100+ event trends transforming the industry. This is your insight platform to navigate 2021 and access the latest ideas changing the way we plan and execute events.
If there is one thing that event planners from all over the world love EventMB for it would be current trends in event planning.
Since 2010, we have published some of the most successful research ever done on trends.
This is what makes our meetings and events industry trends different from others.
Don’t get me wrong.
It’s fun to speculate on what the future may look like, but you have a business or an event to run. And you don’t have time for chit-chat.
This is the catch.
Research makes a difference. Internally we call this ongoing, eight-year-long research, Event Trends Watch.
It is based on the following:
- The largest research ever carried out on event technology
- The feedback from approximately 5,000 event professionals on what is trending.
This is why eyebrows rise when we read about trends sometimes. Give us facts, not fluff.
Ok, but what’s in it for you, dear reader?
We are making our Event Trends Watch public. This page will become the reference for those researching the industry. We will update it with research (we just closed one with 2,400 respondents).
And we are stepping it up.
For each trend, we are giving you practical tips to make it happen.
This post is a great complement to our free top 10 Event Trends for 2021 report covering the following trends:
2. Safety First
3. Making Money With Virtual
4. Hybrid is the Future
5. New Priorities
6. Audio to Combat Zoom Fatigue
7. Virtual Experience Scale Up
8. Redefining Engagement
9. Inclusion 2.0
10. The New Fun (It’s Not Alcohol)
Get the Top 10 event trends here 👇
TRENDS THAT WILL ELEVATE YOUR
EVENT IN 2020
Event professionals will remember 2020 as a year that redefined the industry forever. The new safety concerns, the rise of virtual events. As a result, the landscape for 2021 is profoundly changed.
Our research over the course of the year has included over 4,000 event professionals and serves as the backbone of this report. It says that uncertainty will define 2021. Two vaccines have now been approved and vaccinations are underway around the world, but we do not yet know when we will be able to travel and attend events again.
It will take a while to get past the stigma of superspreader events. Event professionals will need to work hard to ensure the safety of their in-person events while keeping event brands alive with virtual events.
Hybrid events will be king. Not because attendees want them, but because they will be the only way to include those unable to attend in person.
We can expect 2021 to be a year of rebuilding, the first of many. The industry will need to face one of the most severe losses of talent ever faced. With furlough schemes in different countries drying out and massive layoffs, many will leave the industry for good.
Here at EMB, we’ve predicted a lot of the event planning trends over the years. In this guide, we’re sharing how they all come together for the benefit of the planner and the audience.
53% of event professionals are comfortable or savvy when it comes to virtual event tech.
Event planners are embracing event technology more and more as a result of the pandemic. They have been forced to familiarize themselves with virtual tech offerings if they weren’t already. Less than a fourth of planners (16%) are not comfortable or totally unfamiliar with virtual event tech, with only 3% falling into the latter category. This is a great outlook for the industry, as fewer and fewer planners seem to resist tech anymore.
Play Up Group Tech Experiences
Another hot trend is using tech to create social experiences out of what was previously alone time. Friends are watching movies together from thousands of miles away. They’re competing with one another on video games across continents. This has some fantastic implications for your event attendees and those who are following the excitement at home. They no longer have to be mere voyeurs but can join in. Link up people online for stronger connections:
- Use live 360-degree video (what many refer to as VR) to connect remote audiences. Give them the opportunity to attend an event together in order to bolster buying online-only tickets.
- Create content for sharing. YouTubers make a living out of commentary on videos. Their commentary becomes additional content and a way to enjoy a video or event. You can use industry influencers for play-by-play commentary on your events, creating a secondary event (and additional content) in the process.
- Develop tracks for niche interests at your event. With a virtual ticket and a paired up “host,” guests could experience inside tracks in a way much different than in prior events. They could attend meetups and the hallway track by being able to select from in-person led experiences not just watching sessions.
Employ Voice for Greater Engagement
AI is increasingly becoming the norm behind attendee experience. Even if you haven’t started using it at your events, your attendees are using it at home and work. In fact, according to Google, in 2016 20% of searches were voice searches. Use voice to drive engagement:
- Look into ways for your voice tech to perform actions. People are moving away from asking questions to asking voice assistants to perform commands, from “where is my next session” to “sign me up for the session on X.”
- Create “if, then” scenarios that are helpful to attendees. Be proactive in your voice assistance. For example, if someone asks where vendor X is on the exhibit floor, the assistant could then ask if they’d like to schedule some one-on-one time with that vendor.
- Link the ability to read badges with your chatbot or voice assistant so it has all the information about the attendee it needs to be helpful.
Consolidation Will Dominate
It’s no secret that the past few years have seen an unprecedented rise in both investment in event technology and mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
2020 has seen massive growth in and increased focus on the event tech sector. Investments in event tech have surged throughout the year, as companies have launched new virtual features and platforms, and many brand new tools have emerged to meet the increased demand.
Larger players in the event tech space, such as Cvent and Cisco, have already begun acquiring smaller companies, and this trend is set to continue into 2021whether the overall economy will flourish or not.
Connect with a Greater Number of People Through App Interpreters
Electronic translators aren’t new for 2021, but the technology has become particularly important as the industry has moved to virtual and hybrid events. Offering content in various languages allows you to capitalize on the wider reach afforded by virtual and hybrid events . Translation features are now available on many virtual event platforms, and they are reliable enough to offer a positive experience for event attendees and help bridge some of the previously-existing communication gaps. Traverse the communication gap:
- Incorporate AI-powered live interpretation and closed captioning for live streamed sessions to enable international attendees to access the content.
- When possible — especially for on-demand content — review translations to check for accuracy and make any necessary changes. Interpretations powered by machine learning will be able to remember specific preferences and apply them to future translations.
More Investment in Eventtech
Throughout 2020, there have been various rounds of funding for virtual tech tools, and event professionals have become slightly more accustomed to investing in virtual event technology. The largest portion of event professionals (41.5 percent) are willing to pay up to $5,000. Only 19 percent are willing to pay more than $15,000, but this 19 percent represents an increase from 14.4 percent in June, while respondents who expect to pay under $5,000 decreased by about the same number of percentage points.
- There are many reasons this could be the case, but the most likely explanation is that, as more organizations reconcile themselves to virtual events and as planners face Zoom fatigue on the part of their attendees, they are having to step up their virtual offering to compete and generate a good ROI. In any case, event tech providers will need to keep this in mind in order to target the right markets, and may need to work more to prove their value and justify their price tag as they cater to the higher cost tiers — particularly where revenue generation is concerned.
Audio to Combat Zoom Fatigue
Zoom fatigue and platforms like Clubhouse are spurring a new way of hosting your events: audio-only.
This may seem at odds with engagement, but the point is to offer attendee-centric options. Convenience is central to the success of the format. On Clubhouse, everybody participates via their phone. Some speakers are walking their dog, some others are multitasking at work. Portability is a key concept.
Offering audio attendance could help to create new ticket opportunities for paid-for virtual events as well as giving more relaxed attendance options to those who feel overwhelmed by Zoom meetings and virtual event invites.
Moreover, listening as opposed to watching stimulates a part of the brain that makes us visualize concepts. This is a completely different experience from having the event on a desktop window while we are multitasking.
- Plan content in a way that accommodates all audiences. Having substantial visual references may alienate the audience listening in.
- Don’t ask attendees to connect on a mobile browser. Offering an audio-only stream is key to optimizing background playback.
- Offer event podcasts. Your event podcasts should be optimized for major consumption platforms.
Virtual Tech Is Still Far Off From Delivering Live Event Experiences
The biggest frustration of event professionals using virtual event tech is the inability of current platforms to match live engagement. The percentage of eventprofs who cited this as their main concern actually increased between June and October, which reinforces the stronger effort needed on the platform side to create more opportunities for engagement.
Choosing Operational Efficiency
We have always strongly advocated against the use of tech to impress. It is refreshing to see that planners are following suit.
When we surveyed planners about their event technology selection criteria year-over-year, the percentage for whom freshness was a factor plummeted from 53% in 2018 to only 33% in 2019.
The focus is now on securing a good ROI through operational efficiency, with cost being the dominant factor, followed by integration and available support. The fact that support dropped by 10% is a testament to both event tech providers creating better self-serve tools and planners getting more comfortable using them.
Hybrid Is the Future
67 percent of respondents to EventMB’s latest research agree that hybrid is the future of events, and 71 percent said that they would continue to employ a digital strategy even after live events return.
It’s unrealistic to think that the incredibly absurd collective experience of the past 11 months won’t change the way we consume events going forward. We had to become fluent in virtual event technology.
What will these hybrid events look like?
- More TV show, less conference. We can expect events to morph into the TV show format: live speakers or performers, a limited live audience, and a strong tech infrastructure, and increasingly competitive production quality.
- New high tech ‘venues’. AV support, technology, and incredibly fast internet speed will replace former priorities like square footage.
- Bigger budgets for AV than F&B. Nimble AV teams able to deliver both live and online events will re-shape the current AV market, whereas food at live events may be skipped altogether to avoid unnecessary risk.
- Two experiences. The hybrid event experience will need to be co-created in a two-dimensional environment with event design that supports each audience’s goals.
- Event content reset. We all loathed the ‘keynote, breakout and repeat’ format of most events — we know for a fact these will need to go. Shorter sessions will prevail.
Facial Recognition for Contactless Check-In Once Events Return
Facial recognition is still a relatively new and evolving technology, and it has recently been spilling over into the event industry in the form of check-in tools. Given that health and safety considerations will continue to be paramount over the next year, facial recognition provides a completely contactless way for attendees to check in to physical events. Face masks may complicate the logistics of this kind of system, but many companies have been actively updating their algorithms due to the pandemic in order to enable them to recognize people based on the top half of their face, and transparent face shields could potentially bypass the need for masks or at least allow people to lower them temporarily. The tech is therefore an option worth looking into for live and hybrid events in 2021.
Engagement Remains Top Challenge for Virtual Events
In our State of the Event Industry report, respondents had to choose the single biggest challenge of pivoting to virtual. They were given six options, but could select only one.
It wasn’t even close — engagement clearly remains the top challenge.
The question is how to define engagement for a virtual audience and where the blame rests for this lack of engagement — on the event platform or on poor event design.
