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Tablets. Social mediaQR codes. Hybrid events. All of those have redefined tradeshow and event marketing in 2011, so what will 2012 bring? How can marketers embrace the latest trends to make their events more exciting and engaging?

Here are my four event-marketing predictions for 2012.

1. The use of RFID and social-enabled sharing will increase

Because of smartphones, photo-sharing and location check-ins are no-brainers. And marketers, as well as tradeshow and event attendees, have been using smartphones to share their event experiences via Facebook photo albums, TwitPic, Flickr, and so on.

But 2012 could well bring automatic social-enabled sharing thanks to radio frequency identification (RFID). The Ushuaia Beach Hotel in Ibiza, Spain, and Great Wolf Lodge in the US began pilot RFID programs that automatically share guests' photos and activity on Facebook. With RFID, no computers or smartphones are needed to make social updates (especially beneficial when you're hanging by a pool!).

Hotel guests set up a RFID wristband at check-in and connect it to their Facebook profile. When they swipe their wristbands at special check-in locations, a photo or other content automatically posts to their Facebook page.

As RFID costs continue to decrease and its availability widens, the event-marketing possibilities for RFID social-enabled sharing greatly increases. For example, companies could use an RFID-enabled strategy to set up a photo-sharing station for event attendees to automatically post pics of themselves with an industry expert or celebrity.

Or, attendees could be rewarded for multiple RFID demo-station visits, with fun product facts being posted to Facebook at each check-in. A show organizer could create an RFID show-floor tour that would guide attendees to booths introducing new products. That strategy would increase attendee engagement and stretch the event experience to guests' social networks—greatly increasing visibility for a company and its offerings.

2. New video marketing opportunities will emerge

The power of video continues to generate big headlines. According to a ComScore report, nearly 200 million users watched online video content in August 2011. That month, viewers watched video for an average of 18 hours per person, and US Internet audiences engaged in 6.9 billion video viewing sessions.

Though tradeshow and event marketers have begun embracing the power of online video, 2012 will offer them new opportunities. Go beyond the best-practice of using an event to generate video content, such as vlogs, customer testimonials, product demonstrations, or expert interviews.

Consider using live video streaming to extend your event's reach and bring your story to life for a larger audience. For example, a keynote session could be broadcast to your event-specific microsite, allowing nonattendees to hear trends or an executive's high-level vision. Or, remote product experts could be brought into booth panel discussions via video, saving travel costs and limiting time away from the office.

3. Event marketers will have more ways to go mobile

More than five billion (yes, billion) people worldwide are mobile users—meaning more than three-quarters of the planet is mobile! Mobile app downloads are projected to reach 98 billion by 2015!

2012 will bring more ways for marketers to extend their event programs to those on the go.

Though SMS/MMS campaigns have been used to deliver event text updates or promote special events, show organizers will start embracing more robust event mobile apps. In 2011, Sundance Film Festival organizers developed an event app that allowed users to subscribe to email updates, tell friends about the app with pre-filled messages, and make Gowalla (a location-based service) check-ins.

Beyond being environmentally friendly and serving as a potential additional revenue stream, mobile event apps can create a better attendee experience. Real-time conference information, enhanced on-site networking, surveys and polling, and better measurement could mean big payoffs. But beware of the potential need to make enough bandwidth available; no sense in trying to boost the attendee experience if guests can't enjoy the features!

4. Cause-related marketing activity will rise

In recent years, companies have been increasing initiatives around social and charitable causes. Some even have foundations dedicated to philanthropic causes related to their products and solutions. Ben & Jerry's has long been committed to Fair Trade and was the first company to use Fair Trade ingredients in its ice cream.

As shows and industries limit or suspend giveaways, marketers will incorporate more cause-related marketing activities within their events in the upcoming year. Cause-related marketing is ripe for PR and buzz, and doing good in the world builds brand goodwill. Rather than investing in giveaways with limited post-show life, including a cause-related initiative at your show will allow attendees to feel part of something meaningful.

Creating a cause-related activity doesn't have to cost a lot of money, and it can be very simple. For example, you could ask attendees to view one or more demos in your booth to support a charitable gift. Or, you could use a booth photo activity to create a living "charity wall," with every photo taken resulting in a donation. Event attendees, for example, could collaborate in building playground equipment or a bench for a local school.

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Do you think we'll see more of those technologies and tactics next? Or is there another big trend coming in 2012?

(Image courtesy of Bigstock, Predicting the Future.)

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image of Kristin Veach

Kristin Veach is chief communications and growth strategist at experiential marketing agency Live Marketing, where she is responsible for driving results using online strategies for live events.

LinkedIn: Kristin Veach

Twitter: @Kristin_Veach