5 Events Trends that are Impacting Event Planners
As a culture, we’ve come to think of trends as short-lived things. Something that’s “trending” is only expected to live at the top of our cultural awareness for a short time before it disappears.
But true trends survive much longer than merely a couple of days. Trends can alter movements, change trajectories, and upend norms.
Event planners know only too well how important it is to stay informed of the latest trends impacting their industry. Fall behind or miss out and you’ll soon discover that attendance at your events is falling behind as well.
A recent study (supported by the PCMA Foundation and Marriott International) called the “Future of Meetings & Events” has identified five trends that are going to impact the business events industry over the next five years. Let’s take a look at these trends and the effect they will have on your upcoming events.
Trend #1: Emotional Intelligence
The first trend listed in the report is emotional intelligence or designing with the end-user in mind.
Attendees expect events to understand them and cater to them on an individual level. From the report, “According to a survey from Selligent Marketing Cloud, 74 percent of consumers expect companies to treat them as individuals, rather than as part of a consumer segment (e.g. ‘millennial’ or ‘suburban mother’).” Consumers expect to be presented with experiences that affect them on an emotional level – and to do that event planners need to understand their attendees fully.
The report used an example of an airline trade show booth where the goal was to encourage credit card signups. “The solution that we reached was an immersive trampoline, where the higher you jump, the more miles you got on your card. We built an emotional environment based off of data and people had a great time.”
What this means for your event is that you will need to be very precise in your data gathering. You will need to be able to create an event where you play host to hundreds or thousands of people, yet it feels like it is tailored to each individual participant.
To achieve this, attendees will need to be willing to part with their data. While there may be some initial privacy concerns, visitors are usually comfortable with data collection, as long as it is being used to improve their experience. You will need to be fully transparent about what data you are collecting and what the end use will be.
Trend #2: Orchestrated Serendipity
Orchestrated serendipity, which the report defines as engineering and embracing the unexpected for more meaningful moments, is the second trend.
Technology is such a ubiquitous presence in our lives that we can answer nearly any question just by asking a digital assistant. This ever-present tech has also scheduled our lives down to the second. We don’t go anywhere without our devices, which means we’re never away from the rigors and pressures of daily life.
Orchestrated serendipity is the ability to add unexpected experiences into the lives of event attendees. Two possible examples presented in the report are the flexibility to “adapt the agenda to reflect the weather - moving a lecture outside if it’s sunny or holding breakout groups around a fireside if it’s stormy” and designing “some programming explicitly with the intent of cancelling it, creating ‘free moments’ for participants to explore.”
As technology is making remote attendance easier, in-person attendees are going to expect to be rewarded for their presence with “experiential magic” and unexpected occurrences. A break from the expected can fill an attendee with a sense of surprise and fun – and it is something that you “had to be there” to fully appreciate.
Trend #3: Multimodal Design
Designing for adaptation and iteration, also known as multimodal design, is the notion that spaces will need to become compliant so they can easily adjust to every possible need for an event.
Our modern expectations are for the spaces we inhabit to conform to our wants and needs. It’s why offices now look like coffee shops – and coffee shops (gyms, etc.) have plenty of office-like spaces. Our movie theaters resemble living rooms (and our living rooms look like movie theaters). The way we live and work is multi-purpose, and we expect the events we attend to be the same (look no further than the recent popularity of wellness events for proof).
Event planners will need to work with venues to create flexible and accommodating spaces that can seamlessly flow from a yoga space to a breakout session to a dance floor. “At events, participants will increasingly look for spaces that are designed for discrete needs, including wellness rooms, quiet workspaces, intimate settings, and loud, exciting spaces – each presented at the right time and to the right calibration.”
One idea from the report suggests that we are not far from 3D printing, single-use, purpose-built spaces for conferences that, afterward, can be placed in the ocean to biodegrade with no environmental impact.
Trend #4: Bigger than Oneself
Sustainability, corporate responsibility, social good: these are terms that have been part of our collective vocabulary for decades now. However, people will not accept simple lip service. They expect organizations that state these priorities to visibly and clearly demonstrate their commitment to them.
“The devil is in the details. I see these organizations that put on events about sustainability, but then they don't give you a refillable water bottle and have disposable plastic all over the place. You've got to pay attention to the details,” Amy Blackman, Senior Advisor for A Hundred Years, said in the report.
Events will need to fully embrace a message and demonstrate that commitment every step of the way. “Consistency is key, and event strategists will need to ensure that every detail is aligned with an event’s message and that participants hear the message throughout.”
More and more, people will gravitate toward events hosted by or that are in support of organizations that align with their core values. As long as those events display a clear commitment to their values, they will continue to attend for years.
Trend #5: Clear Sense of Place
Consumers want new experiences, and events are ideally positioned to deliver those experiences. However, events that routinely appear in the same city and the same convention center, again and again, will find that attendees begin to drift away.
Instead, events need to be held in the cultural center of a city, where art, entertainment, authentic restaurants, and active nightlife is just around the corner. Attendees will want to get out and explore everything their destination city has to offer, and it is an event planner’s job to make that as easy as possible. “Consumers aren’t just looking to taste local cuisine but learn to cook it themselves. They’re not just looking to meet the locals but actually live with them and experience their everyday lives.”
For events, this is another excellent way to encourage in-person attendance. Virtual attendees are valuable, but they will never replace physical participation. Event planners need to use the destination city as a lure and emphasize its cultural benefits and outdoor activities even more than the content of the event itself. This is because attendees, tired of hanging out in offices, no longer judge an event’s ROI on content. “Instead, it’s based on the value and novelty of the experiences and connections.”
While this report may make it appear that the event industry has some significant changes in store, these are trends that have been building for some time now. At Event Architecture, we’re prepared to meet these trends and any other that develop along the way. Give us a call at 972-323-9433 to see how we can help you and your company embrace the latest event trends on the horizon.