We will need a stronger investigation of the event technology platforms, which are evolving at a very fast pace. This means better scrutiny of the engagement features that they offer as well as a much better, sounder delivery on those features.
Support from event technology partners will also be a major factor in that production plays a role in the engagement of the audience. Based on EventMB’s latest research, nearly a fifth of event professionals rely on their virtual event tech provider to help them with production. Very basic events that don’t invest in engaging content delivery (especially online) will have inevitably lower engagement levels.
Virtual Event Chat on the Rise
According to Pierre Metrailler, CEO of SpotMe, chat and Q&A functions are one of the top 3 features that attendees want from virtual events. However, many RFPs submitted do not tend to focus on such features, and according to an IDC survey, less than half of virtual events offer live chat functions that enable participants to ask questions to speakers and interact with each other during sessions.
- Live chat and Q&A is one of the most important features of online events from the audience’s perspective and should be indispensable for any future virtual and hybrid events.
Gamification Drives Desired Action
Gamification is still one of the favorite and most enjoyable ways to drive the desired action among attendees. 10% of the apps we analyzed listed gamification features as part of the app. Planners can drive business objectives by leveraging gaming mechanics, like long and short-term gratification, rewards, and competition.
Drive traffic through the exhibit floor by rewarding points for connecting to sponsors’ booths; let people win rewards for acing a quiz on the keynote. Leaderboards and awards have proven particularly effective, as attendees compete against one another for more recognition as well.
Virtual Experience Scale Up
Even those who have done virtual events before January 2020 have never experienced the demand and depth we witness these days. Whatever virtual event technology platforms were before the pandemic hit, that represents a tiny fraction of what they are today. Many event technology companies I talked to confirm that the level of inbound requests they are receiving is at an all-time high, and there is no sign they are going down.
Event tech providers have also reported a shift in priorities just over the course of the pandemic, with event planners switching gears from scrambling for tech solutions they could launch quickly and unproblematically to a more demanding, purposeful and strategic purchasing approach.
While having a Zoom meeting was OK in March and April, needs are getting more sophisticated. As a result, expectations are evolving. The market is evolving.
- Zoom. Zoom remains the primary layer to run virtual events. Internal events and those events in need of a quick transition to virtual continue to prefer this platform for its reliability and easy-to-use interface.
- Virtual event technology. The platforms that were conceived as 100% virtual or that pivoted from a live component are now developing native streaming services that allow for some basic production features — three or four-speaker views, overlays, and lower thirds are popping up.
- Production support. About a fifth of event professionals rely on their virtual tech provider for AV and production support, and these teams are taking on the role of AV companies and producing the full event.
- Self-serve production platforms. Tools that more or less one-dimensionally enhance the production value of live streams will soon be cannibalized by virtual event technology platforms.
- High production companies. Events are happening with increasingly sophisticated levels of production. As travel restrictions ease, TV studios and virtual venues are popping up.
Increased Reliance on Virtual Platforms
The vast majority (58%) of virtual event tech providers offer both native apps and web-based ways to access the virtual event, which is a testament to the longevity of virtual events and the expectation that attendees will continue to be experiencing them from home, at least for the time being. Nearly 32% of the remaining planners offer web-based solutions that can be accessed on a browser, presumably also on mobile devices. That means that at least 90% of the providers allow attendees to participate on any device they choose.
Tech Proficiency on the Rise
For all of the challenges and hardships brought on by the pandemic, increase in tech knowledge seems to be a silver lining. In a recent EventMB survey, most three fourths of planners, or 74 percent, indicated that they have become more proficient or much more proficient in tech as a result of the pandemic. The same EventMB research showed that the percentage of planners who consider themselves to be comfortable or savvy with virtual event tech increased from 42% in June to 53% in October.
A New Role is Emerging: AV Producer
Virtual and hybrid events require a completely different skill set to what traditional event planners may possess. In order to execute engaging, high-quality broadcasts, AV producers will be needed to bolster event teams.
Technical producers and production companies have experience in dealing with audio and video equipment, internet bandwidth requirements for live streaming, etc. Whether you’ve chosen to pre-record your sessions or present live, they can walk you through all the scenarios that can occur when hosting a virtual event, and help planners, speakers, and moderators set themselves up for a high quality presentation.
Beyond making sure your presenters are familiar with the online event platform you’ve chosen, they can also assist with run-throughs by offering support during camera and microphone checks, providing instruction on optimal angles and lighting, and generally consulting on how to keep both prerecorded and live videos looking professional despite being shot remotely.
THE EVENT EXPERIENCE AND DESIGN TRENDS
Event experience is the focus for most event planners. They know it’s one of the most important things you can do to improve retention numbers and increase word of mouth marketing. But coming up with innovative ideas can be taxing, especially with all the organization and marketing required.
It’s become especially difficult given the mass transition to virtual — and soon hybrid. Hybrid events will take on an added layer of complexity because of the continued safety guidelines that will need to be imposed.
When it comes to experience, most industry pundits advocate for more connection between online and offline audiences.
It’s a very valid principle in theory, yet there is a lack of supporting evidence that says that this is what attendees want. For a virtual attendee, the very last criterion to attend hybrid experiences is a forced connection with those attending in person.
We want a fantastic virtual experience, to be able to connect with others online, and to hear speakers presenting live. That’s about it. We want an excellent virtual and in-person event instead of a phy-gital, blended, hybrid experience.
The underlying current that flows through almost all of the trends in event experience below is a further embracing of the human side of the event world. Recognizing that the people at events really are the event and that their issues and their internal world should be of paramount concern.
As always, we have your back. Here is a curated list of top event experience trends to help guide your virtual and hybrid event design in a post-Covid era.
New Priorities With Virtual and Hybrid Events
We need to bring FOMO to virtual and hybrid events.
When you plan an event, you have a budget and a revenue objective; this logic also applies for virtual event components, but the competition is steep. The industry is in need of barriers to entry. Why should someone choose your event over a free one with essentially the same offering? Invest in a more sophisticated platform, in digital event production, in professional speakers, in good moderators. If you are thinking zero budget, you will get zero revenue.
Creativity and strategy need to prevail. Content and speakers won’t be the draws they used to be. Attendees will crave networking — or better yet, connection. How you connect attendees with physical distancing, plexiglass, and face masks will be the main decider for success.
The glitzy part of experience design — the big shows, the incredible decor — will equally be important. After months of sensory deprivation, attendees will need more entertainment.
Here is what the new hierarchy of attendee needs looks like:
Improve Your Event EQ: Mindfulness, Wellness and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)
While these concepts have been around for quite some time, they are moving up into more prominent and consistent positions at events because they are on the mind of your attendees. It’s something they are trying to incorporate in their own lives so they need to play a role in your event as well. Intention, wellness, and mindfulness appeared on many New Year’s resolution lists.
Emotional intelligence is on every leader’s list and events that focus on the softer side are getting a lot of attention. This softer side is spilling over into much more than just session content or activities. We’re seeing it in event design, food, breaks, room set up, snacks, furniture, downtime, mental health discussions, mindful minutes, getting outside at events and much more.
Embrace Brain-Friendly Mindfulness: Add brain-friendly foods to your menu.
- Start each day of your event with a mindful minute.
- Incorporate mental health seminars and discussions at your conference.
Adopt Wellness and Play to Increase Attention:
- Add a creativity or wellness zone that provides an oasis of play opportunities, guided socializing, and/or wellness techniques.
- Offer quick chair massages after a morning of sitting in sessions.
- Encourage movement through fun play or outdoor adventures.
Play up Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
- Host a volunteer activity for a local organization that aligns with your values at your event.
- Make sure you include your sponsors in the fun. Give them a chance to participate too and build some good PR for themselves.
- Report back on the impact in your closing event session. Did you feed 2,500 people? Did you clothe 10 families? Whichever way you impacted the community make sure your attendees know how they helped.
Event Planners Still Struggling with Experience Design
Judging from our survey results, most event professionals have confidence in their ability to define an “event experience.” Still, a full third of respondents rated their ability below the “accurate” level.
Question: On a scale of 1 to 5, rate your ability to define terms like “event experience” and “experience design.”
The good news: just over 1% of survey respondents rated their grasp of experience design at 1, the lowest level (“No clue, wouldn’t try”).
A full 32% put themselves in the next two categories up (11% at “2 – Educated guess,” and 21% at “3 – Loose definition”).
Highlight: Roughly two-thirds of respondents felt confident enough to rate themselves in the top two levels, with an even split between them: 33% being confident that they could provide a “Basic / accurate definition,” and another 33% could offer a “Clear and actionable definition.”
Despite less-than-perfect confidence in what “event experience” and “experience design” mean, every respondent went on to answer questions about what defines this growing trend.
Create an Effective Hybrid Experience
When it comes to hybrid events, Corey McCarthy, CMO of Socio, shared that virtual and hybrid platforms really become the main venue, and event design needs to focus on bringing the live and remote experiences together in one space as much as possible.
That said, live and virtual audiences will necessarily have a different experience, and you need to design a meaningful experience for each. This segmented experience should start in registration and flow through the rest of the tech each group interacts with.
In the case of virtual attendees, there might be a special moment of delight reserved for the virtual attendees. Those moments can add value and make the virtual attendees feel like they’re special as well, since there may be a temptation to privilege live attendees.
Safety First for Live and Hybrid Events
No question that in 2021, the way we evaluate whether or not to attend events will be dictated by safety. A lot of that will be counterbalanced by when and to what extent effective vaccines become available, but until then, we will need to strongly consider the safety measures in place for live events.
We witnessed this in July and during the summer of 2020, when there was a break from the virus in many countries of the Western world. Events started to pick back up, and safety was paramount in terms of how attendees evaluated whether to attend or not.
Events cannot afford to become super spreaders. Therefore, the reputation of event brands will be built on health and safety:
- Social distancing at all times, and especially indoors
- Mask wearing at all times
- Seated, socially distanced, and potentially staggered meal times
- Ventilation that is up to date
- Sanitation and separation by plexiglass and other types of dividing materials
- The use of counselors or stewards to direct attendees and force compliance with the rules at all times
- Onsite testing and event bubbles
Events that have these in place will have an advantage compared to those that do not. Another key component is a system for tracking whoever attends the event and informing by spotless communication in the event of an outbreak during the event.
