Remembering History and its Importance
Meetings are the catalyst for change; they influence people’s thoughts and behaviors, enable business exchanges that establish bonds, strengthen alliances, and form lifelong friendships and connections. When we meet, we change the world. Connectivity— both small and on a global scale— generates powerful ideas, facilitates learning, and are essential both to prevent and respond to times of crisis. Historically, meetings have been a large reason behind the ending of conflicts. Whether it’s major, minor, public, or private, connection has— and will continue to—impact groups all over the world.
More meetings also mean more business! Social Tables reported that: eighty-two percent of small business owners say that face-to-face events and in-person meetings are absolutely necessary for success. Ninety-nine percent of senior executives in medium to large-sized companies believe that in-person meetings helped them succeed, and ninety-seven percent say that meetings deliver return on investment. Meetings assist with closing deals, networking, developing on a professional scale, and improve team collaboration and innovation.
However, before we can discuss the future of event management, it’s crucial to understand where it started, and how it has evolved as the world progresses through time.
Event Management: A Historical Overview
Whether it be a party, charity event, class, business affiliated or promotional occasion, events (large and small) are quintessential in connecting individuals with their communities as well as the world around them. The history of event management and planning is not only incredibly intricate, but has evolved tremendously throughout the years as a direct result of rapidly advancing technology. But, where did event management start? More importantly, where is it going?
The earliest record of large gatherings and events date back thousands of years to ancient Egypt in 51 BCE, during pharaoh Cleopatra’s reign. While many previously recorded events and gatherings promoted peace and friendship between tribes and clans, Cleopatra was notorious for hosting elaborate, lavish, and sumptuous parties and rendezvous in pursuit of potential lovers. The most popular being Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, Antony was especially enraptured by Cleopatra, who set up a sunset sail for the Roman General down the Nile River, accompanied by costumed handmaids, candles, and a grand meal. However, thousands of years ago, these types of gatherings only came to fruition as a direct result of status and wealth. With financial resources came infinite free labor, which was the backbone and catalyst behind all of Cleopatra’s events as well as other individuals who were considered to live alongside the elite. Communication during the time of the pyramids was incredibly limited; messages and invitations of the like were often hand delivered which took weeks (or even months) to do, and the execution of these events took just as long.
Medieval French Royalty
Medieval French Royalty followed in Pharaoh Cleopatra’s footsteps. Wealthy aristocratic women were in charge of planning luxurious events and affairs, the most notable being King Louis XV’s mistress, Madame Pompadour, and the infamous Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI’s wife and the very last Queen of France prior to the Revolution.
In addition to being the King’s mistress, Madame Pompadour was a long time member of the French court and a major patron of architecture and decorative arts, particularly porcelain. While she ceased to be the King’s mistress in the 1750s, Madame Pompadour retained considerable influence over the monarch: she oversaw new construction projects and regularly staged parties with music, food, costumes, and lavish themes of the time, which kept the King entertained and their monarchy in the spotlight (which was a primary goal when it came to hosting parties during the French reign).
While everyone recognizes Marie Antoinette’s name by her scandalous and exuberant life in the palace of Versailles, her reputation for extravagant events and opulence precedes her. Her parties and gatherings were a direct representation of royalty and wealth, manifesting itself in pageants, festivals, parties, and absolute prestige.
The Industrial Revolution
The demand for meetings and events expanded far beyond parties for the elite and royal families as a direct result of industrialization. The Industrial Revolution made the economy boom and business manufacturing took off, driving the necessity for collaboration at events such as trade shows, guild meetings, and company events. Taking event management to an entirely new level, business development grew exponentially, which gave individuals more reason and opportunity to travel.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
With the vast growth of different modes of transportation (rail lines and steamships included), traveling to and from events became much more feasible, accessible, and desired. Political parties and other affiliated movements also took off, which became another primary catalyst for events and gatherings. Combined with the Industrial Revolution and business growth, transportation created a plethora of opportunities for individuals to make more money, which meant that they could dedicate more funds to plan and successfully execute events. The number of events and meetings expanded with newly accessible locations (thank you, transport!), and the speed at which new modes of transportation operated made travel much more time efficient.
