Next Level: Understanding Trends and Inspiring Attendees

Next Level: Understanding Trends and Inspiring Attendees

For today’s Next Level blog post, we are so excited to share insights from not one but two amazing experts. Erin Mays and Kalyn Rozanki are co-founders and managing partners at Ebco, an Austin-based trend and innovation firm. They specialize in using trend forecasting to help clients stay ahead of emerging trends, and to inspire unexpected new products, business models and categories through visual presentations, immersive trend workshops for cross-functional teams and in-market experiential trend expeditions.

WorkTrip: Welcome Erin and Kalyn. Please tell our readers a little more about what kind of clients you work with, and what you help them do.

Erin and Kalyn: In a nutshell, we look at how trends can inspire new directions for innovation. For some clients, we might help them understand how trends are changing their industry or specific areas they focus on. Other clients, like brand managers or event planners, might be looking for insight into trends to determine what kind of content or experience they want to create. Trends can also inform the format of an event, based on how people interact with content, with each other, etc.

For example, we worked with a large beverage company doing a national sales meeting with 80 people. They had been regionally based, but wanted to make sure their product was going to be successful in the middle of the US. They also wanted to get their sales team energized and excited about the new year. They asked us to look at not only trends in the beverage industry but also to take their team out to different locations that could bring some of those trends to life – entrepreneurship, sustainability, localism, etc. They got to talk to experts, had a chance to look at things through different lenses, and could better understand the trends they wanted to focus on for the upcoming year – all of which could help make their product more successful.

We also do keynote speaking or speaking on different topics that might be relevant, such as top disruptive trends, the future of an industry, or the top trends impacting an industry.  

WorkTrip: How important is that event planners learn about and/or stay on top of new trends?

Erin and Kalyn: From an event planning standpoint, we think it is especially important for them to understand trends in engagement and what trends will lead to the best experience.

We are getting ready to go to TMRE, a show relevant to our industry, and thought it was interesting that they are following a new track this year.  Instead of having eight keynotes, they are having roundtable sessions where attendees get to network with others in roles like themselves. It’s a new way to engage. When you take a traditional approach with track A, track B, etc. people may start to disengage since they know what to expect.

For event planners, it is helpful to think about how you can make your events more immersive, or how you can disrupt patterns and make things more spontaneous and memorable. When you look at the fact that attention spans are decreasing and so many people are experiencing a sense of overwhelm, how can you give them an opportunity to actually meet people or learn more about how to handle their specific challenges?

As a company hosting an event, you may be looking at this as an opportunity to disseminate a lot of really pertinent information, but you should really be thinking about what it means to your attendees. For example, if you are Nike having a summit on sustainability, it is helpful to understand that trend through different lenses – whether it’s presenting on trends in sustainable packaging, inviting experts who focus on no-waste living, or showcasing other products or companies who embody this trend.

This approach will really help inspire an entire team – whether an individual is in product development, marketing or sales – they can really better understand the mission of the company. If it involves a big change for the company, directionally, it can help those individuals think differently about the category and their role. That is especially helpful if the company has been around for a while. Doing something like that can help interrupt or disrupt the business model, and can help everyone get on the same page.

WorkTrip: What advice do you have for event planners thinking about how they might work with someone like Ebco or dip their toes in this concept?

Erin and Kalyn: I would recommend they study other events they might want to emulate and even other categories. For example, we went to SXSW and they had this event called Cheeselandia, where you could sample all these different types of cheeses. It was like a dream, to be locked in a room full of cheese. Even if you are in a different industry, you could think about how you can apply elements from an event like this in order to make your own event more successful.

If the company has specific mission, like sustainability for example, you could look at what those top movements are, look at startups and other companies in the space, and look at expos and other exhibitors. Look for topics, themes and synergies to see what you can incorporate into your own event.

WorkTrip: What kind of impact have you seen from taking this approach?

Erin and Kalyn: It helps people think about things differently. People rarely get the chance to step outside the very practical things they are tasked with accomplishing and see the bigger picture. When they connect with a trend, they are better able to see why things are shifting in a different direction, start to feel more like they are part of that bigger picture, and might be more inspired.

WorkTrip: How should these trends inform a corporate event planner’s overall event strategy?

Erin and Kalyn: An important thing for event planners to remember, and this might sound obvious, is that the people they are planning that event for are consumers. They are consumers of experiences, of new technologies, of adventure, travel and leisure. You aren’t just planning something for a corporate audience or a group of people. You are actually curating an experience for individuals who are out and about in the world experiencing things. When you start to think about them in that way, you can elevate your event and the experience of your attendees to a whole new level.

When you treat an event like an event in isolation, and are so focused things like having a hundred chairs and getting lunch boxes for everyone, you are missing a lot of opportunities to truly engage and connect with them on so many levels. By taking advantage of those multiple touch points and opportunities to connect with your attendees, you can increase the impact of that event ten-fold.

WorkTrip: What other advice do you have for our event planners?

Erin and Kalyn: Look at how trends are going to drive future event experiences, based on how people are engaging with content and how much our attention spans are reduced. Our efficiencies, as a workforce, are up like 500% since 1950, so people are more efficient but they are also disengaged very easily. So, when it comes to modes of engagement, we are seeing that instant, quick, and spontaneous interactions work best. When we have something that is so routine or expected, people tend to check out a bit. By introducing experiences that interrupt patterns or disrupt the brain, you can get people more engaged and surprise them.

We are also looking at new communication models. For example, stores in Asia give customers the option to choose whether or not they want to interact with a sales person. If you do want to interact, you get a blue basket. If not, you get a red basket. It’s about finding new ways for people to feel comfortable about engaging the way they want. This same concept could be used at a trade show booth. We should be open to adding more subtle cues and considering all communication styles, because not everyone is extroverted or wants to be directly approached.

Another new mode of engagement is unique swag. We are going to a Rachel Hollis event, and she has a swag store that features all of the things she posts to Instagram – like “hustle, hustle” or “go get it girl”. It is stuff you can’t get anywhere else, and it feels very micro-curated and relevant. While a line of clothing might not be appropriate for your company, you can create similar curated experiences for any event – like a pop-in or immersive experience.

WorkTrip: I have seen where you guys talk about the need to combat over-programming and focus on wellness for attendees. Can you elaborate on that?

Erin and Kalyn: The idea is that more is not always better. It is so common at events to pack in as much as possible, but it should be more about maximizing the time you have with an individual. Over programming is a leading cause of poor sleep, poor mental health and feelings of loneliness. We deal with this in our daily lives, trying to stay on top of our social media feeds and email, working 24 hours a day, etc., and that pattern is often replicated at events. A good event can be more curated, to maximize the content and the experience that different types of people have, based on personality types and learning types.

When it comes to events, we should think about the audience and where there might be opportunities to surprise them, delight them, and inspire them to think differently.

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If you would like to learn more about how other event planners are using WorkTrip, check out our case studies at https://www.worktrip.com/posts/tag/case-studies. To learn more about what WorkTrip has to offer, visit https://www.worktrip.com/features

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