Testing is important not just onsite, but for multiple days before and after.
To attend specific events, the feeling of safety and confidence will be number one, so the industry must necessarily engage in and prioritize safety above everything else.
Making Money with Virtual Events
If you want to host a secure version of your event without having to consider social distancing, testing, tracing, sanitizing, crazy traveling, and the possibility of being sued, virtual events are the only option.
Very few people are making money from virtual events. Our research says that less than 40 percent of event professionals have been able to pivot profitably, and about 60 percent of planners will recoup less than 25 percent of lost revenue for 2020. Only 8 percent expect to recoup more than 75 percent. These numbers will not support a comeback; virtual events need a better business model, and better support from virtual event platforms.
Here are some of the key considerations for the future of virtual revenue generation:
- Use a subscription model for ticketed events. As Netflix does with shows, planners should deal with events. Bundling creates more value than selling tickets for individual events.
- Build a community. Content-heavy events in particular have an opportunity to get people online talking to each other on an ongoing basis, and it’s just a waste to register attendees every time and reset the content for a repeat event.
- Reward live attendance. The promise of the kind of engagement that only events can offer materializes only when attendees are participating live. Catching up on demand cannot be the default option. Live attendance should be rewarded with a free ticket (if you do free); on-demand content should be paid for.
- Offer better content on demand. Those planning to upsell on-demand need to up their content game. The content has to be packaged in a better way. It cannot be a four-hour video to watch without cues. Break down the video per session, add notes, offer different media formats, and include audio-only access.
Offer one-to-one meetings and networking. Networking is an ongoing struggle for virtual, and it does not deliver on business objectives. For trade shows, emphasize delivering better lead generation opportunities.
Redefining Virtual Event Engagement
Event professionals concur that engagement is the number one challenge they have with virtual events.
Engagement 2.0 in 2021 must be a mixture of well-designed event experiences that have engagement moments built into the event itself and a virtual event platform that is able to deliver those engagement moments for both online and offline audiences.
As a result, event planners will need to completely revise their plans when it comes to delivering engaging events. They will need to think about different formats for online and offline, and hybrid interaction will be completely different and engage audiences on different levels.
That means coming up with two separate engagement strategies for each audience. It means rethinking the overall event design from the core, particularly regarding formats that never worked even pre-pandemic: the keynote/breakout session format, or the panel format without any touch points between an online or offline audience.
Use Neuroscience Persuasion at Events
Neuroscience has entered marketing and now events. Using neuroscience is a subtle technique to say things in the most advantageous way to influence people to act. It helps you make the most of your time and efforts without a salesy tone.
Become more persuasive for greater success:
- Build consensus. Instead of asking people to do something, tell them how many of their peers are already doing it. For example, “93% of our registrants register during Early Bird pricing so don’t miss out.” This works because we take social cues from other humans.
- Use movement to improve event energy. Sitting is the new smoking. If ‘the brain can only absorb what the butt can endure,’ then purposeful movement in sessions is a good idea. Set a goal to get your participants to move around for 2 minutes every 20. They will be more focused, more energized, more alive!
- Employ active learning in the form of activities such as reiterating what has been learned out loud in the attendee’s own words. An attendee who takes ownership of the materials will retain more and be able to retrieve it. Provide time for reflection, small group discussions and building a hive mind.
Safeguard Your Event Reputation Through Safeguarding Attendees
Most event planners want attendees to have fun but there are times when “fun” takes a dark turn. We’ve seen this happening in Hollywood where accusations of sexual harassment have shown a spotlight on activities that no one wants at their events. Conferences and events can be a target environment for inappropriate behavior. With copious amounts of alcohol and some people seeing events as an opportunity to take a vacation from themselves, the stage is set for problems. According to a recent report, 60% of respondents said that they had experienced harassment at scientific meetings in the last 24 months. Only 18% of those that had experienced it reported it at the time.
Create a safe environment for everyone:
- Draft a code of conduct. Discourage unwanted behavior by creating policies outlining inappropriate behavior, channels to report issues, and protocol for staff on how to deal with allegations. Be specific about how the code will be enforced. Attendees need to know that they are valued and can expect to stay safe. Your code of conduct should be communicated and visible and adapted specifically for each event.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol can play a factor in inappropriate behavior. Because of this, some event planners are deciding to remove free bar service from their events, while others are regulating and managing it differently. This can be a drastic change to the event experience, particularly if this is an established annual event. Loyal attendees may question the change in alcohol policy. If you want to continue offering drinks consider changing the open bar to something like servers distributing the drinks to control the flow. Or stipulate a drink limit per guest or voucher system.
- Provide a safe environment by banning offenders. Be aware of who is attending your event. If someone has a history of sexual harassment complaints against them or has been known to display inappropriate behavior, track this and ensure they are not allowed to attend in the future. Share intelligence with the event industry or specific sectors on serious allegations. If a guest is acting inappropriately at your event and you shut them down, they may move onto the next.
Bring Attendees Together Under DFI (Demand for Impact)
This trend counters the personalization shift that has been occurring over the past few years. Instead of designing an event around individual preferences, a DFI event strives to unify people under one banner, one goal. The focus is shifting to the importance of outcomes and the desire to make an impact and difference.
Be part of the solution, not just the conversation:
- Build support for a movement by empowering attendees to spread the mission of the organization. Use the event to advertise, support, and promote an external message and movement.
- Give attendees an easy task to help with a larger movement. Sometimes event planners ask attendees to collect something on behalf of the effort or sometimes there’s a sponsor who offers to match whatever is raised. Whatever you decide, be specific about the impact it is making.
- Break a record. Maybe your undertaking is something you want to accomplish on a large scale. In that case, consider involving the Guinness World Records folks to raise awareness by breaking a record, creating a spectacle, and having fun.
Experience Is the Key Ingredient of a Post-Covid Live Event
At our Hybrid Revolution Summit Event, Shawn Cheng, Project Manager at MCI, shared that when it comes to live event components, we will need to offer much more for our community to choose to attend events in person.
One element the virtual world can never fully replace is the surrounding environment, whether it’s a Caribbean Island your guests need to travel 10 hours to get to, or the banquet hall a few subway stations down the road — they are not in their living rooms. All the efforts of staying at home and social distancing are very important, but do not lose sight of why we do all this: to meet again.
Create an experience worth attending in-person:
- This could be as simple as attempting to break a Guinness World Record (even a very silly one). Alternatively, home in on the unique opportunities presented by the destination — for example, biologists might appreciate a unique opportunity to travel to São Paulo to attend an international convention, especially if there is a research tour to the Amazon after the event.
- Make sure to leverage the magic of the destination to create an immersive experience so the audience will want to be here rather than at home.
- Make the audience part of the show. The live audience is a secret weapon when creating engaging content. If your budget allows, have a camera dedicated to capturing the reactions from the crowd in the room. The opportunity to be part of the show is also a great differential between in-person and virtual attendees. Being able to say “mom, I’m on TV” might be enough for some people to travel to your event.
Feedback Is the Way to Measure Experiences
Despite the general agreement that success must be measured, a whopping 55% of respondents to our Science of Experience Design survey believe that they could be doing a better job of measuring the success of their live experiences, and a full 17% of respondents said that they do not measure the success of their live experiences at all.
The survey also asked respondents to identify the top three best ways to measure success from a list of 8 options.
The 3 most important ways to measure the success of a live event experience.
Feedback surveys were the most popular method with 59% of respondents favoring them. Feedback from clients or management was a close second at 55%.
Technology-enabled analytics and revenue/sales were also close contenders, finishing at 44% and 41% respectively, though this might change as event success metrics continue to shift towards the same accountability standards as digital marketing success metrics.
Empower Attendees to Be Heroes with a Conference that Cares
Event planners are responsible for finding the specific, unique qualities that unify delegates into tribes. They do this by thinking through the desires of those tribes and finding ways to offer them authentic versions of what they want. They want events to reflect their full self, their true self and successful events pay that out in spades. Participants will demand more of this feeling and this specific hero energy because it’s addictive. That hero feeling makes people want to continue to make a difference in the world. This will be a virtuous circle supporting and encouraging more ‘Conferences that Care’ or, more likely, more elements of care and compassion at more events.
Create an ethos of caring:
- Maintain and provide updates on the work you did in the community at your event. People cared enough on the day of the event, they will continue to keep caring with periodic updates. It also provides you with a reason to stay in touch.
- Add conference programming that addresses the challenges and opportunities from the local perspective. Sessions about solutions to such challenges (e.g. lack of clean water) lead by local entrepreneurs, can show accomplishments and explore assistance opportunities.
- Organize a relevant trip into the local area to allow attendees to witness firsthand the local culture, the difficulties and the work being done to address it.
Create a Sense of Place
The best event designs play into our sense of belonging. Loyalty stems in part from participants feeling at “home.” It’s about creating a place where “everybody knows your name.” People want to be missed when they’re not able to attend. That can be evident in your event communications but you first need to make them feel at home.
Make them want to be a part of your group:
- Encourage diversity by awarding discounts based on how far an attendee travels to attend your event. This helps them offset the cost and it helps you bring in attendees with different life experiences allowing them to network with one another and expand their tribe.
- Use Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) as a pricing structure. Instead of the traditional early-bird pricing discount, base the cost of your ticket on how many you’ve sold. The first 100 are this price, the next slightly higher, and so forth. This means people can’t wait until the last day of early-bird registration. They don’t know how many tickets have been sold so if they want a lower price, they need to buy quickly.
- Offer a 100% Money Back Guarantee if they’re not satisfied with the event. This will cause everyone on staff to provide a top-notch experience at all times. If you do this, make sure you draft participation stipulations ahead of time. It’s difficult for an attendee to enjoy the experience if they never show up.
Show them the comforts of home:
- Select music that makes them feel at home. Music anchors emotion and can be nostalgic so use it to set the scene and control energy levels.
- Use voice assistants. This tech is everywhere and most of us are used to it. If your attendees have to go without voice assistance, they will notice and (likely) complain. It’s becoming a part of daily life.