The 20th Century and Beyond: Technology Advances
With the turn of the 20th century, the growth of event planning as a recognized profession gained popularity with the investment of individuals or families who required their services. Whether it be planning a wedding, party, celebration, gala, conference, or meeting, the complexity of events (both organized and corporate), a professional hand became essential for organization and handling.
When the internet was born and mobile phones became the new norm, it had a tremendous impact on event planning and the ways in which people communicate. Electronics and the internet allowe communication to expand on a global scale, twenty-four-seven: creating, locating, registering, and documenting events can happen in the palm of your hand (literally).
Social Media and Smartphones Impact Connectivity and Event Management
2004 was the year that completely changed the game for many technology users: MySpace was born. As the 2000s progressed, so did digital media and the varieties of social media platforms. Now, the globe has dominating digital outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Furthermore, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom and Google Meet were (and continue to be) heavily used for virtual events, ranging from school learning to team meetings, conferences to concerts, and even bridal showers to movie nights with friends. Below is a table of the six most popular social media platforms (in addition to Zoom) and their average amount of monthly active users:
Social media now allows event and conference planners to gather information from these platforms to create demographic-specific events based solely on the activity, interests, and engagement of digital media users. Event planners can use digital media to research and build their ideas off of results and stats, while individuals can seek out events that interest them. Chat forums and two-way communication are now incredibly popular and useful for feedback, helpful information, and updates. If someone cannot attend an event or conference due to travel restrictions or budget issues, live streaming and “stories” are accessible on every social media platform, giving all interested parties some sort of interactive experience, regardless of not being at the event in person.
To generate popularity and engagement, hashtags are used to target the right audience on social media channels as well as create effective metadata to spread the word. Visual connectivity is irreplaceable, thanks to platforms such as Snapchat, TikTok, Zoom, and Facebook Live. Trends and current events are accessible at the click of a button, which means news, updates, and any sort of relevant information can reach millions of people within seconds. Additionally, social media and the internet have been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of maintaining some sense of normalcy and connectivity. Events and meetings are no longer limited to just the physical space itself; non-participants are able to experience the event via live streams, snapchat stories, images, videos, and hyperlinks.
Aside from the powerhouse of social media, there is one other item that has heavily contributed to the development of the event planning process: iphones and mobile apps. When the very first iPhone was created in 2007, the power and influence of smart technology played a critical role in event management. By having the ability to stay connected 24/7, participants and interested parties were able to share their experiences, thoughts, and images in real-time for followers who may have missed the event. These types of documentation were great for organizers to use as collateral; any and all digital promotion of events (posted by attendees) is beneficial for event planners and companies. This way, they could showcase events to their followers on social media as well as collect performance data to use for future events.
While smartphones have significantly advanced technology and the way in which humans connect, it is now much more challenging to create events that are exciting, hold attention, and are engaging for attendees. Constant connectivity is a double edged sword: smartphones strengthen engagement and networking, but it can also be incredibly distracting and debilitating to the point of individuals being completely unaware of their external surroundings.
Then Versus Now
Let’s take a look at a compartmentalized list of where event management started, and how it has developed over time:
Where Event Management is Headed: Trends That Stick
It’s important to remember the past and the historical context surrounding event management. But, where is this industry headed? More importantly, what trends are we taking with us as we move through 2021?
Social media platforms thrive on visual aesthetics and meeting the “vibe” of the users that inhabit the virtual space. Event professionals are now partnering with artistic venues that have “do it for the ‘gram’” worthy backdrops. Whether it be an empty warehouse full of graffiti to museums that make attendees feel like they are in a James Bond movie, meeting and event venues will start requiring more and more creativity for that perfect photo op.
Interactive Live Event Experiences
Interactive event elements are not fads and will only give attendees a more personalized and meaningful event experience. Bringing that extra something to meetings and events, this will engage attendees and keep the content delivery exciting, personal, and innovative.
