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Eventful News: Concerns for 2021, Obstacles for Sustainable Events, & More

This week’s post covers the most important news from the past week in the events industry, but it’s really a post about the future. These five stories all represent a piece of that future, as well as the concerns and opportunities that face all of us as we plunge ahead into the eventful unknown. Growth, technology, sustainability, collaboration… it’s all right here.

5 Can’t-Miss Event News Updates From the Past Week

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1. Is Group Booking Pace for 2021 a Cause for Concern? (Business Travel News)

TLDR

At the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference earlier this month, one of the panels that made some noise was the Knowing the Customer & the Supremacy of Data session. All four panelists expressed their concerns about future group business from 2021 onward. 

Just two months ago, Cvent forecast that group business would be down one to two percent over the next eight quarters, but it seems to be the view beyond this window that’s the most alarming for the hospitality industry. 

2021 looks the worst… Hotel owners are really anxious to get as much group business on the books for 2021 now as they can. [They] need to go deep on the data and do that now to try to find those groups because that is what all the big players are doing.” -Jeffrey Emenecker, Cvent Senior Director of Analytics

What does it mean for planners?

2021 may seem far out in the distance, but for conventions and other large events, booking time for 2021 is now. With booking pace down, it begs the question of why less large-scale events are on the books — especially when buy-in for event marketing is at an all-time high. For corporate and enterprise planners, it’s also a potential cause for concern that’s likely a reflection of a larger macro-trend across industries.

What’s next?

Do major players fear economic downturn in the coming years? Are potential trade tariffs causing a ripple effect before they’re even official? Is next year’s election a looming uncertainty for major players? The answers will come soon, but for the hospitality industry, business can’t come soon enough. As TravelClick senior analyst John Hach reminds everyone in the story, “During the Great Recession in 2008, one of the first things we saw was large groups just evaporate.”

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2. Despite Desires, Progress Toward Sustainability is Slow (Skift

TLDR

When the IACC released its 2019 Meeting Room of the Future report, the 250 meeting planners polled worldwide reported that sustainability would be the second most important venue element in the next five years — behind only access to interactive technology. In fact, over 60% said they plan to look at how venues manage food waste before making a final booking. 

Yet as Skift reports, some of the outdated ways the industry does business are putting a damper on hopes of rapid change. One such example is F&B minimums, which can force planners to go beyond event needs when it comes to meals and refreshments.

We’re in an environment where it’s a failure when we walk away from lunches with tables laden with food…. There are established practices that don’t help us. For instance, minimum food and beverage spend is still prevalent. And all that does is encourage people to over-order on food. And that’s where our industry, in our view, really has to change.” -Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC

What does it mean for planners? 

When it comes to sustainability, events are stuck between a piece of plastic and a hard place — and that means planners have to get creative to meet the expectations of attendees and demands of venues. In many instances, that means working with venues to see if there are add-ons that can make up financial ground for smaller F&B minimums (a key group revenue driver for hotels & venues). 

It also means voting with dollars, and seeking out venues that show a commitment to sustainability. Major chains are beginning to hear the call, including Marriott, who announced its plans last year to eliminate all plastic straws and stirrers by mid-2019.

What’s next?

Sure, the industry is evolving slowly. However, the more planners can send the message that sustainability is a must for working with venues, the faster venues will come around. As venues see profits and bookings dwindle compared to more sustainable competitors, they will have no choice but to adapt or risk the fiscal repercussions. The more planners push, the more rapidly we’ll see evolution. 

Further Reading: How to Make Your Next Event a Green Event 

3. Live Nation Announces AR Live Streaming for Events (Variety)

TLDR

Live Nation, the live entertainment giant, is set to begin AR streaming of live events in September, starting with a debut at the Music Midtown festival in Atlanta. For home streamers, the concert experience will still be in 2D, but there will be some augmented-reality additions. There will also be a VIP viewing experience that unlocks special camera angles unavailable on the common stream. 

Attendees of the actual event will enjoy access to special AR filters on the festival grounds and AR-based activities during intermissions. Live Nation also plans to use the technology to turn empty stages into sponsorship opportunities.