- Feed them like they’re at home or better. A lot of attendees are doing Whole30 and Paleo diets. Some people are vegan. Others have a gluten intolerance. Providing a variety of food choices will make them feel more at home and as if you have their best interest in mind.
While 2020 has seen a major shift in priorities, the issue of systemic racism is front and center. The event industry must do better. While the work of operating more diverse and inclusive events is not easy, there are a number of quick wins we can achieve to build momentum for these larger systemic changes. Speaker panels should be one of the easiest things to diversify, but organizations continue to miss the mark.
Based on recent EventMB research, 33 percent of events examined over 2019 and 2020 didn’t even have one Black speaker. If you raise the bar for diversity to having a percentage of your panel representation that actually reflects the percentage of any given diversity category in the general population, the number of events with speaker diversity is likely far fewer. Based on our research criteria, a 20-speaker event with 19 white male speakers and one Black female speaker would still be included in the 67 percent of events who hit all the diversity criteria.
We are used to thinking of 67 percent as a passing grade, but when 100 percent of events purport to cater to all audiences, a C+ in diversity is still a fail by a large margin.
For members of marginalized communities, diversity in positions of power, authority, or respect is essential for reinforcing the belief that people in marginalized communities can participate and have a place at every strata of the business. But it also has value to the industry as a whole. Diversity is not just about representation, it’s about allowing everyone to benefit from the richness in knowledge and experience that comes from different perspectives.
- Use our Black Event Business Directory. EventMB has always been committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Use our growing directory to source Black event partners in your region or city.
- Reach out to Black professional communities. For more guidance and resources, contact these communities and organizations:
Address Industry Challenges
Sometimes you can make a theme or event experience based solely on actionable items and ideas. In that case, addressing industry challenges and opening discussion about solutions can be a valuable experience for all involved.
Name the challenges. Find solutions:
- Use past experiences to understand future scenarios and challenges for the industry. Do your research to find out if these issues are new or if they’ve been faced before in another way.
- Get in front of the challenges in order to create viable solutions. Responding to something in a reactive climate does not generate the most successful outcomes.
- Don’t focus on doom and gloom. Keep a good sense of humor in dealing with the challenges. Use it as inventive to master them. These are not problems. They are challenges and can be overcome, making your group the better for addressing them.
Measurable Value is ROI King
With more marketing budgets being allocated to events and a corresponding access to better automation and marketing tools, the accountability standards for planning teams are going up. Hearsay about how well the event went or how much attendees liked it doesn’t cut it anymore. As a result, the pressure to produce a tangible delivery on defined event goals is going to affect the way planners conduct themselves and their operations moving forward.
But the planner doesn’t only have to answer to the stakeholders within their organizations. Attendees are also expecting more bang for their buck, especially in B2B events. The pressure has a lot of planners relying on marketing buzzwords to vie for attention, but attendees are getting better at seeing through the hype and scrutinizing the follow-through.
Offer true innovation:
- Avoid “innovating” for its own sake. Don’t bill your event as innovative if it’s not. A marketing buzzword without follow-through on won’t make for a good experience and will undermine the trust in your brand. The lack of delivery on your promise may make your event memorable in the wrong way.
- Do your research on what other event planners are doing in your area, industry, and type of event. Then expand on that. If you copy it exactly, you’re not innovating. Take their idea and make it scary.
- Call upon your audience to do something. Ask them to add their intentions for what they want to get out of the event. Do so in a visual way, like asking them to write it down and post it to a wall or tuck it into a Chinese lantern and set the night sky aglow with them.
- Do something big. Literally. Have a design component, display, food, or some other part of your event larger than life. These types of things make great photo ops and people will wonder what will be in store for everyone next year.
Open Labs for Extraordinary
Labs create extraordinary experiences and fuel innovation. They provide hands-on learning opportunities and encourage experimentation, which increases retention and the fun factor.
Transform the lives of your attendees:
- Set the stage from the moment your attendees arrive. This is often a missed opportunity as most event planners wait for everyone to gather at the first session or opening keynote. Instead, make an impression the moment they arrive at the venue or if many are coming in from out-of-town, the first impression begins at the airport.
- Make it visual. Never miss an opportunity for incorporating visuals because they evoke emotion and are easily shared without context. Use photo ops. Pass out sketchbooks. Hold contests for best visuals. Anything to get people sharing images. Images will help others get a view into your event and bring it to life for them regardless of where they are.
- Map out the attendee experience by creating a mind map. Using this tool for brainstorming can help you plan your event from an attendee perspective. As you sketch it out, ask yourself where the attendee would go next. What will be the next experience? What do you want it to be and what would you like it to be? Asking these two questions can help you see where it is versus where you would like it to be. Then you can begin planning how you will close that gap.
Curiosity is a natural action driver whether in life or at events. What’s behind that curtain? Who’s on Coachella’s lineup? The unknown can drive ticket sales, increase engagement, and keep people talking about your event. In a time with constant access to information, where all the world’s knowledge is a quick Google search away, secrets are the magic ingredient that can create a memorable experience.
Harness the power of the unknown:
- Host a secret speakeasy as part of an evening activity at your event. Tell a few people and watch it spread like wildfire. Don’t forget the secret knock or password.
- Create a world for attendees to enter for an evening. Escape rooms and murder mystery dinners use this type of pretending to draw a crowd.
- Leave an element of your event as a mystery until the last minute. Some secret dining events keep the venue as a last-minute reveal for extra excitement. Attendees purchase tickets without knowing where it will be. But believe us, it draws a lot of conversation before and after the reveal.
Market Small Events as Microexperiences
As we redefine the event industry for 2021, the concept of planning large events in exotic locations will change dramatically in the scale of how these experiences will be planned.
Large events will come with a lot of complications. They will be possible, but not how we were used to planning them.
Therefore, a new breed of destinations that help event professionals create more contained experiences will have an advantage. These will furnish planners with opportunities for surprising and enticing experiences that cater to a smaller number of people than what we were used to. Despite being smaller, they will be more palatable and less risky than larger events in large cities and large venues. How destinations work within a network to create these experiences will define 2021.
We foresee that hybrid experiences will have a smaller percentage of attendees in person compared to those online, and obviously the incentive to attend in person before a vaccine becomes widely available needs to be something unique. How event professionals coordinate that with a virtual counterpart is going to be very interesting.
THE DESTINATION TRENDS THAT CAN TURN AROUND MEETINGS AND EVENTS IN 2020
The venue plays an essential role in any event; it’s usually one of the first things selected and one of the biggest costs. A venue shapes the event and may even be one of the deciding factors as to whether someone attends the event or not.
So what are some of the trends in event venues you need to be aware of?
The venue flavors the event. It’s style and ambiance create an impression on your audience. Although venues are bricks and mortar constructions we have explored the event horizon and listened as growing interest in the following trends has bubbled up.
Sustainability Is Not Optional
The events industry cannot ignore the growing movement for greater environmental accountability, and many venues have become Smart in how they support sustainable design.
Attention to sustainability is a tough requirement for event professionals. Being 100% effective without the support of a venue is almost impossible. Event professionals need venues that are forward-thinking so they can pass the value to their attendees.
As a general trend worldwide, the bigger the conference centre, the more likely it was to incorporate some form of sustainability practice. Nevertheless, many of the most innovative ideas can be adapted to smaller operations, and a few small- to medium-sized venues are jumping on board in the most eco-conscious cities worldwide.
Here are some of the most forward-thinking venue features we identified:
- Reducing reliance on CO₂-heavy forms of transportation
- Using renewable energy to power buildings
- Compensating for emissions with carbon offsetting
- Using rooftop real estate to generate solar power
- Using rooftop real estate to cultivate urban gardens and install apiaries
- Harvesting rainwater and recycling “greywater”
Here are some tips on how to find venues that support sustainability:
- If you are looking for a venue that actively works toward sustainable practices, check whether it is LEED, ISO 20121, or EMAS certified.
- Travel can account for up to 80% of an event’s CO₂ emissions, so look for venues that are easily accessible by public transport.
- If you are offering your guests a shuttle bus service, look into options for electric vehicles and make sure there are charging stations within an accessible range.
- Ask about a venue’s renewable energy reliance, as many large conference centers have even partnered with municipalities to set up large installations of solar power generating systems.
Showing your support for these and other environmentally friendly initiatives will create a financial incentive for both venues and cities to pursue them.
AV companies are joining the ranks of event tech suppliers supporting the pivot to virtual with studio and production venues. These new virtual venues are essentially fully-equipped production and broadcast studios that facilitate webcasting and virtual event design.
They’re changing the game by providing a higher production value for virtual and hybrid events — an engagement strategy with a clear precedent in well-established live streaming services like YouTube and Vimeo.
Here’s how virtual venues can add value to your virtual or hybrid event:
- These venues are all about creating memorable and engaging online content. Most offer some combination of large, customizable LED screens, a physical stage, intelligent lighting, and an onsite production team — either at a custom set that you can host your event in or, with more logistical prep work, potentially in your office or some other location of your choosing.
- Virtual venues typically come with a team of AV professionals and content producers — experts in virtual event tech — that oversee every part of the event broadcast. This is an important part of the control they offer over the audio and video during the event.
- Some also support planners with ideation as well as monetization opportunities by providing renderings and visuals for sponsors and stakeholders to be able to see exactly what the event format and design will look like. This can be extremely useful both for making sure that sponsors are happy with the way they are represented and for smoothing the overall virtual event experience for attendees.
All-inclusive Venue Packages Simplify Event Venue Sourcing
Cancellation and attrition policies have long been a point of contention between venues and planners, but the pandemic has drastically changed the way both parties approach them. Early on, it quickly became clear which venues were leveraging their cancellation clauses at the expense of planners, and which were simply trying to do right by their clients while still staying afloat.
The industry has now been primed to expect the unexpected, so flexible policies will be essential for any live events taking place over the next year, and will likely remain important for the foreseeable future.
Get the peace of mind when negotiating contracts:
- Many venues and destinations are open to being more flexible with their cancellation policies. Be realistic about any potential disruptions to your event, such as renewed travel restrictions, and work with the venue or vendor to find an arrangement that works for both of you.
- Make sure that you cover your bases when it comes to your own contracts with clients. Remain flexible, but be clear about cancellation and postponement policies.
