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19 Event Trends That Will Shake Up Meetings & Group Business in 2020

What does it mean to be a part of the events industry in 2020? Well for starters, don’t blink. Meetings are growing and evolving rapidly, and each is an experiment in applying new methods to find a perfect formula.

But that’s easier said than done in a science that has zero constants.

To succeed, you have to be dynamic, you have to be flexible, and–above all–you have to be in tune with attendee desires. For venues and planners, that means looking into the crystal ball to get ahead of these new trends in event management.

These are the 19 new event trends that will shake up our industry this year

We’ve sorted the list into five categories:

  1. Industry Performance Trends
  2. Attendee Experience Trends
  3. Meeting Destination Trends
  4. Event Technology Trends
  5. Meeting Design Trends
19 Trends Shacking Up Events in 2019

Industry performance trends

1. Demand will continue to outpace supply.

Again this year, there’s a huge rise in demand for meetings and events. CWT Meetings & Travel predicts 5-10% growth in demand. At the same time, the development pipeline is slowing.

This could mean a boost in hotel group rates. Respondents to the AMEX Meetings & Events Forecast predict it’ll grow about 2.41% in North America. CWT expects an even higher hike of 3.7%.

Predictions for hotel performance from CBRE
Source: CBRE Hotels’ Americas Research

Key Takeaway for Planners

Planners should adjust budgets to anticipate higher rates, and book event space as early as possible.

This year’s mantra is “book now!” The longer you wait, the more you’ll pay. Or even worse, you won’t find a viable space for your event.

When it comes to budget growth, signals are mixed. Most event planners report that their budgets increased year over year in 2018 — but higher rates could negate that. And in general, industry leaders like Skift agree that planner budgets are merely creeping up along with costs. Knowing this, planners should proactively use rate forecasts in conversations with key stakeholders to make the case for a bigger event budget.

Key Takeaway for Properties

Group demand will be strong throughout the year. How will you respond to the influx of leads to capitalize?

Planners will try to book events further in advance. This leaves hotels and venues in a pickle: Taking early bookings could mean missing out on higher-value events later.

To avoid missing out on revenue, hotels and venues need to segment business intelligently. That way, you can avoid the pitfalls of traditional lead-scoring biases that hurt RFP management.

For hotels, capitalizing on group demand could also offset the impact of potentially disappointing ADR growth by driving up midweek rates for transient business.

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2. Attendees want more face-to-face time.

In 2020, brands will invest in events as a marketing channel. In fact, in a recent event marketing survey, 52% of respondents said that event marketing drove more business value than other marketing channels. (Only 8% said it drove less business.)

But why is that? It’s because we spend more and more time in front of a screen each year. At the same time, face-to-face time takes a hit — making it a more treasured commodity in our modern world.

Key Takeaway for Event Planners

Create ample opportunities for networking and spaces for scheduled face-to-face meetings.

Networking is the second biggest motivator for event attendees, behind content. However, it’s not just face-to-face meetings they’re craving. It’s also the spontaneous conversations that come with serendipitous networking.

Planners should create ample private meeting spaces and “collision spaces.” Some events do this by providing fewer chairs than attendees. With fewer empty seats, they’re encouraging movement and interaction.

Key Takeaway for Venues

Create spaces that promote spontaneous interaction, and highlight them in your offering.

Large, minimalist spaces with easily accessible bars are the perfect recipe for a networking event. Venues like this can use the networking angle to promote event space to corporate clients.

Hotels, meanwhile, should leverage lobbies, rooftops, and other communal areas for networking events. If you can, make these areas a focal point. While any ballroom can be set up as a networking area, the closed-off nature can feel more stifling and less natural, making interactions feel less organic.

Attendee Experience Trends

3. “Bleisure” travel isn’t going anywhere.

Based on new research from the Experience Institute, a whopping 71% of people consider the destination in the decision to attend a meeting. Beyond that, 20-30% say it’s the deciding factor.

These attendees blend the worlds of business and leisure. It’s given rise to a new, multi-generational segment that drives destination decisions. (See: our Hotel Market Segmentation Guide for more on this.)

