What will the new year bring? No one knows for sure, but here are my predictions for how 2019 will play out in the conference industry.
1) A continued focus on AI content/conferences. Many tech luminaries are predicting that 2019 will be the year AI grows up or becomes more applicable to a broader group of people and businesses. If that is the case, there will be plenty to talk about and conference agenda will continue to include AI case studies and debates. I predict that most of the conference material will be focused on real world applications, illustrating how others are actually using this technology.
2) An increased focus on Quantum Computing sessions/conferences. Last month, U.S. Congress passed the National Quantum Initiative Act, a bill aimed at accelerating the development of quantum computing. This technology has the potential to transform many industries, but also poses security risks. Business leaders are interested in understanding its impact and how they should prepare. Expect to see more tracks and standalone conferences dedicated to Quantum Computing in 2019.
3) More companies creating their own conferences for customers and partners. There are several long-running events in this category, hosted by industry giants… IBM Think, Salesforce Dreamforce, RSA Conference. Hosting a conference is a great way to control your message, generate buzz around product launches or announcements, and combat the shrinking keynote timeslots at industry conferences (now averaging 15 – 20 minutes). 2018 saw even more company-run conferences, such as Magic Leap’s LEAP event in September. 2019 will bring much of the same.
4) Another big conference bites the dust. I expect one of the big trade associations will end a long-running conference. This typically happens when established conference groups – either media publications or an overseas conference producer swoops in and draws away attendance and sponsorship dollars. We saw this in recent years with the demise of NCTA’s Cable Show and NRF’s Shop.org. Who’s next?
5) Fewer one-on-one fireside chats at business and technology media conferences. Audiences want variety and interaction. They want insights into what executives are thinking and doing with regards to new trends and technologies. For this reason, conference managers have limited the number of single speaker sessions and have increased the number of mini-panels and expanded fireside chats – two execs and a moderator on stage. This provides varied perspectives on a topic and seems to keep the audience more engaged.
6) A resurgence of the more convenient conference locations. New Orleans and Miami had been gaining in popularity as conference locations over the past few years, but ease of travel will become even more important in 2019. New York, San Francisco, LA and maybe even Chicago will be popular as ever as busy executives try to maximize or decrease their travel time.
7) Media publications continue to increase their conference presence. Businesses tend to follow the money, and print publications are not as lucrative as they once were. There is money to be had in the conference industry, however. For this reason, we will continue to see media companies increase their conference lineup in 2019, utilizing their established brand/connections to sign up attendees and sponsors and their market knowledge to build relevant and timely agenda.