WHO WILL WIN AND WHO WILL LOSE? AND, HOW TO WIN.
Virtual reality, drones, artificial intelligence, big data, live streaming, the list of buzzwords “revolutionizing events” is endless, and therefore meaningless. If everything is a threat to the events industry, then nothing is.
Instead, consider that a majority of Americans do not have someone they trust to call in a crisis. The British found it better to be separate from Europe than united. And lastly, over half a million Japanese young adults do not leave their home for weeks. We do not have to wonder whether the events industry should grow. People desperately need events to connect and form meaningful relationships.
Look at SXSW, CES, Burning Man; these events do something special to elevate themselves from the mundane to be inspiring, and captivating. They attract the most engaged and engaging, thrill seeking, and thrilling, the most valuable, and valuing. They attract the absolute best members of their respective communities. But, how? To answer, we must understand what is disrupting these communities, the people who become members, and the marketing needed to attract those people.
People are being disrupted as they live increasingly digital lives. Every moment is known by Google and Facebook. Yet, we have a decreasing sense of being known by other people. As people feel more disconnected, events where people find a sense of connection, like Burning Man, will find immense demand. Even amongst video gamers, a new event category has exploded; gamers not only want to compete, but also meet in real life.
These digital lives mean communities can and ought to be much more specialized. An entrepreneur inventing a better drone has many more options than her town electronics club. She can belong to a specialized global drone group and speak with numerous other drone entrepreneurs, fans, and enthusiasts daily, thousands of miles away. To compete, events will need to be much more tailored to each community and individual.
As digital consumes more time, marketing can become better targeted to those engaging, and interesting people. The challenge is this: marketing to those who are the most targeted. So, what will cut through the noise and pull digital denizens away from their screens? It will be the chance to meet those exciting, talented, innovative, people in real life. We suggest that the unique selling proposition of events is the thing we must focus on. As is clear with Burning Man where neither the food, nor location, nor entertainment is the attraction. It is entirely the people.
In total, this will mean deep disruption for the industry. As communities become more global, and marketing becomes more scalable, the best organizers will win increasing portions of a growing industry. The rest will lose. As with Uber, and Airbnb, highly fragmented industries with significant pain points will be won by a handful of companies who solve those pains. In events, the winners will be those who are the best at engaging specialized communities, attracting and partnering with their most valuable members, and leveraging those members to be advocates who attract even more.