Key Takeaway for Planners

Planners must balance the need for affordable destinations with attendees’ desires for vacation-like getaways.

Every business event serves a dual purpose. In other words, planners are not just meeting coordinators — they’re now ad-hoc travel agents. Cultural interactions, local dining, experiential travel, and team-building activities are all in the mix.

The bottom line? Choosing a destination is more important than you might think. Pick the wrong one and ticket sales could take a hit.

Key Takeaway for Properties

A great attendee experience might result in transient business later on.

Attendees are looking at events as mini-vacations, which means hotels are effectively “auditioning” for repeat business at the transient level. So what can you do to make each attendee’s stay feel more like a vacation?

Amenities like spa days could be the ticket to bringing attendees back. Helping them explore the city outside of event hours is also a huge value-add. Even leading hotel chains do this: Hilton just released the Explore app to better connect guests with their host cities.  

4. Personalization will move beyond personas.

Attendees want more control over the event agenda. In fact, 96% of the Social Tables audience believe events are expected to be more personalized than ever.

Perhaps the best example of personalization in action was at this year’s C2 event in Montréal. Attendees were offered 11 different ways to spend every hour of the three days. (You read that right.)

Personalization is often achieved by creating personas based on high-level attendee data. But data collection is becoming more sophisticated. In 2020 and beyond, more data and tools will help events to move away from “personas” to true personalization.  

Key Takeaway for Event Planners

Put the agenda in the hands of attendees.

While you don’t need to offer 11 choices for every hour, you can empower attendees to mold the event to meet their individual needs. You need to deliver an experience that resonates at both the individual and collective levels. (Holy moly.)

Event technology trends are making it easier to bring personalization to life. Here are a few of the tools planners are using to make it happen:

  • Silent conferences: Multiple speakers present in the same space. Attendees wear special headphones that let them to toggle between speakers.
  • Live polling: Live polling apps let planners get real-time feedback and crowdsource the agenda as it unfolds.
  • Better guest management: New seating and guest management technology let planners to map out truly personalized experiences for VIPs and other guests.

Key Takeaway for Venues

Use personalization to attract events and create value.

From the proposal through setup, personalization needs to be at the heart of how you communicate, negotiate, and create a meeting.

For proposals, try showcasing multiple event-specific variations. This adds value for the planner by helping them better meet their event objectives, while adding value for the hotel or venue as an upselling technique.

Beyond that, properties need the flexibility to accommodate for more personalized event experiences. This might mean investing in portable walls or diversifying furniture offered onsite. For hotels, it means getting creative with which spaces are bookable.

5. Meetings will become music festivals.

In 2020, we’ll move closer to full-blown festivalization. Essentially, the line between consumer festivals and corporate events will continue to blur.

This trend mirrors society as a whole. According to Billboard, there over 800 annual music festivals in the U.S. alone, and they attract 32 million attendees in total. 14 million of those attendees are (surprise, surprise) millennials.

For instance, Forbes’ Under 30 Summit — a gathering of 7,000 30-and-under entrepreneurs — hosts an actual music festival as part of the event. Attendees can network while enjoying artists like Marshmello and Wiz Khalifa.

Here’s a peek at the Under 30 Summit (slash music festival):

Key Takeaway for Event Planners

Performances and entertainment can boost engagement, but require buyouts and complex logistics.

At smaller levels, adding performances to the agenda can go a long way in engaging attendees. However, for larger events, creating a festival-like atmosphere requires access to a variety of spaces that are exclusive to one group.

As a result, many of these events aren’t happening at hotels. They’re at resorts, convention centers, and outdoor spaces. Creating that festival feeling usually requires a buyout of these venues — adding further complexity to sourcing and timelines.

Performances also complicate onsite logistics — including everything from loading and docking to mapping out the event. Spatial logistics are especially important, making an event diagramming tool immensely important for planning.

Key Takeaway for Venues

Resorts, golf courses, and similar venues should offer buyouts in shoulder seasons to accommodate these events and drive revenue.

When leisure demand is low, it could be the perfect time for your venue to offer a buyout and bring in some extra revenue.

Once in the planning process, understand the event needs and specific performances. Then proactively offer solutions for bringing these to life. Your unique understanding of the property is bound to surface viable ideas that paint you as a valuable partner in navigating the complexities of such a large-scale event.

