Venues of the future: Trends, challenges and the changing consumer space

This is a round-up of discussions from the recent AEV conference, and does not reflect Freeman’s opinions. 

In our fast-paced, tech-driven culture, venues, suppliers and organisers are having to work harder than ever to make their events successful. From political change to Brexit concerns, uncertainty has become part and parcel of business life. As well as the issues facing the wider economy, venues across the country are seeing huge shifts in the use of technology, with new advancements coming by the day. The recent AEV Conference saw venue professionals gather to discuss the key trends and challenges facing businesses and how the industry can adapt and embrace these changes.

Changing consumer space

Gone are the days where companies can maintain success with static branding. New technology and changing priorities impact our consumer choices and what we expect from brands. For the millennial generation, a brand is about more than just a product- it also needs to reflect their values and beliefs. Known as being the most self-aware generation, millennials are passionate about causes, and are more likely to get involved in political, environmental and social justice campaigns. It’s probably no surprise to learn that younger people are also more engaged with social media, with one in eight 18-24 year-olds spending up to 30% of their week online. More into ‘experiences’ than ‘things’, this generation has truly changed the playing field for brands. Venues can boost their position in the market by embracing these changes, and staying agile and adaptable. From ensuring you have an environmental policy in place to keeping up to date with the latest technology trends, successful venues need to adapt to versatility of both clients and the end-consumers.

Saving the environment

Since Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet hit our screens, plastic waste has been top of the agenda. As a nation we’re more aware of environmental issues than ever before, and more motivated to make change happen. Some brands have successfully phased out plastic straws, stirrers, plates, cutlery and cups, a policy venues should also be adopting. Whether it’s a blanket ban on plastics or implementing an incentive scheme to encourage people to purchase re-usable cups, venues need to work with brands to deliver a solution that works for both the companies involved, as well as the consumers. One size doesn’t fit all venues, so it’s important that you evaluate your needs before introducing changes. The process of plastic segregation can still be a challenge for many venues, so where possible, it’s worth trying to cut out plastic completely. Where you do need to use plastic, venues can investigate what types are recyclable and will have the lowest impact on the environment.

Security challenges

External security threats have been a key concern for venues over the past decade, with strict security measures now in place. But the growth of technology, content management systems and databases has fuelled another type of security threat- from the inside. Protecting intellectual property in a competitive world is becoming an increasing challenge, particularly with the rise in hacking software that’s now available. Venues need to be aware that internal security systems are just as crucial as external ones, and put solutions in place to prevent immoral or even illegal behaviour. Disgruntled employees are more likely to be a risk for brands, so it’s important to listen to grievances and provide a working environment where people feel comfortable and supported, with opportunities to grow and develop. It’s also important to select employees carefully, assessing personalities and trustworthiness in addition to core skills. Cyber hacking is another threat, and you’ll need to invest in your firewalls to protect company data. 

The future of technology

Technology is growing at an exponential rate. Each time we invent something new, there’s a new advancement on the horizon, ready and waiting to outdate the last one. But with so much tech still in the early testing stages, what will the landscape look like for events over the next decade? A poll of the AEV conference audience showed that 51% of venue professionals thought VR and AR marked the greatest opportunities for venues, but 72% also argued they would be the biggest threat. While some fear that virtual and augmented reality will lessen the impact of real-life events, others said it could be a useful tool for development. For example, venues can use AR as a sales tool during site visits, demonstrating how their space could be transformed through a headset. In the next 10 years, we’re likely to see an advancement in robotics and avatar technology, increasing the likelihood of ‘virtual’ delegates at events. While this could lead to a decrease in face-to-face interaction, it also opens up events to people from all locations. In addition to helping venues to measure ROI and ROE, new technology can also support companies in ensuring the right people attend their events. The use of photo recognition can reduce the issue of counterfeit entry, while integrating blockchain technology into software can be used for ticketing and registration. The key challenge for venues will be resisting the urge to use technology for the sake of technology. With so much on offer, companies will need a strategic plan for making the best possible use of new developments to ensure real benefits.



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