Unconventional Spaces Make for Memorable Event Venues
Events prosper, live, and reproduce on social media, so the weirder and more wonderful the venue, the more shareable it is on social media and that brings profile, awareness and FOMO for people who aren’t attending in person! Crucially, it also brings stimulation, excitement and energy – three characteristics that all meeting organizers want to foster. All of these elements are particularly important for hybrid events, as planners will need to find ways to entice attendees to attend in person.
Where health and safety regulations allow, try coloring outside of the lines and seeking out meeting locations that both delight and discombobulate attendees.
Some venues are also making the most of every square foot of their venue by making non-standard spaces available in the contract, and many destinations are even promoting outdoor spaces for added social distancing capacity.
These original spots are helping venues capitalize on areas of their business they weren’t using before. It also increases the amounts and types of groups they can accommodate and it gives event planners options that make a big impression.
Make a statement with your venue choice:
- If you are running an edgy, hip event, you want a unique, funky venue to back up your ethos, not a beige box that zaps creativity. Choosing wisely will set you apart from the competition.
- Play on the zaniness of your venue in your event marketing and even within your event press release.Explore spaces that you can really put your stamp on by renting a parking lot or the roof of a venue. Popular venues are capitalizing on this demand for unusual spaces by hiring out areas that would previously have been off limits. The main concourse at sporting venues and outdoor spaces are now in high demand. As a planner, you can enjoy the benefits of a purpose-built venue but the wow factor of creating something that guests would never expect.
- Be brave and explore dry hire options for venues that have never been used for events. Food courts in the mall, aircraft hangars, industrial wood shops, and anywhere guests can be accommodated might provide a versatile space for your event vision.
There are lots of benefits to using a landmark venue, and many building investments today have a multi-purpose approach and can have a civic and commercial remit. They become part of the fabric of the city in which they stand and contribute to the architectural aesthetic of that city. Architects, strive to build truly iconic structures that, on the inside, seamlessly host conferences and events and, on the outside, add something beautiful and extraordinary to the city in which they live, or touch the lives of those that use them.
Make your mark:
- Landmark buildings can add an element of grandeur to your event. Find ways to incorporate the story of the building into your event for a greater connection with the surroundings.
- Sporting venues are often imposing buildings on the horizon of the city and are well versed in managing traffic and crowds effectively, well signposted and served by transport links. They can provide a great venue option whether you are a team supporter or not!
- Landmark venues make a statement and the venue design could even be incorporated into your event branding and marketing.
In the past cities built convention centers specifically to attract out-of-town delegates and thus inject other people’s money into the local economy. This was all fine and dandy so long as there was a constant flow of conferences and events. But what if the external pipeline started to dry up and business flows reduced to a trickle? And what if no long-term legacy plan had been put in place? You ended up with the white elephant syndrome, the piece of useless beauty that nobody used and many cities that previously hosted Olympic Games or World Expos can point out far too many examples of such practice.
What the new modern venue can bring to your event:
- There is a trend these days is to cluster buildings together in a campus-style configuration, mixing education and entertainment, learning and laughing, conferences and events. This can be a great opportunity to create a community feel around your event, encouraging attendees to stay close to the action, with multiple options from them, shared with like-minded participants. After-hours conversations and activity can be just as valuable as the learning within the plenary sessions.
- Individual venues, too, are tending to be multi-purpose. If there needs to be amphitheater-style seating then it’ll definitely be retractable; large spaces will be pillarless and divisible using truly sound-proof air-walls; kitchens and other event structures will be removable; everything will be on wheels and nothing will be nailed down. This allows event planners to reinvent their event spaces as they need them, quickly and easily, without needing two hours to turn around the room.
- Innovative events do not always conform to the traditional conference or exhibition format. Instead, events are combining multiple elements and modern events need venues that can accommodate complex wishes and requirements within one venue or campus.
“Safe and Clean” Designations
Thanks to the pandemic, one thing we can certainly count on is an abundance of health and safety guidelines. Planners have a vested interest in ensuring that their events go off without a Covid-19 hitch. Ultimately, the future of the industry depends on their ability to demonstrate the safety of their events.
Destination partners can spearhead this effort by creating a community pledge that local businesses can commit to upholding. A community pledge not only gives businesses the opportunity to declare their commitments on a public platform, but it establishes standards that in turn set expectations for contract negotiations around the delivery of health and safety services.
However, industry protocols are only useful if they’re actually implemented. While event planners might feel reassured by the various certification labels that have surfaced, some rely on an honor system and others have a flexible framework that allows for only partial compliance with the recommended measures.
The inability to trust that all of these commitments are being carried out by hotels, venues, and other businesses makes the value of these certificates and designations dubious. It places the burden of verification and enforcement on event planners who presumably have to figure out how to assess the venues on their own — often without the benefit of being in the physical location themselves — which undermines the purpose of the certifications in the first place.
How you can make health and safety certifications work for you:
- As a first step, event planners can ask to see any documentation related to the initial certification process. A certified venue should have all of their internal guidelines organized in an accessible format; if not, they should at least be able to direct you to the external protocols they have committed to follow.
- Make it clear that you expect all of the relevant commitments to be upheld at your event — the association or government body behind the certification may not be able to monitor compliance at all times, but you can be the eyes and ears on the ground during your event.
- Reviewing these protocols can also help to ensure that your own logistical arrangements are compliant. You should, for example, double check that the expected crowd density at your event does not exceed allowable limits; even if the protocols were not produced by a government agency, a reputable third-party organization will ensure that their guidelines follow regulatory policy. In many cases, it is not just a question of how many people are allowed to gather together indoors, but how many people are permitted per square foot/meter.
Perhaps a kick-back from our super connected, 24-hour lifestyles is that some events are choosing venues and locations that are completely off the beaten track. Opting for quiet, rural locations, outside of busy city centers, is removing distractions and bringing the focus back to the core objectives for the event — and mitigating the risk of coronavirus transmission.
We continue to see a further shift from venues in “globalized” tier 1 destinations to destinations with unique, unusual, different and differentiated profiles. We’re moving finally from the pursuit of standardized, homogeneous experiences where destinations were chosen specifically because they were similar to our own, to the search for new, unusual encounters where we come face to face with difference.
Embrace alternative venues and destinations:
- Considering up and coming destinations means that you are likely to get much more from your budget.
- Make the most of the bleisure trend and provide compelling reasons why attendees will fall in love with the destination and need to attend the conference and spend some time exploring.
- By choosing a more rural location, you’re not only prioritizing safety, you are potentially creating a more immersive experience and the opportunity to connect more deeply with people.
- Away from bustling city life, it can be easier for your participants to switch off from their everyday stresses and enjoy the tranquility around them. Green spaces, water, mountains and picturesque surroundings can be grounding and make you appreciate the important things in life and our place within it.
Along with the entire events industry, venues continue to explore the potential of one of the biggest event technology trends, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Event organizers have been increasingly incorporating these new and exciting technologies in their own event delivery and venue owners/managers are responding in kind, ensuring the necessary digital infrastructure is in place and starting to use these technologies within their own businesses, particularly for marketing and communications.
That said, there’s also the beginnings of the equal and opposite reaction: the ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’ syndrome. The more technologically focused and orientated we become, the more we hunger and thirst for real human contact, for taste and touch, for tactile reassurance. It’s the swinging pendulum syndrome.
How your venue choice can appeal to the senses:
- There is an increasing use of dedicated scents across retail and hospitality establishments. Venues have been fleshing out their brand proposition, not just with technology but with good old-fashioned olfactory appeal. You walk into the lobby and you immediately get that tactile reassurance through the familiarity of the smell. Smell is a powerful tool to evoke memories and nostalgia – what better way to transport someone back to your event.
- Lighting is a big deal and more and more venues are installing lighting systems that can be tuned perfectly into the brand colors of the event or hosting company. For many venues, this is part of the package offered and an appealing proposition for event planners keen to create an ambiance.
- Textiles and textures are often important in modern venue design. Choose a venue that has textured wallpaper, rugs, cushions, curtains and sumptuous table coverings to give a tactile and opulent element to your event.
Venues Become TV Studios
To facilitate virtual and hybrid events during the pandemic, convention centers around the world have begun to invest in the necessary infrastructure and build out full-fledged virtual event studios. This is not to be confused with virtual venues — another trend on this list — wherein AV companies create studios for producing virtual events and event components.
These TV studios built within event venues provide the setup needed to broadcast high-quality and well-produced virtual events, and many also include a small capacity for in-person attendees.
Make the most of venues’ virtual event studios:
- Look for venues that offer production support. While many studios do not come complete with in-house production or design teams, some do. If this is something you need, and you don’t have your own in-house AV or a trusted partner that you’ll be working with, it’s a good idea to shop around for venues that can offer this support.
- Find the right AV partners. If you decide on a venue that can’t provide tech support, look to AV companies that have also been pivoting their services to focus more on virtual events, or to specialized production companies that can lend a hand.
- Integrate your virtual platform. Whether you’re organizing a fully virtual or hybrid event, your virtual event platform can be an important partner in elevating your event production and making use of a studio. For example, not all platforms can embed a live stream from a studio or production company, which should eliminate them as options.
Classroom-Style Presentation Aversion Equals Fewer Dedicated Meeting Spaces
Changing workplace demographics are also having an impact on destination and venue selection. Formality has given way to informality in how communication takes place in the workplace and this, of course, is now spilling over into how meetings and events are conducted and the selection of location in which to conduct them.
Venues designed with meeting rooms to maximize classroom configurations are also away with the dinosaurs. Traditional meeting and event locations like hotels continue to reinvent themselves and to offer casual, informal and multi-purpose gathering spaces.
This is most strikingly illustrated by reference to the veritable explosion in Sharing Economy platforms that offer new locations for new generations. Banished are the beige sterility of hotel meeting venues while the dynamic excitement of private lofts, photo studios and rehearsal rooms are decidedly in. And these spaces are being booked not just by creative types but by VC guys, medical consultants and accountants!
There’s an interesting parallel between the workspaces favored by tech companies and startups, and the meeting spaces increasingly sought out by meeting planners today. The fixie bicycle + bean bag + hot desk + magic fridge workplace setting of tech giants is mirrored in the dockland + warehouse + exposed redbrick + high tech setting of the “new” meeting and event spaces enthusiastically chosen by today’s meeting and event organizers.