What remains to be seen is whether fans actually want to use any of these features. Especially AR broadcasts that offer little more than regular live streams seem more designed to appeal to sponsors than to actual end users, who probably could do without a jumbotron in their living room.” -Janko Roettgers, Variety

What does it mean for planners?

Quite honestly, nothing yet. It’s still unclear whether fans and attendees actually want these AR additions or whether they’re just unnecessary bells and whistles. One thing it does draw attention to however is the growing importance of live streaming for major events. 

Virtual attendance is unlocking new means of achieving greater reach and bringing in sponsor dollars — and it’s not just a gleaming opportunity for the Coachellas of the world. Large-scale conferences and trade shows are well-suited to benefit from opening their doors to digital attendees. Plus, what better way to draw someone to the experience in future years than by giving them a little taste? 

What’s next?

As digital attendance opens up new opportunities for revenue and reach, it will also inevitably present new challenges in terms of catering to a dual audience. Whether or not these AR additions do catch on, events will have to start thinking about not only how they’re engaging attendees at the event, but also how they’re engaging attendees via the screen.


Further Reading: 4 Event Technology Trends Shaping the Future of Events 

Guide: How to Create an Event Planning Checklist

4. Should Planners Already Be Incorporating Artificial Intelligence? (Meetings Today)

TLDR

“The dismissal of innovation could be your own disruption,” said Ross Simmonds, founder of Foundation Marketing, at MPI’s WEC 2019. In his speech, Simmonds both spoke to the future of AI in the events industry as well as some of the tools planners could begin using in the now. Some of these tools include chatbots, scheduling assistants, and tools that analyze conversations in real time.

“I believe today’s world is yesterday’s science fiction… we are becoming one with our technology.” Ross Simmonds, founder of Foundation Marketing

What does it mean for planners?

There’s plenty of fear across industries that AI could begin doing many of the jobs that humans do currently, displacing troves of workers and eliminating employment. However, Simmonds stressed to planners that embracing AI could be a huge benefit in an increasingly complex and stressful role. 

With AI taking on some of the more mundane and time-consuming tasks such as scheduling, it will ultimately free up more time and effort for planners to put toward creating immersive and engaging experiences.

What’s next?

The Future of Jobs report from the WEC reports that the most important skills for planners in 2020 will be complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. These skills are all imperative to creating great events, but they’re also areas where AI lacks the algorithmic sophistication to operate on a human level… at least in the near future. 

Planners who spend less time worrying about or dismissing AI and more time utilizing it to improve efficiency are the ones who will have the time and energy to grow these imperative skills in 2020 and beyond. 

Further Reading: WEC Future of Jobs Report

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5. 3 Major Industry Associations Launch New Global Alliance (Conference & Meetings World)

TLDR

The AIPC, ICCA, and UFI, three leading global meetings industry associations, have announced the formation of a global alliance to facilitate more cooperation. The alliance will explore exchange and reciprocity in four main areas: educational content, research, standards, and advocacy.

Collaboration will begin via educational exchange. All three will incorporate the others’ knowledge into their respective conferences based on alignment in areas where there are already commonalities. Meanwhile, leadership teams will come together to explore more universal approaches to elements such as terminology and best practices.

As the business models of exhibitions, congresses, conferences, and other types of business meetings evolve, the overlap of global associations servicing the industry is growing even further… This carries the risk of competition replacing collaboration as the driving force for industry associations. With our Global Alliance, the three of us choose value for our members, choose collaboration over competition.” -Craig Newman, President of UFI

What does it mean for planners?

One big reason these three associations have formed an alliance is the potential that it has for enhancing the credibility of the industry as a whole. Creating greater consistency and a shared overall industry framework promises to do just that. And as the credibility of the industry grows, so too will investment and innovation. 

The move will also give members access to a greater library of resources, as well as more content and insights overall. 

What’s next?

This news means the new global alliance will be able to better leverage their investments in larger, more universally-beneficial ways. Imagine: Instead of three events, perhaps there could be one mega-event, reaping the benefits of collective investment to create a better, more immersive experience? If the three associations are able to accomplish incredible feats as an allied collective, the example could spur more such alliances in the industry. 

Published June 27, 2019

And that does it for event news this week. Come back next Thursday for the latest round up of event industry news!

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