Prevue Exclusive: Event Marketing Trends with Amex GBT

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event marketing trends
Milton Rivera, Vice President of Global Custom Event Services and Venue Sourcing with Amex GBT

Amex GBT’s Milton Rivera gives the inside scoop on the event marketing trends revealed in the company’s recent survey data.

Just as meetings are evolving from listen-and-learn to highly personalized, experiential events, event marketing also is changing at a rapid pace. A new survey from American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) Meeting & Events’ new Experience Studio reveals the results of a deep dive into the company’s own meetings and events (M&E) data, as well as other industry resources and a global survey of around 300 marketing and communication professionals, to suss out the latest in event marketing trends.

While there are many interesting nuggets to dig into, “What came to the surface, very clearly and not surprisingly, is that content is the number-one priority,” says Milton Rivera, Vice President of Global Custom Event Services and Venue Sourcing with Amex GBT. “Being able to put out a clear message in an era that has become more difficult over the past four years is absolutely critical.”

Prevue recently sat down with Rivera to learn more about the survey results and the new team that produced them.

Prevue: Let’s start off with learning a bit more about the new Amex GBT Experience Studio.

Rivera: It’s a new — in fact, it just launched last Monday — specialized team that is focused on delivering an event from end-to-end, from outcomes-based concept all the way to the delivery of an event, in a way that makes the team an extension of the customer’s team.

We had pockets of this in different areas of our event business in different areas around the world, but it tended to stay on the local level. So what happened in Spain stayed in Spain and what happened in the U.S. stayed in the U.S. Now we’ve globalized the team and positioned them to be able to help customers, particularly event marketing customers, to help them convert a message into an experience wherever they are.

Think of it as taking a story from a book to a movie — you need to have someone write a screenplay in between to create that new experience. And we can help do that on a regional, country-specific or global level.

Prevue: You said that content being the number-one priority was the key topline result from the survey. How does that relate to the rest of the results?

Rivera: The use of technology and leveraging new tech like AI spun out of those conversations on how to deliver and improve upon that content.

For example, 59% of respondents said they use mobile event apps. That number is probably higher, since the percentage likely would increase as events got bigger. They’re also using QR codes in creative ways during events to monitor how attendees are moving around the event and what information they’re interested in.

On-site check-in tools also have gotten a lot more sophisticated compared to the old, cumbersome registration systems.

Prevue: Also not surprising is that artificial intelligence, or AI, came up in the survey results.

Rivera: It’s a popular topic. Whether you’re at a lunch or just getting a drink at a water fountain, you know when those two little letters come up that you’re in for a 20-minute conversation. It was no different in our survey — there was interest in how to use it and what the possibilities are moving forward.

But the underlying theme of all the research, as well as anecdotally in discussions we have with customers, is creativity. After the past four years [of the COVID pandemic and recovery], event marketers are all thinking about how to create a memorable event. It’s not for the faint of the heart these days, because making something that’s memorable is very difficult — and it gets more difficult every year.

Prevue: Is that why almost half, 44%, ranked creativity as the top determining factor, even above price?

Rivera: Yes, creativity plays a huge role in everything, not only in the event’s concept but even in how they use tools like event technology. That they ranked creativity above price speaks volumes.

While price continues to be important, of course, you don’t want to be penny-wise and pound foolish. If creativity falls behind, if you sacrifice one for the other, you will have the downstream impact on lost opportunity with attendees.

Prevue: Sustainability and inclusivity also came up in the survey results.

Rivera: Many global brands, as well as regional brands, have publicly stated sustainability goals. Showcasing sustainability at the event demonstrates to attendees that the brand really stands behind those publicly stated goals. It’s also a way to connect with and engage attendees — if they go to an event and sees there’s no plan for waste management and plastic water bottles are everywhere, attendees will see the disconnect and disengage.

Inclusivity, like sustainability, go hand in hand as another thing most brands have publicly stated goals around. It’s important to attendees, and they will notice. It’s good marketing practice as well as being the right thing to do.

Prevue: Personalization also was a big trend identified in the survey.

Rivera: We’ve been talking about the importance of knowing your target audience and building personas for a long time. Now more than ever, knowing that target audience is super critical, not just a nice-to-have so everyone enjoys the events. If you don’t know who your target audience is, some of these other trends will be awfully hard to incorporate effectively. And it keeps changing. Every five years or so, another generation matures into attending events, and there’s a new target audience you need to be keen on.

Prevue: One of my favorite quotes from the report was, “In a world where attention is the new currency, focusing on engagement is a smart investment.” I read that as meaning you need to use all these tools to provide new and different ways to engage people.

Rivera: It’s the engagement that’s going to link attendees to your brand message, and to your brand itself. I don’t think anyone’s figured out the exact currency exchange between that price/engagement piece, but we all know that it’s super valuable.

While we’ve all known this for a while, the stars are beginning to align now where everyone is understanding that engagement is the new currency. We might finally be on the track of getting a determination on how these two metrics line up.

Prevue: The report says this is especially important for product launches, incentives and special events where branding is such a key goal, but one could argue that it’s important for any type of event, right?

Rivera: Good point, yes, it does go beyond marketing-based events. While the elements we’ve been talking about may manifest differently, but if you’re going to bring people together, there should be an objective and a lot of thought around how to bring creativity into the engagement message.

Prevue: The report also talked about the importance of partnerships.

Rivera: Yes, it takes partnerships to put an experience together — you can’t do it alone. You need the support of a communication agency, and the destination itself, to find ways to create unique and engaging experiences. When you have long-standing partnerships, you don’t have to recreate the wheel every time you create a new experience, particularly with today’s shorter lead times, which means having to execute quite quickly. Those partnerships also provide confidence because you know they already understand your strategy and can help you execute everything according to plan.

What we hope to bring to our customers is ways to create experiences that drive engagement, which is the main currency we’re striving for today.

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