by JR Sherman | March 24, 2015
A growing awareness of face-to-face engagement effectiveness, as well as the significant percentage of budget allocated to meetings, events, and travel (MET) will prove to make 2015 a milestone year in elevating the measurement of these practices on the fiscal priority list.  As we see continued consolidation of meetings and events processes and solutions, increasing numbers of organizations will optimize their Strategic Meetings Platforms to aggregate additional pockets of spend in all functions, delivering new levels of efficiency to their bottom line. Equally, we will see tangible ROI growth achieved by connecting participant experiences with cutting edge tech that maximizes "So-Lo-Mo" (social, local and mobile) engagement to deliver increasingly relevant content throughout the year.

Social. One of the top reasons participants invest in attending face-to-face events is the chance to network and learn from peers and industry experts. Until recently, it was difficult to facilitate networking at an event and draw true value from the activity. Most efforts left attendees wandering around events squinting at badges in a futile search to connect with the right person to advance their career or business. Today, new technologies within mobile apps can help enable networking and even make recommendations that facilitate one-on-one meetings. In addition, the latest event apps allow attendees to share event content and discussions before and beyond the venue through social channels such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

Local. With advancements in new mobile technology leveraging advanced applications of Wi-Fi and iBeacon capabilities, event planners are able to communicate with attendees based on where they are physically located, and deliver personalized relevant content based on knowledge gained through their registration, onsite activities, previous engagements or their overall customer profile. It is now possible for an attendee to receive tailored messages on a device at the exact moment they are walking past a booth or session and are in the optimal position to act on them.

Mobile. Use of mobile apps before, onsite, and after events will continue to become the norm to enhance both the participant experience and to help planners engage with more relevant content and stay connected with participants throughout the year. In 2015, we will continue to see improvements in personalization and recommendations, enhanced networking like one-on-on meetings that will extend long before and after the actual meetings and events.

Everyone is on board with mobile being a great tool to deepen engagement, but the trends in 2015 go beyond new technology.  Real success will come in connecting participant experiences throughout the year or the customer lifecycle, across a portfolio of face-to-face investments in meeting and events, to drive growth for the organization and efficiency at the bottom line. To do that you have to use systems that allow you to tie that data together and to understand what you spent to get that information, so you have both the "return" and the "investment" of ROI.

JR Sherman is President and Chief Strategy Officer of Lanyon, whose clients include 80 percent of the Fortune 100 companies, 80 percent of the Business Travel News Corporate Travel 100, and over 10,000 small-to-mid-sized businesses and associations around the world. In 2013, Sherman was named one of Business Travel News' top 25 most influential executives.