers now looking at ways to incorporate it. And the possibilities are enough to make any self-respecting event designer salivate!

How, some care must be exercised with this technology. If attendees sense an “invasion of privacy” or horrid spam-messaging interruptions, then the idea just dies.

Adrian Bell is executive director of Action Impact, a Dubai-based brand experience agency. He is also the founder and past president of ISES Middle East Chapter.

Much of the content for this blog posting comes from Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, a professional speaker and consultant focusing on meetings technology. He can be contacted at his extensive website, Corbin Ball Associates – Meetings Technology Headquarters, and followed on Twitter: @corbinball:  

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