Make the most of this venue trend explosion:
Turn to sharing economy inspired venue finding tools to highlight different and exciting spaces.
- “Pop up” is decidedly “in” as planners seek to surprise and delight delegates with quirky, unusual venue selections. Could this work for your brand?
- Strengthen the intrigue around your event by keeping the specific location top secret until just before it happens.
- For ultimate control and creativity, consider taking a disused, unknown warehouse and spending weeks meticulously transforming it into a “brand home” for your event.
Covid Has Hit Hospitality to the Potential Advantage of Planners
Short-term rental options such as Airbnb have been encroaching on hotels’ business for years now, and the pandemic has exacerbated this trend. While Covid has affected every part of the travel industry, hotels suffered a great impact. According to a study conducted by STR, hotel occupancy was down 77% during the Covid low point in March when compared to the week of March 31st, 2019. Comparatively, short-term rental occupancy decreased by 45% in the same period.
Our research in The Rise of the Smart Venue revealed that the same room at the same hotel and during the same days of the event is 1.17% cheaper on booking websites than the ‘negotiated’ or ‘preferred’ rate offered to planners. This is disheartening because a preferred rate is one of the top incentives to engage in a contracted room block. It’s a commitment to minimize costs on the space rental and F&B while assuming the risk of filling up the hotel. As a result, the preferred rate should be anywhere from 10% to 30% cheaper than the publicly accessible rate. This is not the case.
What’s worse, the average rates on booking websites are cheaper than in discounted room blocks for events. Our analysis found that 10% of the preferred rates ended up being over 50% more expensive than publicly available options for similar hotel accommodation in the area.
Similar rooms with the same level of amenities within a short distance from the event are 25.39% cheaper on average than the advertised or preferred rate. Moreover, Airbnb and sharing economy options are proving to be not only cheaper but better. Airbnb.com options are 35.52% cheaper on average and, 85% of the time, offer substantially more amenities such as an extra room, laundry, free wifi, a full kitchen, and extra beds.
Here are some interesting aspects of our research that can help event professionals negotiate better deals for their room block:
- Some cities offer substantially fewer Airbnb options and similar accommodations –above all Orlando, where room blocks always seem to be winning – especially if events happen within Disney.
- Las Vegas offers many similar alternatives and Airbnb options, yet some events manage to get very good preferred rates. This may indicate a better negotiation power for larger meetings or from experienced event professionals.
- Smaller or independent events consistently get worse rates or options. This may indicate a general lack of understanding, resources or experience to control the negotiation process.
- Europe almost always guarantees better-negotiated rates.
- When an event offers a link to book directly with the hotel with little information about the preferred rate (lack of code or deadlines), the prices are substantially higher than what is available on public booking websites.
- When a convention center is involved (and as a result a CVB), rates are consistently better even if multiple properties are involved.
- Planners with a courtesy block used services listing Airbnb and other hotel opportunities. This practice inevitably offers better opportunities for attendees.
When the pandemic first began, careful hand washing was presented as the number one way to reduce infection risk. In fact, one of the early arguments against wearing masks was the concern that they might provoke people to touch their faces with dirty hands. However, the emphasis has shifted away from surface transmission with the realization that Covid-19 is spread primarily through the air.
While no one has retracted their recommendations around hand washing, there is a growing movement to discourage so-called “hygiene theater.” The argument usually stems from the absence of clearcut examples of surface transmission where there are multiple instances proving that airborne transmission is possible.
When looking for guidance on infection control measures, it’s important to look beyond the soundbites. At first glance, the lack of evidence confirming surface (or fomite) transmission might suggest that disinfection is a waste of time. On closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that the evidence is simply inconclusive, and even the naysayers are advocating a balanced approach.
Here are some things to keep in mind regarding “hygiene theater”:
- Public spaces and surfaces are now routinely being disinfected, and these precautions may themselves be limiting the extent of fomite transmission in real-world scenarios. In other words, there’s no telling how many examples or how much evidence we would have if we weren’t already taking aggressive measures to prevent this kind of transmission.
- Assuming that the virus normally lasts for only one to two hours on a surface in real-life conditions, a nightly deep cleaning might do nothing more than rearrange viral particles that are already effectively “dead.” With that said, it would still make sense to limit shared objects and encourage regular disinfection of high-touch surfaces like elevator buttons that multiple people will be using within any given two- to three-hour period. It’s similarly still a good idea to avoid serving food in an open buffet format with shared utensils.
- Some in the hotel industry are now using it to describe new protocols that are showy but ineffective at cleaning, while others are giving it a positive spin by suggesting that a bit of “theater” is needed to reassure the public that you’re taking the threat of Covid seriously. In any case, the show must go on and common sense hygiene practices can help set the stage for events to reopen.
Onsite testing has been a topic of discussion for several months as a way to potentially return safely to in-person gatherings. Two major hotel brands, Wynn Las Vegas and Marriott, have both been working on implementing onsite testing as part of their Covid safety programs.
Marriott will be rolling out optional coronavirus tests in January as part of its group meetings and events division. The protocols include self-administered tests the guest could take prior to arrival or a coronavirus test administered by a third-party provider at the hotel.
The types of optional testing offered will range from 15-minute rapid antigen tests to PCR tests — deemed the “gold standard” in coronavirus testing — that take between 24 and 48 hours for results.
Marriott’s Gaylord Hotels and Resorts convention hotel brand will be the first to offer the coronavirus tests in January at properties in Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and Colorado. The health measure will eventually be available at all Marriott brands that wish to participate.
While onsite testing provides an additional safety measure, it also presents challenges:
- Being able to quickly test a lot of people requires sacrificing accuracy. Antigen tests are the fastest and least expensive option available for diagnostic testing, but they’re not as accurate as PCR tests.
- Even the best tests have a 48-hour “blindspot” following initial transmission of the virus. In other words, for the first three days that someone is infected, they are very unlikely to test positive — even with the gold-standard PCR tests that otherwise have over 99 percent accuracy.
- Temperatures above 80 degrees fahrenheit will compromise the accuracy of an antigen test, so it’s essential to make sure that any testing is being done in a temperature-controlled environment.
Intellectual Capital Over Physical Infrastructure
Destinations and venues have now transitioned from feature slinging to benefit highlighting. For decades, venues have pushed physical infrastructure as their key reason for selection: “we have a humongous convention center and 20 break out spaces, bring your event here!”
These days smart venues are sharing their credentials as intellectual capitals and attracting meetings and events business as knowledge hubs. Universities, innovation zones, business districts
Make a smart venue choice:
- Choose a venue that can strengthen different areas of your event. For instance, if they are the research capital in a certain field, ask a relevant professor to speak to your audience and organize tours of their research facility.
- A venue that positions itself well and knows its strengths can help your to catapult your marketing campaigns.
- Look at boutique and small venues too, for instance, a boutique hotel and combined art gallery or a music school can offer a creative venue for your event.
THE EVENT STYLING AND DÉCOR TRENDS TO QUICKLY MAKE YOUR EVENT BEAUTIFUL AND SAFE
Styling and décor are more than the physical, they are emotive. They set the scene and become the first stage in driving attendee behavior and delivering a memorable atmosphere.
So how do you achieve this without being over the top?
Simple, you understand the trends and adaptations that are popular this year as well as how you can cater to the needs of all of your attendees — whether in-person or virtual. We look at how each of these trends is driving different reactions and behavior, making events successful and examples of events that have done it best.
Use a Strong Visual Theme to Reinforce Your Narrative
Most — if not all — events can benefit from having a strong theme and story, but they’re especially useful for virtual events. According to Joe Pine, Co-founder of Strategic Horizons LLP, “every great experience needs that cohesiveness that a theme can bring to it.”
However, virtual events have the disadvantage of not being able to immerse attendees in a physical event space, so it falls to visuals within the digital environment to bring the theme together on screen. Focus on images and designs that help convey the event’s story.
- The Augmented World Expo USA 2020, which focuses on advances in AR and VR, cleverly used a play on words in its tagline: “It’s Time To Go Spatial.” To support this interstellar theme, the event website was designed to look like outer space and featured an image of an astronaut — imagery that they carried throughout the event, like on the backdrop for the main stage talks.
- This theme worked particularly well given that this was a virtual event, since AR and VR are all about using technology to allow people to go somewhere else or experience something new — virtually. This is a good best practice to keep in mind when choosing a theme: it should fit the overall objective or message of the event so that it makes sense.
Social Distancing is the Name of the Game for Room Settings
Events that have been organized since restrictions have been lifted are taking social distancing recommendations to heart. Social distancing will be a staple of post-lockdown events, certainly in the immediate future, and many events can be seen enforcing it:
In early July 2020, the Association of Professional Organization of Congresses of Madrid and Center (OPC Madrid) organized a “Día de la Reinvención” event to present their recommendations for post-Covid-19 face-to-face meetings in Spain. The event had a maximum capacity of 80 people, technical staff included, and required the use of masks, disinfection of surfaces, and social distancing during the presentations.
Similarly, the Axica Congress Center in Berlin set up a complete event showing industry leaders how an event would work with the current health and safety regulations, including social distancing.
#Germany is Re-Opening | Conference & Touring C&T
Read More https://t.co/bnOmFG25Iy
Success for Axica Congress Centers first ‘test event’ considering current health & safety regulations and virtual site inspections for those who cannot visit them personally.#EventProfs #MICE pic.twitter.com/fJQ2Sr5OLd
— Moulden Marketing (@MouldenMktg) July 6, 2020
Furniture and seating play an important role in the purpose of the event and the ability to facilitate effectively. This isn’t just for meetings either. Of course, we need to consider comfort but this can mean different things for different attendee types and we are seeing an increase in various seating options so all attendees are being catered for.
- Kinetic Learners. Kinetic learners and those who tend to fidget would benefit from quirky seating options such as swings and bean bags which lend to flexibility while others may prefer the rigidity and support of an ergonomic specialty office chair.
- Comfortable Learning. Sofas or comfortable benches can be used at conferences or presentations to give an informal feel, particularly if you want attendees in it and focused for the long hall.