6. Focus on plant-based diets

In a 2016 poll of 10,000 UK residents, researched four out that in just a decade, Britain’s vegan population grew from 150,000 to 542,000.

Perhaps even more important are the demographics: In the US, the portion of consumers under the age of 49 who consider themselves vegans or vegetarians is more than double that of consumers over 50.

Plant-based diets are more popular than ever, so event planners and properties need to adjust their menus. A bigger focus on wellness could revolutionize F&B — replacing beef with the proverbial Brussels sprout.

Key Takeaway for Planners

The way to millennials hearts is through their stomachs — which now expect more veggies at events.

Planers need to work with venues and caterers who can put innovative vegetarian F&B on the plate.

However, this doesn’t mean that meat at events is going away — a majority of the population still eats animal-based products. What it does mean is that F&B minimums will go up as the necessity for menu variety increases.

Key Takeaway for Venues

For full-service hotels and venues that can adapt, F&B revenue will climb higher.

Does your venue’s preferred caterer have a flair for vegan-friendly dishes? Is your hotel sourcing local produce for vegetarian fare? These are the questions suppliers should be asking themselves in the face of a new plant-forward F&B paradigm.

The need for vegetarian and vegan options promises to drive up F&B totals for booked events, as long as your venue can adapt. For those who don’t put enough emphasis on the vegetarian trend, it could be the differentiator that causes a planner to go elsewhere.

Many hotels, especially those in major cities, are moving toward from-scratch, vegan-friendly menus. Some are even going so far as to grow some of their produce on site, capitalizing on the local and plant-based-food movements in one fell swoop.

The Biggest Food Trends Impacting Events

7. Wellness initiatives will see some healthy growth.

The modern concept of wellness goes beyond just physical health, placing an emphasis on mental health as well. As a result, wellness influences a large portion of the event and venue offering, alike — from group F&B to agendas, lighting, breakout room setups, and beyond.

Key Takeaway for Planners

Happier, healthier attendees are more engaged attendees.

Mst planners agree that the more attendees can take care of themselves, the more they’ll want to engage with events. That’s why leading events like Salesforce’s Dreamforce and Hubspot’s Inbound dedicate resources to attendee wellbeing.

Mindfulness areas and places to “unplug” are the new norm, giving attendees a chance to escape from the stimulation at tech-driven events. Meditation is guided, massages are given, tech-free zones are created — the list goes on.

Physical wellness is equally center stage, with planners incorporating 5Ks, yoga sessions, and beyond into event agendas.

F&B is a huge part of that, too. Planners say there ‘ a direct connection between the F&B that’s served and attendee energy levels throughout the day.

Key Takeaway for Venues

Capitalize on wellness as a key piece of your groups and meetings offering.

Planners are looking for established wellness programs at hotels or looking to venues that can accommodate wellness-focused breakout spaces.

Hotel chains are answering the call by putting these elements front and center. Things like fresh-pressed juices, state-of-the-art gyms, and locally-sourced menus can attract group sales.

In fact, wellness is becoming a key piece of hotel marketing to groups. You can see it in Hilton’s “Meet With Purpose” campaign. Hotels realize they can offer groups more wellness amenities than nontraditional venues — and they’ll emphasize it moving in 2020.

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8. Say goodbye to typical venues.

If you remember this from last year’s event trends roundup, you’re not wrong! But in our roundup of 2020 event statistics, 92% of planners and property professionals said they believe events are more likely to be booked outside of a hotel than they were five years ago.

Last year, the Global Meetings Forecast predicted a 4% increase in the use of non-traditional venues. In 2020, the race is on to see who can think the furthest outside of the traditional ballroom box to create more enticing, millennial-friendly experiences.

Key Takeaway for Planners

Planners need tools to source nontraditional venues without draining time and resources.

Planners are more crunched for time and resources than ever. And sourcing out-of-the-box venues takes research time, effort, and (of course) money.

Smaller events (<100 attendees) are poised to capitalize on trendy, boutique spaces. But for larger events, planners have to get more creative to secure similar atmospheres.

