Eventful News: Hackers Ahoy, Leveling the Field, & the Rise of Gen Z

Is there something lurking in the shadows, waiting to potentially derail your event? For planners who are proactive and vigilant, probably not — but as we know, vigilance starts with awareness. This week, our main stories cover some of the areas in which planners can proactively solve event problems before they ever happen.

Don’t sleep on this week’s five biggest event news updates.

1. Hotel Hackers Are Hiding Behind the Remote Control Curtains (Bloomberg)

Hotels struggle with basic cybersecurity, but they house massive amounts of data, including personal information and behavior. It doesn’t take a data nerd to see why that’s a big problem for chains and patrons — and a huge opportunity for hackers. And it’s not just credit cards they’re after: Savvy hackers may be targeting personal behavior of high-profile hotel guests for blackmail and beyond. 

With the industry’s giants — Marriott, Hilton, & IHG — already falling victim to cybertheft, it’s past due for hotels and chains to pinpoint and fix some of the many hidden doors that roll out the red carpet for hackers. But at the same time, it’s imperative for planners and attendees to protect themselves by taking smart steps toward greater individual security.

Hotels might be a less obvious target, but they’re hacked almost as often because of the valuable data that passes through them, like credit cards and trade secrets. Thieves have targeted electronic door locks to burgle rooms and used malware attacks to log credit card swipes in real time. They’ve even used Wi-Fi to hijack hotels’ internal networks in search of corporate data.” – Patrick Clark, Bloomberg

What does it mean for planners?

Events can’t take hotel cybersecurity for granted, plain and simple. And that doesn’t stop at the level of the event. If attendees’ personal devices are connected to venue WiFi, they’re susceptible to being hacked too. Not to mention the credit card they used to book their share of the room block. 

Hotels need to make moves to lock data down at both the chain and franchise levels by targeting issues like outdated legacy systems. Still, in the meantime, there are some simple steps attendees should take to protect themselves — and it’s on event planners to help spread the word. Some of those tactics include:

  • Using plan data over WiFi on handheld devices
  • Booking with credit cards over debit cards (which offer more protection and more opportunity to recoup fraudulent charges)
  • Turning off file-sharing functionality when it’s not in use
  • Using a VPN for web-browsing, especially for banking and other sensitive sites   

What’s next? 

For hotels looking to beef up security, it’s not that simple. For one, outdated legacy systems such as PMS software are often used because there simply aren’t many more advanced options for hotels on the market. Meanwhile, many of the advances in services — mobile check-in, facial recognition, etc. — demanded by guests often come with potential security trade-offs. Hotels are stuck between a rock and a hard place on multiple fronts and need major technological innovation to help close the gap. 

Further Reading: 6 Cybersecurity Threats for Hotels 

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2. Boosting Female Participation Isn’t As Simple As Increasing Attendance (Mirage News)

A new Stanford study shows that closing the gender participation gap at scientific events isn’t as simple as boosting the number of female attendees. It’s also a matter of finding ways to encourage female attendees who do show to participate. 

By analyzing four years of meeting data, researchers found that women asked fewer questions than expected, proportionate to the overall percentage of attendees who were female. Even in fields such as Ethical, Legal, & Social issues where women made up a majority of the audience, they contributed a minority of overall questions asked of speakers.

I think there’s an idea that as soon as you reach proportionate ratios then the issues go away. But no. We found that even when men were 33 percent of attendees, they asked 55 percent of the questions.” -Natalie Telis, Study Creator

What does it mean for planners?

Events would do well to take a page out of the book of Natalie Telis, one of the two graduate students who carried out the research along with collaborator Emily Glassberg. Her solution was accidental, and quite simple: At a session at the 2015 Biology of Genomes meeting, she tweeted that only 11% of the questions came from female audience members, who made up 35% of the audience. 

In response, the meeting made a rule that the first question in each session had to come from a trainee, who made up a more diverse group. Women immediately began asking more questions and continued to do so throughout the course of the event. And while it may not be clear whether Telis’ tweet or the new rule had more of an impact, it’s very clear that both types of moves could make a positive difference. 

What’s next? 

As the example from the BOG meeting shows, increased participation can be a product of smart event design. With this data coming to light, events need to think how they can proactively set up to hear from more female participants.

  • Book more female speakers! The study showed that women are more likely to ask questions of female speakers, so booking more female speakers should result in more female participation
  • Create smart rules like the BOG did. The rule encouraged more female participation without actively focusing on or calling out women, perhaps making it more successful.
  • Draw attention to the problem. Attendees can’t collectively solve a problem, unless they’re collectively aware that it’s a problem. 

