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March 5, 2014

Middle East: Trends to Watch in 2014

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Wish you could see into the future? The IMEX Group has saved you the bother by unveiling its predictions for meeting industry trends in 2014. 

Content is now defining the meeting and event type, rather than the other way around. The incredible growth of YouTube, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) and short, sharp television and video news clips (including the birth of super-bite-sized Vine) mean attention spans are shorter than ever. Expect meetings and event content to be delivered in ever more entertaining, diverse and digestible pieces. The label ‘hybrid’ fades away as all meetings and events become multi-faceted and multi-dimensional events for participants on and off-site. 
 The big watchword for our working lives in the 90s and new millennium was ‘work/ life balance’. In 2014 this shifts to ‘workplace spirituality’. A growing number of organisations recognise that employee loyalty and motivation hinges on a convergence of personal values with corporate ones. Expect more organisations to embrace happiness as their ethos for growth in 2014. 
Convergence and connectivity will be the next big technology wins the meetings industry strives for in 2014. As Lawrence Coburn, CEO of DoubleDutch, and Michael Owen, CEO of Eventgenuity, observed at IMEX America 2013, many big technology advances have been made; now they need to be managed. Coburn expects “the bandwidth of apps to get lighter”, whereas Owen says the future is “not about more technology but how that technology is delivered”. Engagement will lead to better data capture with the ultimate win being deeper business insight. The proliferation of smartphones and “wearables” (miniature electronic devices worn under or on top of clothing) with their innate ability to capture data will also improve return on investment, forecasts Coburn.
“Everyone’s had their first go at social media. Now it’s time for phase two,” says Sam Stanton, President of redbutton.tv. “Expect to see some really cool crossover where participants who are highly social at home find they can still behave that way at an event.” In 2014 social media will receive its own budget and begin to play a meaningful and measurable part in marketing and communications strategies in the meetings industry. 
The international nature of the meetings industry used to mean thousands of opportunities to ‘do good and give back’ in far flung corners of the world, the trend now is to help those on your doorstep. One example is the launch of the biannual 2014 IMEX Challenge, which will involve building a healing garden at the Shade Tree shelter for women, children and their pets in Las Vegas in October. 
Could 2014 be the year when the meetings and events industry is finally recognised as an important economic indicator? Economic impact studies are now commonplace in at least five mature markets and they have been rigorously executed. When the recent US Government shutdown threatened to stifle business on many fronts, President Obama was quick to request a meeting with US Travel Association CEO Roger Dow. As Dan Berger, CEO of Social Tables says: “Those of us in the industry know that when meetings and events start to rise they are the pulse of growth.”
Where once a hot conversation topic was demographic shift and what that meant for the global meetings and events market, now the big debate of 2014 looks set to be ‘workplace diversity’. With so many generations working alongside each other (be it virtually or physically) and issues of gender balance and racial diversity still being addressed, organisations are having to look at their recruitment and talent development strategies with more creativity and awareness. In July 2013 Deloitte University Press went one step further, suggesting that ‘diversity of thought’ is now the new frontier. 


GenieConnect, whose MarketingConnect won the 2013 EIBTM Tech Watch award, has released its top 10 predictions for the event technology industry in 2014. Business Development Director Michael Douglas explains: 
1. Organisers will seek integrated solutions. As technology becomes more prominent within the event industry, customers will have higher expectations of the services that their suppliers provide and seek integrated solutions for registration, online mapping, mobile apps and audience response. 
2. Windows Phone will supersede the BlackBerry. While many consumers are using iPhone and android devices, corporate IT departments have been much slower to progress. This is partly because of the high security risk they attribute to iOS and Android platforms. Hence, Windows Phone is seen as a way to retain control of corporate networks and there will be a higher requirement to cater for it with event apps. 
3. Event Wi-Fi will turn a corner. Venues will begin to see fit-for-purpose Wi-Fi as a competitive edge and those that can guarantee it for large events will see a great increase in business. Exhibition organisers will begin to see that exhibitors will only attend shows that can cater to their needs, forcing them to employ companies such as MaxWifi and SmartCities to provide temporary networks. 
4. Analytics and ROI will outweigh the ‘wow’ factor. New and exciting technology and ideas will always have a role at certain meetings, but for the mainstream, organisers will be now be looking for solid results and returns from the recent wave of technology, before investing money in the next innovations. 
5. Organisers will find better ways to utilise their data. As organisers become more aware of how to use attendee participation data, more of a focus will be placed upon building registration, web and mobile solutions in an integrated way so that businesses can obtain insight into events and attendee behavior. Data will drive future improvements and facilitate personalisation across the event cycle. 
6. Sponsorship sales will adapt to meet the opportunities technology provides. There are many innovative ways to monetise event technology, aside from traditional sponsorship activity. However, technology is often decided upon late in the event cycle and so a ‘Mobile App Sponsor’ may be the extent of what is sold. As organisers begin to understand their potential, sponsorship packages can be optimised and sales teams incentivised earlier on in the process. 
7. Organisers will track attendees’ movement around an event. Indoor positioning systems could lead the way at events, allowing organisers to personalise push messages and notifications for every attendee. New sensor technology developments are starting to allow tracking within an indoor location, sending notifications about sessions nearby, and other useful information, improving attendee experience and return on investment. 
8. Contactless transactions at events will increase. Near Field Communication (NFC) is set to be commonplace at UK events in 2014. It is a growing technology that allows smartphones, tablets and similar gadgets to connect via a radio connection. The GSM Association is already using NFC to provide un-manned check-in points for registration, access to maps, exhibitor details, feedback services and much more. NFC is becoming a growing trend in contactless payments, and as Apple is yet to join list of manufacturers who have implemented the functionality – we predict that in the next coming years they will join this contactless movement. 
9. There will be more consolidation in the event technology industry. The event technology industry will continue to consolidate through acquisition and strategic partnerships. Increasingly established players have moved slowly and found that there are holes in their solutions, this will open up interest in buying niche players as new technologies come to the market. 
10. An increase in wearable technology. Wearable technology such as Google Glass, Samsung Smart Watch and Apple iWatch is likely to grow; both in terms of the number of devices available and the adoption the technology. For event organisers, this is a considerable development, as it will result in an increase in smart devices to contact their attendees with via push messages. 

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