Luckily, new venue sourcing platforms (like the one below) make it easier to find fresh event spaces and independent venues that were once difficult to discover.

The Cvent venue sourcing platform

Key Takeaway for Properties

Hotels need to evolve event spaces or risk losing business to nontraditional venues.

Hotels find themselves in a pickle, wedged between the call for nontraditional event spaces and the technological innovations (ride-sharing, venue sourcing engines) that are making these settings more attainable by the day.

To keep potential business from leaving for other venues, hotels need to think about how they can use their own nontraditional spaces to attract planners. This means working rooftops, outdoor spaces, and partnerships with other venues into the mix and using them in event proposals.

For instance, STR found this about Chicago hotels: The ones that use their rooftop space for restaurants and bars see a $13.22 increase in summer RevPAS compared to those who don’t.

9. Midsize cities will continue to make moves.

In the past, midsize cities like Minneapolis, Portland, and Cleveland were considered less desirable for events. Usually, first-tier cities (you know, NYC, Chicago, LA) were the top choice.

These “second-tier cities” have an unfair moniker. They have plenty to offer to incoming groups and events, including:

  • Culture & authenticity: According to London & Partners, 93% of international event planners say that a destination’s culture is an important piece of the decision. (Looking at you, Austin.)
  • Knowledge economies: Some midsize cities specialize in certain areas or industries. This means you have more access to expert speakers, startups, and other knowledge assets. (Don’t sleep on San Jose’s tech scene!)
  • Ease of transportation: Many midsize destinations offer walkable downtowns and public transit that make it easy for attendees to interact with the city. (Hey, Denver.)

In fact, some of these cities are investing in new infrastructure and marketing assets. Because of that, they’re stealing events away from larger cities.

Key Takeaway for Planners

Work with CVBs in midsize cities to create remarkable events in unique locales.

Don’t be quick to spring to a first-tier choice. You could be leaving money — and, in some cases, a more memorable attendee experience — on the table. More importantly, it’s best to choose a locale that matches your event objectives and purpose.

When choosing a destination, reach out to CVBs in midsize cities to see what their cities can offer. They’re eager to grow their reputations, which means they’re also eager to work with planners to create truly unique experiences.

As an example, check out the documentary below, which was financed by Nashville’s CVB as a promotional asset:

Key Takeaway for Properties

Align yourself with the elements of your city that attract groups and meetings.

Whether your venue is in a midsize city, a larger city, or somewhere else, part of your mission should be to champion your destination.

That could be by incorporating local specialties on menus, using local flowers in decorative elements, or connecting with nearby attractions to offer guests and groups special deals.

And don’t forget to reach out to your CVB. Since CVBs are nonprofits funded by occupancy taxes, their main goal is to help find venues that are well-tailored to a specific event. In turn, that means group leads coming from a CVB are likely to be more qualified.  

10. It’s time to leave your legacy.

Large-scale events leave a long-standing impact — on society, on the environment, on local economies, and beyond. But events are just now beginning to question their legacy is on a widespread scale.

The last IMEX America event focused on this as one of the thematic pillars for the event. CEO Carina Bauer summarized the theme by saying:

“There is a growing consciousness of the long-term impact we all make on the world that is running throughout our industry, society and among individuals. Our talking point gives that consciousness due recognition.”

Both events and venues should indulge in the meta and take a look in the legacy mirror, planning around the type of longstanding impact they hope to make on partners, patrons, and society.

The “Legacy Wall” on the IMEX America show floor.

Key Takeaway for Planners

In addition to your event purpose, plan events around the mark you want to leave on your community (whatever community might mean for your event).

Events can send a message that extends beyond the perimeters of a venue and permeates a larger community.

It’s clear that large-scale, global events like the Olympics leave a lasting legacy. But what about conferences, networking events, and beyond?

Sure, your event might not be televised or talked about. Still, there are plenty of ways to send a message and spin a story. It all starts with the purpose of the event and how it can be woven into something greater than itself.

Key Takeaway for Properties

Focus on your own legacy as a way to woo events.

Red Rocks amphitheater,  Madison Square Garden, the Beverley Wilshire. These venues have enshrined their legacies by archiving the many incredible events they’ve hosted over the years. They’ve built their image based on the past and focused on the elements that they want to leverage for their future.

