At EventTech 2017, we saw the nation’s leading experiential marketing specialists offer their insights into how the new year — 2018 — will change the industry. Naturally, our own Erin Mills was a featured speaker.

In her presentation, Erin demonstrated that experiential marketing firms are going to spend 2018 leveraging new and developing technologies to generate B-to-B conference and event content that’s more democratic and more responsive than it’s ever been before.

Here’s how…

1. We’re Going to Unconference the Conference

In 2018, experiential marketing firms will use both digital and analogue strategies to develop more insightful content. We’re going to prioritize the interests of attendees, collecting data about their curiosities and concerns before and during events. We’ll adopt a live-or-die mentality, pushing for plasticity in schedules and presentations so that we can feature content that’s generated in the moment.

2. We’re Going to Savvy Up Our Social

Every year, experiential marketing firms work harder to push content beyond the confines of activation sites. In 2018, we’re going to work smarter too.

This year, a hashtag isn’t going to be enough. We’re going to push for better and farther-reaching applications of the hashtag while also developing discrete, medium-specific strategies. We’re going to extend the reach of live events and marketing stunts by cascading content through influencers who will keep broader audiences apprised of when to watch, where to watch, and what they’re watching.

3. We’re Going to Make Things Personal

In 2016 and 2017, conference and event technology was used to WOW — to create distance between attendees and the hardware and software of the future. But in 2018, the best experiential marketing firms are going to invert that strategy and use technology to close distances between people, technologies, and brands.

We’ve always sought to personalize and customize giveaways, but in 2018, that trend is going to mushroom-cloud. Likewise, we’re going to give attendees new ways to make things personal with photo op technologies that do things like shoot images in 360 degrees and instantly print and mail hardcopies. We’re going to put attendees in wearables as often as we can in order to enhance networking possibilities and pinpoint the needs and desires of individual attendees. And we’re going to feature skeuomorphic technologies like digital white boards and e-ink devices to close the gap between what’s digital and what’s analogue — what’s distant and what’s personal.

4. We’re Going to Turn What’s Offsite On

360-video and VR are getting better every day. In 2018, experiential marketing firms are going to apply these technologies to extend live experiences across cities, states, and countries. We’re going to bring 360-degree logic to the selection and design of event marketing venues while developing branded viewing suites to tap into the potential for infinitely-large live audiences.

Oh, and in 2018, we’re going to see haptic feedback technologies transport virtual reality and 360-video into the fourth dimension.

5. We’re Going To Move Data Out of Beta

As experiential marketing specialists, we deliver both tune-in and retention. To guarantee delivery, enhance experiences, and learn as much as we can as fast as we can, we’re going to take advantage of all the new ways to measure and analyze — both in real-time and in post. Wearables, facial recognition, and gaze-based interfaces are just a few of the data-collecting tools that we’re going to be utilizing this year. We also might just end up going directly to the source, taking a look inside consumers’ heads with EEG monitoring. Seriously.

This is all by way of saying that in 2018, we’re going to say goodbye and good riddance to one-size-fits all experiential marketing events. Now that fragmented media and on-demand entertainment have crystalized as the new normal, it’s more important than ever that brands deliver customized, personalized, and digitized experiences. And it’s clearer than ever that the only way to cut through the device-driven noise is to communicate with audiences face-to-face. In 2018, experiential marketing will remain the best strategy for creating quality impressions that convert consumers into evangelists.

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about building a campaign targeted at Generation X.