- Remember note taking. Whether it’s meetings, conferences or workshops, allow an easy and effective place for attendees to take notes. One of the top corporate event trends is the facilitation of learning, so accommodating this with ideas such as these stools with adjustable mats can be simple but effective.
Using art can create a unique atmosphere for the event and is an increasingly popular décor type. With sustainability and CSR becoming more important to attendees, ensuring that you use local artists or source locally is in line with their expectations and can showcase local talent.
Sustainable art options:
- Urban graffiti. Contract local graffiti artists to make a mural or work with digital platforms to turn artwork into lighting projections to decorate walls. Projections could also be used for wayfinding or helping people guage distance at events. You could also use the art to inspire the design of your virtual platform for hybrid events to ensure consistency between the two environments.
- Original artwork. Commission local artists to create an original piece that suits the style or theme of your event. This could also be an excellent giveaway idea for fundraisers, or a prize if your virtual or hybrid event includes gamification.
Sponsored Health and Safety Infrastructure
Sponsorship packages are becoming more exciting and no longer the one size fits all option. Every sponsor has different budgets, goals, and skills they can bring to the table. With Covid safety now a major consideration at live events, health and safety infrastructure provides additional brandable real estate as well as an opportunity for sponsors to show their commitment to safety.
Offer the following branded infrastructure:
- Social distancing markers. Get creative with floor and wall markers that designate the flow of traffic and where people should stand in line. Use them as an opportunity to include your event branding as well as your sponsor’s logo.
- Hand sanitizing stations. Assuming you’ll be including ample hand sanitizer throughout the event, brand the station according to the sponsor who will be helping to provide it.
- Face masks. Create custom-branded face masks and either send them to attendees in advance of the event or hand then out onsite.
Plexiglass is a creative way to separate guests from fellow attendees and workers.
- In bathrooms — place plexiglass between each sink, therefore reducing the spread of droplets.
- In front of exhibitors or workers selling items, such as food or goods, as it limits contact during the exchange of payment. (Hand sanitizer should also be available nearby.)
- To surround objects — that way, attendees are unable to touch the item being showcased.
One way to make this less cumbersome is to use the surface to communicate information, offer brand exposure, or contribute to the overall environment by incorporating it into your decor.
Inflatable walls are another creative way to enforce physical distancing. The walls are easy to set up and pack up, and can also be easily moved as needed. Just be sure to wipe them down throughout the day and when they are moved.
Use inflatable walls:
- Around the event space to guide guests along particular paths and control the flow from space to space.
- To section off areas as meeting spaces, as private working areas, and to facilitate small group networking activities.
A new product in response to Covid-19: Safety Pois, which are stickers based on the principle of stoplights. These help with the flow of foot traffic in stores, galleries, pavilions — any place planners wish to indicate where to walk and where to stop. Safety pois provide an efficient and easily-understandable way to direct guests through an event center and maintain a six-foot distance.
Here’s how they generally work:
- The green sticker indicates a walking area, where stopping is not allowed
- The yellow indicates that people may pause in order to briefly speak, shop, or view products
- The red requires people to come to a full stop to purchase or check in, for example.
Use Backdrops to Support Cohesion
For virtual events, speakers and presenters may each be joining from a separate, remote location like your attendees, or — if logistics allow — you may be able to get them all together in one location such as a virtual venue from which you’ll film and stream the sessions.
Either way, it’s important to make your event look cohesive and consistent from start to finish in order to more effectively weave together your brand narrative and provide attendees with the feel of a high production value event. One way to add a cohesive element to your virtual event is to incorporate backdrops.
- The Salesforce’s World Tour Sydney Reimagined virtual event, which took place in March, prioritized backdrops for their sessions. Although each session was set to a different environment, the backdrops were all notably in line with the event’s “world tour” theme — whether it was a beach, the mountains, or a cityscape.
- These backdrops served to give the event a cohesive look, and they also helped to engage the audience by also allowing for a literal change of scenery for each session.
- A professional look and feel adds to an event’s engagement potential and helps improve the virtual attendee experience by making people feel like they’re part of a well-put-together event as opposed to simply watching disparate home videos on the internet.
- Ideally, every speaker would be provided with an image to set as their background, which can be used as a branding opportunity or a way to further incorporate the event theme.
Small Crowd Management
At a time when the challenge of managing a fraction of the normal crowd is not likely a top-of-mind priority for planners, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has released crowd management guidelines. Event Safety Alliance VP Steven Adelman insists that careful planning does more than prevent emergency situations from turning into full-scale disasters — it also protects against future liabilities.
Compiled from years of expert consultation and research, the ANSI guidelines cover key concerns including ease of egress, wayfinding signage, and standard psychological reactions to emergencies. Each of these factors can have serious ramifications when mismanaged, even at low-capacity events.
Why crowd management is important even at Covid capacities:
- Ultimately, crowd management comes down to the art of anticipation: It’s not just about anticipating what could go wrong, but how people will respond to potential emergencies. This is an important exercise even when planners are dealing with small crowd numbers.
- For example, low crowd density doesn’t guarantee that attendees will notice any exits beyond the doorway they initially used to enter the building. If the main entrance becomes blocked during an emergency, obvious wayfinding signage becomes essential to quickly guide them safely to other means of egress.
- It’s also imperative to understand how measures put in place to mitigate coronavirus-related risks interact with the established protocol for crowd management.
- For example, if planners have set up plexiglass barriers to limit airborne transmission, they may need to use extra signage to help attendees navigate around these structures in an emergency. While the general principle is to make egress as intuitive and quick as possible, the specifics may vary from event to event.
In the age of Covid, your seating arrangements, lounges, and overall flow in the design will be contrary to what planners have been accustomed to until now. Instead of bringing people together in common areas, recent research by the German University Medical Center Halle (Saale) indicates that the goal will be to keep them apart according to social distancing guidelines, and to minimize traffic and potential interactions.
To control attendee flow:
- Minimize movement. Mingling with others and moving about during the event are substantial risk factors. The most effective scenario in the above study for mitigating risk through direct contact involved designated seats. The key component there is that attendees have a place where they are supposed to be for the duration of the event, and are in a position (seated) in which they are not inclined to move.
- Provide ample signage. Use signs and floor markers to indicate the flow of traffic and limit people having to cross paths.
- Limit lines. Many people closely lining up at an event is the epitome of what not to do during a pandemic, so make sure you can adhere to distancing guidelines at all times. If the venue has multiple entrances, make use of as many as possible, with about 250 people entering per hour. Mobile queueing technology could also be applied to events as this allows attendees to virtually be added to a queue without having to physically wait in line.
When designing your live or hybrid event, consider the type of furniture that you’ll be using — some may be more hygienic and easy to clean than others. Although it may not be your top priority when it comes to safety measures, every little bit helps.
Implement furniture hygiene measures:
- Choose wood and plastic over leather and upholstery. Surfaces like wood and plastic are much easier to clean than something like leather, and they also dry more quickly. In addition, bacteria and viral particles may be able to more easily collect in creases and seams of softer materials.
- Clean regularly. Although surface transmission may not present a huge risk, it’s still a good idea to regularly disinfect furniture and other surfaces that attendees are coming into contact with.
As leaders in the industry, it’s our responsibility to expect, and sometimes-even demand, that the companies we choose to work with have sustainable practices in place. Renting items is a way to contribute vs. buying pieces and subsequently throwing them out. Repurposing will be our trending green buzzword of the year.
- Use your venue. Turn existing elements into a new area or benefit to your event like this swag wall that used to be the office mail sorting pigeon holes!
Credit: Destinations by Design, Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas (catering)
- Living Décor. Centerpieces and décor that are alive and can be planted after the event are a great give back and a trend we’ll see incorporated more into events —- choose floral with roots or manicured hedges.
- Donate Leftovers. Donating of food to various charities that have set up the framework to safely transport leftovers, or working with facilities to compost the excess, is a mindful way to approach the food aspect of events, which is one of the easiest (and largest!) waste-saving tips for your program.
THE TOP EVENT F&B TRENDS
F&B innovations were of a different sort in 2020 — less interesting fusion cuisine and experimental canapés, and more logistics and packaging to prevent the spread of Covid. We can expect more of the same in 2021, with the priorities being contactless delivery, dedicated seating, pre-packaged food, sanitation, and physical distancing.
Seated Happy Hour
A recent study out of Germany demonstrated that dedicated, physically distanced seating during food and beverage consumption is an effective way to limit the spread of Covid at events. The test scenario with the least risk of transmission involved giving everyone assigned seats in designated pairs, even when eating and drinking.
The logic is that attendees in a comfortable, dedicated position are less likely to move around in general — especially when everyone else is doing the same — thereby minimizing unplanned encounters with other people in transit. Reducing contact exposure becomes especially important when eating and drinking since attendees have to remove their masks.
- Plan a seated networking reception or happy hour, respecting social distancing guidelines, to mitigate the risk of people gravitating towards each other while snacking or sipping with their masks removed.
- Be creative when providing networking opportunities — consider taking small groups of people that you have qualified such that contacts between them are likely to be valuable and productive, and organizing a carefully planned networking engagement for them.
- For some events, taking on the risk of F&B and networking may not be worth it, so always consider the benefits and risks carefully.
Contactless Food Delivery
Safely catering events — particularly indoors — in the current climate will require what Lenny Talarico, Director of Sales at Blueprint Studios, refers to a “retooling of your specific products and the delivery process.”
In terms of delivery method, it’s clear that self-serve buffets are not currently viable, and passed hors d’oeuvres or drinks pose similar risks. Any area where people may congregate should be avoided.
Set up safe food delivery methods:
- One option is to individually serve meals to attendees, but it may also be a challenge depending on the event regulations. For example, Las Vegas is allowing events of up to 1,000 people, provided that attendees are kept in separate groups of no more than 250 and that venue staff do not cross over from one group to another. This will be particularly tricky when it comes to catering, since waitstaff generally go back and forth from a centralized kitchen.
- Talarico mentions that we’ll likely see a shift towards the “quick service restaurant” model, which would be a potential solution. If proper barriers and safety measures were put in place, this would enable attendees to place an order in a designated area — ideally through a contactless ordering method — and pick it up at the end of the line, without mingling with the catering staff.