Hotels and venues need to ask themselves what makes them memorable — and just as importantly, what they offer that could make an event memorable. From there, it’s about bringing it to life in everything from customer service to marketing and beyond.

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11. Improved transportation will make new destinations more viable.

While self-driving cars aren’t yet the norm, ridesharing has already changed the way attendees get around an event’s city. And ride-hailing services will only improve, with an industry forecast of 11% growth annually between 2019 and 2023.

However, ridesharing aside, many midsize cities are also making significant investments in public transportation infrastructure. For example, the Denver metro area is looking into a hyperloop system, which will transport riders across the state at over 600 mph.

And don’t forget the surge of electric scooters and bikes flooding cities from companies like Lyft and Lime. They’re making “micro transportation” cheaper, more sustainable, and more of an experience.

Key Takeaway for Planners

Capitalize on improved transportation by moving farther away from airports into authentic city experiences and venues.

As experiences become more important, attendees are willing to sacrifice some when it comes to transportation. Luckily, many won’t have to with the types of improvements we listed above. Couple all of this with the luxury of being able to find Airbnbs right next to new venues, and it’s an equation for more flexibility and creativity.

With events moving farther away from transportation hubs and into the areas that give cities their unique cultures, planners will need to find new ways to keep attendees mobile. Leading rideshare companies like Lyft are making that easier by teaming up with major events as sponsors and offering rides at reduced prices.

Key Takeaway for Venues

Do your part to help attendees travel and enjoy the city.

It’s time to gauge what your venue can do to keep everyone mobile. For venues in desirable or authentic parts of the city, that means helping attendees from the airport to the venue. In this sense, offering a private shuttle service back and forth from the airport could be the differentiator that helps you win out over a nearby competitor.

Meanwhile, for airport hotels that are farther away from city centers, it’s becoming more and more imperative to make sure attendees can travel to and from your local attractions. This is where smart partnerships can come in handy in addition to a shuttle service. Just as events can partner with rideshare apps, so too can venues on a long-term basis.

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12. Venue sourcing will become more sophisticated.

According to Cvent’s latest Global Planner Sourcing Report, only 16% of planners say they are extremely certain of their venue when they begin the sourcing process. Luckily, when asked what the most difficult sourcing stage was, the number of respondents who said “researching venues” was down 4% from 2016 results.  

In large part, this decrease is due to the more sophisticated venue search engines that have entered the market in recent years. Planners are more able to get details on venues, get a sense of viability, and submit multiple RFPs — all without ever having to get on the phone or visit multiple sites.

These sourcing destinations will become more prevalent and more sophisticated in 2020, as developers find ways to better match planners with venues based on event purpose. We may even begin to see other types of suppliers entering these networks, giving planners an opportunity for more of “one-stop shopping” experience.

Key Takeaway for Event Planners

Use sourcing engines to save time and discover new venues.

Venue sourcing is one of the most difficult and time-consuming stages of the event planning process. With less time on your hands, you need an efficient way to find the perfect space.

Don’t waste time by going it alone. Turn to online venue sourcing resources to make sourcing more manageable.

Key Takeaway for Venues

Use sourcing engines to increase visibility and strong profiles to increase conversion.

If planners can’t see you, they can’t book your space. With this in mind, you should consider venue sourcing engines a key strategy for driving group business. That said, be wary of the different cost structures and varying efficacies of different platforms. (Do your research!)

Choose a few that work for you and build your profiles. Help planners visualize your space:

  • Include high-quality image galleries
  • Show floor plans and sample layouts
  • Make your profile as visual as possible
  • Highlight nearby attractions
  • Add video (60% of planners say video is the most helpful inclusion)

13. RFID will unlock new forms of attendee data.

Traditionally, planners only get pre- and post-event data. But what if you could get more info about your attendees during an event?

As RFID technology gets smarter, physical and digital data will begin to come together. Event marketers and event stakeholders will be able to see which presentations, activities, and meetings someone attended — more effectively measuring attendee engagement.