Everyone is different, which means information retention is obtained in different ways. Event professionals and companies will need to start differentiating the presentation of information for content delivery, focus, and scaffolding. Professional education and entertainment will need to rely on data to figure out how to best reach each attendee, including what content is currently in demand. Technology will be able to facilitate these connections and will ensure that every aspect of a conference or professional event is offering valuable content that each attendee can take with them into their own personal practices.
Everyone Loves A Good Game
Using game elementals to encourage engagement and community interaction has gained an increasing amount of popularity in the past few years. Businesses, professionals, and event planners can use this tactic to take the appeal of competition to learning and networking, which can build a sense of community. When we think about the future of event management, events can offer personalized gaming options that will engage participants by winning prizes, badges, and have some sort of point system throughout the event.
Taking Attendance to a Global Scale
Thanks to social media platforms and smart technology, live streaming, remote working, and international mindfulness are now incredibly popular, which will significantly assist companies and event professionals with global outreach. The connectivity that has been achieved through technology advancements has emphasized our part in the big picture; this compels businesses and people as a whole to consider how to broaden events to potential attendees all around the world. Virtual attendees are becoming just as important as in-person attendees, which means businesses and event hosts need to take advantage of live streams. Live Streaming provides useful feedback, engagement, and recommendations on how to improve future events!
Customizing Learning Opportunities
As technology advances, so does the expectation for customized experiences. Technology will allow businesses and event professionals to analyze attendee’s necessities and desires for educational material, provide them with the most beneficial resources, and ensure that engagement levels between the material and attendees are high.
Scheduling and Messaging will Take on a New Meaning
Using data to identify a demographic’s interests, career responsibilities, and knowledge abilities, business and professionals running events will be able to create an event experience tailored specifically to those professional needs. Targeted ads, push notifications, building specialized meeting agendas, and creating professional-specific calendars, attendees will have a unique experience at all future events. Eventually, event technology will be advanced enough where attendees will interact solely with relevant and engaging information that pertains to them. For example: potential attendees will only see targeted ads in the event’s digital app for speakers they have an interest in seeing, meeting agendas will be developed with their ideas in mind, advanced algorithms will locate attendees who need particular training, attendees will receive unique push notifications based on their location, etc.
AI Enhancing Experiences for Attendees
When we think about future events, Artificial Intelligence is a main factor that can contribute to troubleshooting any issues an attendee may have. Whether it be an easier check-in process or overly long event lines, technology can be a problem solver.
- Chatbots are currently quite common with framework integration of event planning and execution, so it can be assumed that they will continue to be helpful to attendees. Answering customer service inquiries and following up on leads will eventually turn into detecting and providing better responses based on the tone of attendees as technology develops.
- Check-In Will Be Easier
- The iPhone has already replaced manually signing into apps and making purchases with facial recognition, so why can’t event management do the same? Face recognition would eliminate long lines at event check in, and, eventually, AI will become advanced enough to successfully interact with attendees, event professionals, and businesses to promote efficient communication.
Social Media Analysis
By continuing to use social media platforms, surveys, and rating scales to understand what works and what doesn’t at events, future technology will develop faster and more efficient ways to analyze data.
Continue to Integrate Technology Tools
Currently, businesses have project management tools that allow teams to collaborate on projects simultaneously, delegate tasks across a team board, and communicate efficiently. But, eventually, technology will advance to the next level: smart floors and mats could potentially track attendance, popular booths and high-traffic areas. Digital applications that are used to keep event planning teams connected will become much more efficient, and virtual check-ins and chatbots will allow professionals leading these events to focus their attention on keeping their attendees engaged. Management tools have come a long way and will continue to do so: gathering data from marketing platforms, email marketing, registration systems, attendance tracking, and surveys will become crucial to event management and the execution of successful gatherings.
That's a Wrap!
As the world advances to a more technological-based future, these trends will become integral to event management everywhere, and the expectations for engaging and personalized events will increase. Event management and its development is heavily based on the way in which humans develop as a society, so it’s safe to say that this industry will continue to shift, modify, and excel in the years to come.
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Social Tables. “A History of Event Planning (and Why It Matters).” Social Tables, 5 May 2021, www.socialtables.com/blog/event-planning/history-coordinating/.
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