3. 5 Key Ways Brands Should Be Marketing to Generation Z (BizBash)

Generation Z, aka the 74 million Americans born between 1996 and 2012, are slowly gaining a larger share of the consumer marketing spotlight. And with $44 billion in spending power, it’s no wonder they were a hot topic at this year’s Digital Media Wire annual expo. Here are the five takeaways from DMW that events and brands can apply to their marketing mix to woo this demographic:

  1. Be real & authentic – As children of tumultuous times and the information age, they don’t appreciate when brands beat around the bush.
  2. Activists are their celebrities – Corporate responsibility is the expectation, not the exception.
  3. Incorporate their input – With so much information and connectivity in hand, Generation Z has no shortage of opinions or desire to collaborate.
  4. Don’t make them check boxes – They see identifiers such as gender and race more fluidly than any previous group.
  5. Make it interactive – For Gen Z, involvement equals engagement.

They see the world as it really is, and they are prepared to act and react accordingly… Zs are far more interested in the journey than what it’s going to feel like once you get there.” -Jayne Charneski, Founder of Front Row Insights & Strategy

What does it mean for planners?

For planners, each of the five takeaways point to the questions that need to be asked in an upcoming era where Gen Z calls the shots:

  1. Connection > Consumption – How can events be designed to create meaningful, deeper connections between attendees?
  2. Think globally, plan locally – In what ways are events leaving the world a better place in accordance with Gen Z ideals?
  3. Less talking, more sourcing – Is there room in sessions and panels for attendees to make their voices heard and drive the conversation?
  4. Make inclusive more than a buzzword – Does every attendee enjoy the same opportunity to feel safe, welcome, & heard?
  5. Leave linear at the door – How can you put the remote control in the hands of attendees?

What’s next?

In 2016, millennials became the largest segment in the U.S. labor force and events felt the shift as personalization and purpose came to define success. As millennials pass the torch to their younger Gen Z counterparts, another significant paradigm shift is inevitably in the works. These five takeaways start to illustrate that evolution, but for now are merely smoke signals from a fire that’s yet to burn. 

Further Reading: 6 Experiential Event Planning Trends & Ideas

19 Trends Shacking Up Events in 2019

4. Esports Are Making a Splash in the Events Industry (Trade Show News Network)

Don’t sleep on esports as a viable and rapidly-growing market segment. At least that’s what cities like San Diego, Dallas, Arlington, & Las Vegas — who have all seen massive return on their esports investments — have to say. As a global industry, esports is set to surpass $1 billion this year alone, with 380 million viewers tuning in just last year (165 million of whom qualify as “frequent viewers”). 

Corporate America has woken up to this phenomenon and they’re pumping dollars and investment into this market in unprecedented levels. These events bring in significant [revenue]…citywide events that are putting heads in beds and a market segment that’s new and growing.” -Neil Johnson, Director of Global Sales, MGM Resorts

What does it mean for planners?

With large-scale event bookings lagging for 2021, destinations and corporate planners alike are on the hunt for recession-proof segments. Competitive video gaming looks as though it could be one such candidate. In fact, as Mike Hunter, Director of Convention & Event Services for Arlington points out “Esports is already on track to have a global monthly audience larger than Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League.”

What’s next? 

In 2016, the bi-annual gaming convention TwitchCon took up 1.5 exhibit halls at the San Diego Convention Center. This year, it will fill four to five. Meanwhile, in early June, 31,000 attendees turned out for DreamHack, a gaming convention in Dallas that occupied a whopping 300,000 sq. ft. of events space. There’s seemingly no end in sight for esports growth, which promises to pump timely money into the pockets of planners, venues, & destinations via massive events. 

5. Group Occupancy for Hotels Poised to Drop Over the Next Year (Meetings & Conventions)

Hotel occupancy declined 3.8% in Q2 of 2019, according to the TravelClick May 2019 North American Hospitality Review. Meanwhile, the same report projected a 0.7% decline in group bookings over the next 12 months. 

While recent statistics show encouraging news, there remains concern on 2019 overall demand.” -John Hach, TravelClick Senior Industry Analyst

What does it mean for planners?

With home sharing popularity on the rise amongst planners and event patrons, these numbers may not indicate anything of alarm. However, with event bookings trending toward a potential dry spell in 2021, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

What’s next?

The Q2 decline in bookings wasn’t just a group occupancy phenomenon — it spanned all travel segments. If the trend continues, it could potentially slow down development in the hotel supply pipeline, to offset potential declines in ADR (average daily rate). That could mean less new options for planners looking for fresh venues.

Published July 11, 2019

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