Key Takeaway for Event Planners

RFID technology will let planners create more personalized experiences, while giving marketers and stakeholders a better sense of ROI.

With information on how attendees spend time at events, event planners will be able to better gauge attendee interests. Then, teams can adjust or better highlight elements on the fly — essentially fine-tuning events as they happen. Meanwhile, future iterations will improve drastically because planners will know exactly what happened in the past.

Of all event trends for 2020, advanced RFID technology is probably the most exciting for marketers. Why?

It’s because 79% of consumers say they are only likely to engage with an offer if it has been personalized to reflect previous interactions the consumer has had with the brand. With new data in hand, marketers will be able to craft and personalize more effective communications based on specific attendee interests or activities.

All the while, planners can look for patterns in this data to create more granular and tailored personas. Mapping content, food, activities, etc. down to these personas will allow planners to get as close as they can to personalizing events end-to-end on an individual level.

Key Takeaway for Venues

Smart RFID technology will allow hotels to better tailor their offering to groups and other guests.

RFID-enabled room keys allow hotels to track use of amenities such as gyms, spas, or business centers. Tracking the behavior of guests at your hotel means you can make better decisions about your future events.

Combining this with information from the booking, hotels can draw demographic conclusions about who is more likely to use specific products/amenities and why. In turn, all of this information can be used down the road with marketing, segmentation exercises, and beyond.

14. 5G won’t make a huge impact on events (yet).

5G won’t be commonplace anywhere by the end of 2020, but smartphone developer Ericsson predicts that 1.5 billion 5G subscriptions will be active by 2025.

Once it becomes common, this technology will have a huge impact on other event trends.

Why? Well, take the speed of your current 4G LTE smartphone internet and multiply it by 1,000. (Think: putting the Millenium Falcon into hyperdrive.)

That kind of speed will make event apps run faster and smoother, and it will allow developers to push the bounds of what’s possible via the internet. That could mean the use of AI and AR will drastically increase at events. Or, more importantly, that planners won’t have to worry about venue WiFi anymore.

Key Takeaway for Event Planners

Fast, reliable WiFi will soon become the norm, opening up new engagement opportunities and nontraditional venues for events.

If WiFi is more accessible, you don’t have to worry about it as much. Attendees will have high-speed internet in their pockets, which means planners will worry less about infrastructure. As a result, they’ll source more imaginative, unorthodox venues.

When it comes to the actual event, content and engagement should see some exciting leaps and bounds as well. Planners will finally have the bandwidth needed to incorporate 3D technology, augmented reality, and virtual reality into events, effectively ushering in a new era of experience design for the meetings industry.  

Key Takeaway for Venues

5G may initially stunt group booking growth in midsize cities.

5G will likely hit major metropolitan areas before smaller cities. That could make midsize and smaller cities less viable options, resulting in a somewhat uneven playing field.

Still, no matter the destination, venues and hoteliers can’t afford to sleep on 5G in its fledgling stages. So properties need to ask themselves whether the investments that they’re making today will still be relevant in a 5G world.

Vanessa Ogle, CEO of hotel technology provider Enseo, warned hotels much the same in a recent Skift article. She wrote, “I think many hoteliers will be unhappy with the significant investments they are making now into cabling that will become obsolete just as soon as 5G launches.”

15. Expect a growing appetite for branded apps.

Planners in North America anticipate a nearly 3% increase in mobile app use in the next year. It makes sense: Apps have infiltrated our lives on a societal scale, with nearly every e-commerce website and SaaS product developing their own. Why should events be any different?

Leading events offer apps to help with agendas, engagement, communication, and even surprise-and-delight inclusions. Meanwhile, venues (especially hotels) are creating apps that inform, personalize, and connect guests with local attractions and activities.

This year, we see branded apps moving beyond their usual role as resources as more and more events adopt them as an engagement tool.

Key Takeaway for Planners

Apps present an opportunity for personalization and engagement at each stage of the event lifecycle.

Branded apps still can help attendees look up schedules and find event information. But perhaps the most exciting opportunity in developing an event app is fostering greater content engagement.

You can use apps and QR codes to gamify the event, awarding points to attendees for visiting booths and beyond. Attendees can unlock extras or hidden areas, encouraging engagement via reward.

