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By Callum Gill, Head of Insight and Innovation at creative experience agency drp

As technology maintains its seemingly unstoppable march and the millennial generation officially becomes the largest demographic at work, 2019 promises to deliver a year of transformation for event design, but also of opportunity. There are three main factors that will drive this change, two of them I have just mentioned, people and technology. The third is often overlooked and it is by far the most relevant when we have conversations around event design for 2019. It’s tolerance. I don’t mean tolerance in the traditional sense, but in fact, what type of experiences our audiences are willing to tolerate. We live in a world of immersive, personalised experienced, fuelled and enhanced by technology with brands and experiences, designers falling over themselves to impress an experience mad demographic. This volume of experiences available is making the millennials event connoisseurs, and this poses a problem for event designers.

Event Sommeliers

The millennial generation uses social media to display and denote status among their peers, events are the currency which buys status. Unlike Baby Boomers and Gen X, millennials will not tolerate shoddy event experiences when they have so much exceptional choice on offer. This means we must start thinking like they do and understanding their event priorities.

Our events must incorporate social, whether they are internal or external and this is proving a bitter pill to swallow for some brands who fear free reign in the social space. We must also create personalised and interactive content that doesn’t revolve around sitting for hours in plenary sessions. Our content needs to become modular, adaptable and even changeable mid-event. In December we delivered film content to a client where viewers actively chose which path the content would take (created and delivered pre Black Mirror Bandersnatch thank you very much) and we have been experimenting with beacon technology, to direct event traffic and even live update people’s breakout and interactive sessions based on their changing event priorities.

Machine & Peer Learning

We are also beginning to incorporate voice search and virtual assistants into our event design. By 2020 over half of all searches will be performed by voice search, and 20% will be performed without any screen at all. Touch screen agendas and info points are on the way out and we need to understand now how we design engaging content that operates via voice and AI.

All event designers must also keep a close eye on the rise and rise of influencer marketing. This is not just a digital phenomenon. Last year, Paris Fashion Week opened their show, with all the high-end designers you would expect, only all the models were YouTube and Instagram influencers. Using these guys instead of models more than tripled Paris Fashion Week’s engagement from the previous year, not to mention the increased reach accessing all the followers simultaneously as content was drip fed post-event. With marketers reporting influencer-lead campaigns on Instagram being 90% more effective, and utilising peer influences at internal events amplifying reach across businesses by 561%, we need to ensure this is in our strategy for 2019 event design. Deploying faceless, brand henchmen to do our dirty work won’t cut it with our new expert audience.

The Fly in the Ointment

One of the biggest unknowns surrounding the future of event design is the advent of 5G. We really can’t predict the impact it will have. If we revisit 4G, without it, we wouldn’t have video-laden social mobile services, Uber, Airbnb, the list goes on. Nobody predicted these innovations and the developers capitalised on the strength of a signal to surprise us all. 5G will be similar. What we probably can assume is the continued importance of VR and AR at events will be supercharged. With services like Facebook Spaces getting a significant push in 2019, the advent of 5G will no doubt also see the rise off our first truly virtual delegates. It’s an exciting time to be in event design if we remember technology is just the delivery system. First and foremost, our content needs to hit the emotional mark. Let’s keep a keen eye on our audiences, their behaviours and challenges and design experiences that do what they want, not what we want.


Callum Gill, Head of Insight and Innovation at creative experience agency drp is a researcher, insight specialist and futurist with extensive speaking experience across the UK and Europe. Callum weaves together the latest trends governing communication with the best practice approaches demonstrable across the diverse field of comms into manageable and tangible actions for his clients. Callum’s areas of interest and speciality are the changing technologies available to comms professionals and the rise of the millennial generation into the comms space and what this means for brands.

Callum is a regular panellist at key industry events talking on these subjects including the Festival of Marketing, Technology for Marketers, Tech XLR8, Event Tech Talks, brand reputation and management events and many more. Callum is regularly called upon in the industry press, including CorpComms and Communicate Magazine, to comment and guest blog on topics including the future of comms, reaching new audiences and how tech will shape our industry.

Callum’s recent projects for drp have seen him embark on a UK and European tour with Worcester Bosch speaking to audiences about the new communication generation and their technological preferences. He has worked with NHS Scotland to help design their 2018 communication strategy, designed a global innovation fair alongside drp’s creativeand events experts for insurance Giants XL Catlin, at which he will present. Consulted withSainsbury’s on how they can improve comms with the millennial generation by accessing own-device strategies and has presented to C-Suite level directors at Lloyds Banking group about the future consumer.