5 Trends Shaping the Future of Events

If you thought your special event was all about your organization, you are very wrong. That’s only part of the equation. Donors or prospects attending special events are seeking not just information about your nonprofit.

Getting it right involves emotional intelligence, orchestrated serendipity, multimodal design, bigger than oneself and a clear sense of place, according to Carrie Johnson, senior director of education, of PCMA, an organization of business events strategists based in Chicago, Ill. She made her comments during a session at the recent Association of Fundraising Professionals’ annual international conference.

When it comes to emotional intelligence, one size does not fit all. Consumers and donor prospects want to feel understood, and to be given experiences that are tailored to their individual needs, said Johnson. Participants can’t be treated as a homogeneous crowd or a series of behavioral data points. They must be recognized as individuals, understood on a deeper emotional level, and treated accordingly, she told attendees.

Events managers will need to adopt a proactive approach to personalized experiences, understanding the needs of participants before they arrive.

Orchestrated Serendipity is engineering and embracing the unexpected for more meaningful moments. People’s lives are more programmed than ever, with a constant stream of data and information at their fingertips. Unexpected, unplanned moments now surprise them, creating lasting memories and driving meaningful impact. These memorable moments become serendipitous, magical experiences. By embracing the unexpected, you can engage participants and leave a lasting impression.

Multimodal Design is for adaptation and iteration. Environment is a key element of the user experience. Expectations of spaces are changing in today’s connected lives. People want spaces to be as nimble and fluid as their digital experiences, and
design should adapt to support quick change, she told attendees.

Bigger than oneself is acting on a meaningful message. People expect organizations, especially nonprofits to not just voice values, but to actually embody the point of view. Recognize that the dollars they donate or spend are a reflection of their values, politics, or choices, and they are looking for brands that clearly demonstrate where they stand on certain issues. You can’t just provide content anymore. Every event must have a message.

Clear sense of place involves leveraging geography for deeper enrichment. The most memorable events celebrate local surroundings. “Consumerized” experiences are being traded in for authentic, location-true destinations, where enrichment comes in unexpected forms and through exposure to local cultures, said Johnson. The thriving experience economy presents a ripe opportunity for events in off-the-beaten-path destinations, encouraging exploration of new environments., she said.