Branded apps can also incorporate polling and other features that personalize the experience and get to the bottom of attendee preferences. (Oh, and a friendly push notification here and there never hurts.)

Key Takeaway for Venues

Use branded apps to personalize, inform, and connect guests to host destinations.

Hotels and venues are developing sophisticated apps that enhance the in-venue experience. Whether it’s Wembley Stadium’s virtual tour guide or Marriott’s sophisticated in-app chatbot functionality, branded apps are adding value in multiple ways:

  • Catering to event planners: Marriott’s Meeting Services App allows planners to manage their events without ever having to leave their seats.
  • Connecting attendees with destinations: Hilton’s Explore app connects guests with authentic, desirable experiences in their host cities.
  • Improving guest stays: The World of Hyatt app allows guests to do everything from request more towels to catch an Uber.

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16. Sustainability will be center stage at events.

Sustainability is front and center in the event planning industry. While small nods to sustainability (like recycling bins at your event) help, we really need a holistic approach to reduce our events’ carbon footprint.

Source: University of Columbia

From the miles of travel to the kilowatts of power and pounds of wasted food, each stage of the event lifecycle has its own impact and needs to be assessed by planners and venues, alike.

Key Takeaway for Planners

For events — especially large-scale events — sustainable initiatives are now the expectation.

Sustainable event planning is slowly becoming a must for all kinds of events. But it’s now an imperative for large-scale events — especially those that set the tone for the industry.

IMEX lived up to that standard this year, reducing single-use plastics and paper cups drastically. The event asked everyone attending the show to bring reusable coffee cups. They crunched the numbers for attendees: If all attendees brought a reusable cup to the 3-day event, they’d save 37,000 cups from going to landfill:

Reusable cups and similar ideas can make great “swag,” while adding a layer of sustainability to your event. And who knows? Your sponsors may just want to cover the costs for you.

Key Takeaway for Properties

Sustainability initiatives are your chance to make a positive impact while painting your brand in an equally positive light.

You’ve heard about the negative effects of plastic drinking straws on turtles and marine life. Well, Marriott made this issue a platform by announcing it would remove disposable plastics straws and stirrers across their 6,500 properties. (That’s more than one billion discarded straws a year.)

This move by Marriott is a great example of corporate responsibility. It’s also an example of powerful brand marketing. Why? Because today, 86% of consumers expect companies to act on social and environmental issues — and they’re more than ready to vote with their dollars.

So whether it’s drinking straws or an onsite produce garden, what is your hotel or venue doing to promote sustainability in events and beyond?

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17. Experiences will define events. Creativity will define success.

Last year, 80% of event planners reported that their jobs require more experience creation than just 2-5 years ago. This year, experiences will continue to define events and the jobs of the planners behind them.

Ultimately, these experiences will take the perfect mix of creativity, technology, and partnership to produce.

“With my work with PCMA, we all have the same mantra going through our heads: The expectation is high with experiences at events. It’s just not good enough to put your event in a hotel room or convention center with little regard as to the experience around it.”

-Kelly Peacy, Founder of Insight Event Strategy

Key Takeaway for Planners

Successful experiences will take a creative approach to each pillar of the event.

“Holistic” is the big buzzword for purposeful experiences. That means planners need to approach each pillar of the event with the same level of creativity. In addition to personalization, planners must also prioritize the following three areas:

  • Content: The key to creative content is dreaming up new event concepts. Skip traditional presentations and opt for conversation and interaction.
  • Destination: The destination, venue, and space should offer opportunities for exploration and authentic interaction. At the same time, the location should be a fitting backdrop to the event’s message or purpose.
  • Technology: How can technology help deliver the message in new ways that engage and awe the audience?

Key Takeaway for Venues

More than ever before, it’s on venues to be partners in experience creation.

93% of venues believe that it’s on them to be partners in creating experiences at least some of the time. This only promises to increase as group prices and expectations for events grow.

Venues that are true partners to planners are poised to see success in 2020 and beyond. When hotels have an active hand in helping events meet their objectives, it becomes the ultimate differentiator to gain repeat business, positive reviews, and word-of-mouth referrals.

