The Collins Dictionary defines an event as something that happens, especially something unusual or important.
When put like that, receiving a great reward could be called a mini-event.
So, what happens when you seize the opportunity to reward as part of your events and conferences?
It’s a powerful combination.
Done right, rewards create experiences that leave a lasting impression. Ones that should ignite a hint of excitement whenever you think of the brand that rewarded you.
Branded events, where people come together to share, connect and engage, have a similar effect. That emotional engagement factor. Which is important because, as neuroscientists have taught us, the decision-making process is rational and emotional.
Put events and rewards together and you get a turbo-charged space in which to really connect with your audience one-on-one.
This concept is especially important, given that we’re entering into an interesting period. Technological advancement continues to be a driving force for much change. At times it feels like we are hurtling toward complete gadget domination. But with the demand for quality customer experiences, there seems to be a little backswing towards good, old fashioned, real-life stuff.
Enter the events Renaissance
At a time when customers have extreme buying power, the focus is about creating experiences (not just driving sales). The kind that forever bonds a business to loyal brand fans. Many organisations have set their sights on the digital realm for this kind of activity. So much so that even the retail sector has been questioning the need for brick and mortar spaces.
But AI, social media, chatbots, and all the other modern technological advancements still need to be supported by face-to-face connections, real-life moments and tangible rewards.
We are still inherently human.
Which means we crave a sense of community. We trust someone we’ve made eye contact with more than an email or Instagram post. And we feel more emotionally connected to brands we’ve experienced with our own five senses.
Events are the perfect tool with which to engage in real life.
Which is probably why there’s a resurgence happening in terms of events and meetings. In fact, in its ‘Meetings & Events Trend Report 2019’, leading global conference and event management company, CWT forecasts that:
“The unprecedented rise in demand for meetings and events will continue this year. We predict a robust 5-10% growth in demand.”
The emotional power of events and rewards
The ILEA quoted from their Global Summit Event that “people who are emotionally engaged are more susceptible to feel positive about a brand and more likely to remember a core message favourably. Events are the most effective means to facilitate this feeling.”
But with so many people in attendance, how do you hone in and really connect with each individual? The answer we know to be true is well-curated rewards. Not mass produced goodie bags or branded caps and t-shirts. We’re talking about a thoughtful desk drop that arrives once someone has signed up for your event. Or something embedded in the brand experience, like a personalised notebook that includes a unique event itinerary.
Eventbrite recently published a list of event predictions for 2019 and we’ve enriched them with reward suggestion to further illustrate this point:
Trend #1 Personalise everything
From your very own voice assistant, to VIP experiences for uber loyal fans, this trend is about satisfying the needs of your guests (and then some). Tech has made this easier to achieve, but personalised rewards are the obvious root to take if you really want to hit the mark.
Think drip marketing before the event, where your communications about vendors specials, sponsor giveaways and secret speaker moments are all personalised to different customer groups.
Or how about communications and discounts for past attendees based on what they enjoyed last year? Adding a sense of familiarity so you feel like old friends.
You could also create VIP experiences for ‘successful’ attendees. Using data to define who qualifies - someone who completes a task, people who engage with key scenarios at your event - you decide what merits the reward.
Trend #2 Social responsibility and purpose
This trend is about taking guests on an emotional journey that connects to social or environmental issues. The aim, to make the event more memorable and topical.
Adding a charitable giving gift card heightens the do-good experience. Giving back to the charity of your guest’s choice is also a way to strengthen the experience of purpose and meaning you create at the event.
Trend #3 The five senses
Event organisers are going to be trying to include all five senses in the experiences they create this year. Particularly the sense of smell. Think a summer party with the smell of the ocean and the sounds of waves crashing. Or the delightful aroma of freshly baked cookies wafting through the auditorium at a psychology conference on how to create happiness . . . freshly brewed coffee smells for an innovators meeting.
Rewards that enrich this brilliant, new concept are the kind that allows people to take a little piece of the experience home with them. Five senses gift boxes are the perfect example - something they can see, smell, touch, taste and listen to at home.
Trend #4 Money can't buy experiences
Creating the WOW factor has always been important for event organisers. Today, the venue itself seems to be the main part of that strategy. Planners are looking for more than just a conference hall. They want a space that has a special storyline. Something that guests can engage with.
Rewarding with local restaurant gift cards, museum memberships and local attraction tours create the opportunity to extend that storyline. Cultivating an event experience that is so much more than the time attendees spend with you and your brand.
Trend #5 Wellness
The concept of health and wellness is on everyone’s minds. The idea of wellbeing at the office is something that most companies are looking at too. So events will, of course, also be tapping into that theme this year. With calm areas, spaces to think and reflect and smaller sessions that run for shorter periods of time.
A retreat getaway, yoga class, personal training vouchers or gym membership are obvious ways to reward guests. But injecting wellness moments into the event itself is an even more meaningful endeavour. Think meditation moments or a spa area where attendees are cared for during breaks.
Trend #6 Techie gadgets
This year, you may find you are checked in to an event with facial recognition tech or, have all your questions answered by a chatbot. But the biggest trend for conferences this year will be wearable tech (smart watches, wristbands and badges). These are real-time devices that will heighten guest experiences. And also, create opportunities for lots of data collection (pop quizzes, Q&A sessions, preferences).
This tech stuff allows for the automation of rewards. Creating a points system for the event itself brings a little gamification into the experience. Check in and get 50 points. Answer the quiz and get 100 points. Get 200 points and earn yourself a free coffee.
Seize the opportunity to reward
The opportunity to reward at events is not just a novel idea. It’s backed by numbers.
Firstly, a recent Harvard Business Review survey highlighted that; “52% of respondents found that event marketing drove more business value than other marketing channels.”
And secondly, as end-to-end recognition and rewards specialists, we can tell you that rewarding your customers and employees is good business. You’re establishing yourself within micro-moments as a positive force in people’s lives. Not to mention the fact that 75% of South African consumers use loyalty programs. Which further highlights just how receptive people are to incentives and recognition.
Together, rewards and events create a solid foundation on which to build a loyal fan base. Not to mention other benefits like ROI, and customer and client acquisition.
Ready to work with a reliable reward partner to boost your events with rewards? We’re specialists in the recommendation, selection, sourcing and supply of tangible and virtual rewards. Find out more.
About Alana Moyes
Alana is a content creator and consultant who helps business owners find their authentic brand story.