18. Safety & event security will still be top of mind.

When we sent out our survey to a mix of 23,000 event planners and venue professionals, 90% of respondents stated that event security should still be a top priority for the industry.

Security is one of the larger factors that influence destination selection. but today’s definition of security has evolved. Now, it encompasses a broader scope like natural disasters.

Tip Sheet: Event Security

Key Takeaway for Planners

Security should be top of mind at each stage of the planning process.

Whether it’s sourcing, seating, setup, or execution, the safety and security of attendees should ultimately dictate the planning and outcome.

Event planners need to start by gauging security concerns when weighing destination options. That could mean avoiding coastal destinations during hurricane season or avoiding certain areas of the city to ensure safety outside of event hours.

When mapping out the event, planners should know exactly where fire exits are and build strategies for emergency situations. Event diagramming software can help in this regard by allowing venues and planners to collaborate on a single source of truth.

With a diagram, it can easily be shared with everyone involved in the event for seamless setup and execution. (The fire marshall will thank you.)

Key Takeaway for Venues

Security is a significant value add and a key selling point in initial communications.

Event planners should feel that you’re taking security seriously from the get-go. That should start at a brand level and trickle down to each individual property. Each venue should have a clearly defined approach to security and preparation, including:

  1. Be clear on what is and isn’t permitted at the venue in terms of capacity, resources, and staffing.
  2. Include in proposals whether you’re providing any personnel, such as security, custodians, and administrators.
  3. Have evacuation plan discussions. And, include the evacuation plans in proposals up front. Be sure to communicate the plan to all vendors.
  4. Create a step-by-step safety checklist for execution during on-site setup, and another safety checklist for the day of the event.

19. Minimalist event decor will have maximum appeal.

minimalist decor and architecture at a wedding

Less is more when it comes to the material. Minimalism is becoming a cultural tenant for younger generations who value experiences over possessions. (#vanlife anyone?)

This broad trend will set the tone for decor — especially at weddings. Wedding Wire reports that couples are choosing “a bold, minimalistic look for a variety of aspects of their wedding day, from venues to invitations, wedding cakes, and more.”

Moving into 2020, event planners will increasingly look to venues with sprawling open space and industrial features (exposed HVAC, white-washed brick) as blank slates for minimalist design. It’s a movement that stands in direct opposition to the gaudy ballrooms of old.

Key Takeaway for Planners

Minimalist designs offer a chance to cut costs while boosting sophistication and keeping the focus on content.

A minimalist approach means less: less furniture, fewer seats, smaller portions, less irrelevant decor… you get the picture. All of this leads to more of the budget being freed up to improve content delivery and the overall attendee experience.

It also means that your venue search may start at nontraditional venues, many of which are better tailored to the industrial-chic, open floor plans that make minimalism a possibility. With the right venue in hand, it’s time to incorporate a few key guidelines:

  • Less drama: Look to classic combinations of whites and greys over the dramatic colors that once dominated palettes.
  • Less seating: Attendees want networking opportunities, and fewer seats means more mingling.
  • Less clutter: Let the architecture speak for itself and keep the space clutter-free to promote a clean, open feel that keeps the focus on content.

Key Takeaway for Venues

Create event spaces that give planners the blank slate they need for minimalist design.

Gaudy, gold-lace ballrooms are on their way out. This bodes well for nontraditional venues, many of which have created spaces that emphasize architecture over additions.

Hotels, however, may find themselves scrambling to reinvent their event spaces. It could be time to rethink these spaces — along with lobbies and other communal spaces that set the aesthetic tone for the hotel at large.

Larger chains should look to boutique hotels, which create visual identities that are often more closely aligned with the appeal that nontraditional venues offer.

Streamline event setup with accurate 3D diagrams

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Next steps to embrace these trends

In 2020, the evolution of technology and shifting attendee expectations will continue to redefine current trends in the event industry. For event planners and venues, these 19 event and hospitality trends will be front and center.

If you can capitalize on them, each presents its own unique opportunities to maximize revenue, engagement, and success in the year ahead. Up next, bring these trends to life with easy event management software.

19 Trends Shacking Up Events in 2019

Published September 24, 2019