- Another potential option is to have attendees pre-select meals that will then be plated in advance, which is perhaps the safest option. However, Talarico emphasizes that this will also require high-quality and consistent offerings in order to be successful with attendees.
Happy hours have long been a staple of networking activities at live events, but they’ve been largely left out of the virtual scene. As we look to a hybrid future, we have an opportunity to reevaluate the role of alcohol at business events.
Somewhat ironically, the biggest reason to include alcohol is also the biggest reason to exclude it: It reduces people’s inhibitions at a time when compliance with health and safety regulations is more important than ever.
- Alcohol increases transmission risk. Alcohol consumption simultaneously inhibits the disposition to comply and counteracts the two fundamental tools for reducing transmission: the wearing of masks and the enforcement of social distancing.
- Alcohol entails liability. While some have pointed out that virtual attendees are free to consume whatever beverages they have on hand at home, actively providing alcohol to attendees is assuming a level of liability that does not apply with remote participants who act of their own accord.
- Choice does not equal inclusivity. Many legitimately cannot partake but feel pressured to attend networking sessions, putting themselves in the awkward position of having to constantly refuse well-meaning offers of alcohol—a practice which itself can alienate them from the networking you came there to do.
- Alcohol undermines effective professional networking. Alcohol changes the nature of what people are there to do, and undermines the value for that segment of the audience who want to stay focused on professional opportunities.
- Hybrid events are recorded. It bears mentioning that the hybrid nature of these events means that everyone is effectively on camera, and most people would not be keen on the idea of their alcohol-influenced conversations being recorded or broadcast over the internet.
Event planners need to challenge themselves to reexamine the networking goals and objectives for the smaller hybrid experiences to come. What will justify the expense and the risk for prospective attendees? Hint: It’s not a party.
Drinks can be served without being the central attraction. Offer a variety of equally high-quality alcohol-free beverage options so wine and cocktails aren’t treated as the default choices. Otherwise, make alcoholic beverages available for a short period only, or only with a meal, in this way limiting the potential for a noticeable behavioral rift between those drinking and those who are not.
The 2021 Trends in Event Marketing that will Help you
Sell More Tickets
We all know that keeping up with the latest marketing tips and techniques can be a challenge but you don’t want to get left behind on your marketing strategy.
The good news is that there are plenty of new techniques you can apply right now to ensure you’re ten steps ahead of the competition.
In case you hadn’t noticed, everyone’s a marketer these days. From the person who answers the phone to the individual who pitches the clients, you’re marketing your event firm or department at every turn.
Marketing has evolved a lot over the past several years with social media and data making connections possible that wouldn’t have happened even a few years ago. Are you staying ahead of the curve when it comes to event marketing?
Embrace the Last Minute Attendees
One of the hottest event industry trends for 2020 is ensuring you continue marketing up until the last minute. Attendees are waiting longer and longer to register and buy tickets. People are leaving options open and waiting for last-minute travel deals to help offset ticket prices. So how do you capture those last-minute registrants and still maximize your resources?
Keep ticket sales going:
- One suggestion is personalized follow-up and targeting. Send out reminder emails to previous attendees who have yet to register. Personalize the message to make the recipient feel like they’d be missed if they didn’t attend. To instill even more of the VIP feeling, send it from your founder or CEO.
- Step away from early bird discounts to more extreme early bird pricing. Set a limited number of tickets at a lower price or offer a discounted rate until the program is finalized, giving no set deadline. When people have no guarantee of how long the cheaper rates are available it creates a bigger sense of urgency akin to Black Friday deals that are available until they run out. You don’t know when that will be so you buy now or risk missing out.
- Use reverse psychology in your event marketing. By having standard tickets and a late booking ticket rate it can start to change people’s approach to leaving it to the last minute as no one wants to incur a perceived penalty rate.
- If you are running an event that runs for more than one day, another good strategy to boost ticket sales for subsequent days could be to create video highlights which are edited and published quickly at the end of each day. This can be promoted, with clear messages that tickets are still available, to entice people to buy and come along on the remaining event days.
Different Pricing Models
One of the most effective event planning trends we have seen is in ticket pricing. Borrowed from music events, premium ticketing and pricing are becoming popular event planning trends for 2020. People aren’t willing to wait for a serendipitous chance to meet a keynote. Instead, they’ll pay to do it.
Popular motivational speaker Tony Robbins charged a ticket price based on seat much the same way you would for a concert. Premium charges and VIP packages guaranteed attendees a seat in the first five rows.
Experiment and mix up your pricing model. Look at alternative revenue sources and upgrades. Innovate and do things differently to gain a competitive edge.
Change your business pricing model:
- Get creative with the different tiers of packages available to exploit VIP, upper-tier pricing and strategically create a limited supply, special product, with the scarcity of the package pushing up the level of demand. From a psychological point of view having top-tier pricing options makes the standard ticketing options seem more appealing to the masses, whilst having a top dollar option available to those willing to pay the premium.
- Premium seating is not the only way to offer more to your attendees. The VIP packages may include the perk of having travel brokers book your travel arrangements for you at a discount as well as concierge service at the airport, and a welcome pack delivered to your room.
- For exhibitions, premium pricing is also being used at exhibitions for those wanting fast track entry, VIP entrance, access to meet and greets, complimentary refreshments, priority seating, access to seminars and VIP goodie bags.
When it comes to virtual events, there are other considerations to keep in mind. When we polled the participants of our Pivot to Virtual event, almost 75% of respondents said that they do not charge for their virtual events at all.
From a pragmatic perspective, you have to be able to convince prospective attendees that your event is worth the cost, but it’s important to be sensitive to the unprecedented financial challenges we are all facing, and that means setting a fair price while delivering value for money.
With that said, at the end of the day, you won’t be able to keep providing this value for your clients if you don’t build a sustainable model for your own business. Moreover, you don’t want to undersell the product that you’re offering.
Here are four different virtual event monetization strategies:
- ‘Pay-What-You-Can’ Transitioning to Fixed Price. The exact timeline for events reopening is uncertain, and long-term plans are shifting day by day. Under these circumstances, it’s reasonable for event planners to adjust their pricing model as they work to gain a foothold. The team at Skift settled on a temporary pay-what-you-can system for its virtual events while establishing the value of its virtual offerings, but will transition to fixed-price tickets.
- Multi-Tiered Pricing. The flexibility of virtual formats can also allow you to set price tiers, in this way ensuring that your event remains affordable while still presenting multiple opportunities for upselling.
- Discounted Admission and Flexible Cancellation. If many of your registrants signed on before the transition was made, it might make sense to offer a partial discount or even modify your cancellation policy. While a “money back guarantee” trial offer may not be commonplace in the events industry, the virtual model makes this approach much more financially viable — and it could make a full-price ticket more attractive to potential attendees.
- Flat-Rate Exhibitor Fees and Bundled Virtual Trade Show Packages. Trade shows that build their reputation primarily on traditional buyer-seller interactions might have a harder time positioning virtual events as an attractive replacement for in-person exhibitions. The Toy Association decided to navigate these waters by offering three “market week” events that allowed exhibitors to showcase their new products and set up meetings with prospective buyers. Toymakers could participate in all three events for a flat rate of $650, or register for August and September only at a rate of $500. These bundling options reflect a strategy that delivers maximal exposure for exhibitors while also accounting for the upfront development costs of the digital platform.
Events are an important part of the marketing mix and a powerful way to cement brand recognition and loyalty. The perception of a brand is instrumental in terms of market positioning and pricing strategy. Google is looking for signals that identify a quality brand, to decipher who should display at the top of the search engine listings. Popular brands increasingly dominate online search results and is it any coincidence that these brands are often investing most heavily in live events too.
Elevate your brand:
- Google seems to look favorably on brands which have a lot of users searching, clicking and interacting with the brand. Events can encourage all of these behaviors to happen.
- Many big name brands have an active events program and produce annual user conferences to bring together many of their community. It can be a great marketing opportunity if you have supportive users who are eager to keep up with the latest developments and tricks to get more from the software or product. Offering free tickets to the event can also be a sales incentive for new customers. Salesforce, Amazon, and Hubspot are just a few of the huge brands behind massive and successful annual events, attended by tens of thousands or, in the case of Dreamforce, hundreds of thousands of attendees, every year.
- Instead of sterile, official and anonymous corporate social media accounts, personalities behind the brands are being encouraged by more organizations. Previously employees were being told to add disclaimers on their social media profiles to confirm that “these views are my own, and not those of my employer” however individual staff members are increasingly able to proclaim who they work for and to have an active presence on social media. Twitter accounts with the first name and company name are popping up more frequently, to keep some degree of anonymity for the individual, whilst representing the business name front and center for the brand. Creating encouragement and positive parameters and guidelines for your team is the way to make this company policy.
- Employees can be thought leaders. Enable them to have an opinion, be more outspoken, be more authentic, share behind the scenes stuff. Most of all, staff can give an honest and natural representation and show off the personalities behind the company. Not all organizations are being brave, but it can pay off as a strategy and your talent can be the best brand ambassadors and creatives you have. After all, people are more likely to take action or a purchase decision on the advice of someone they know and trust so widening that reach can only be a good thing.
84% of social sharing happens via dark social – online conversations that are not trackable by marketers. This is driven by copying and pasting links to share via email, text message, chat and messenger apps, such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Line, and WeChat.
Micro-influencers can have a big impact across dark social. Although difficult to influence, encourage, control and monitor, dark social should definitely be front of mind.
Take a walk on the dark side:
- Make sharing your content easy for attendees so they can share it via their preferred communication channels.
- Use trackable links to better identify those that have come to your content via dark social.
- Using text messaging is a good way to get your audience’s attention. 98% of text messages are read, unlike email.
- With Facebook messenger now plugging into websites with its chat feature, we’ll begin to see a lot more businesses using this direct appeal. Facebook used its own messenger bot for its F8 conference this year to make it easier for attendees to connect with each other and provide updates for upcoming sessions.
There is governance and legislation around working with influencers. By law, it must be disclosed when it is an #ad or paid for placement, whether it is a social media post, YouTube video or blog post. It is not fair to mislead people and savvy audiences can sniff out and mistrust any sponsored content trying to flaunt the rules. If you can identify a genuine affinity between an influencer and your event, marketers shouldn’t be scared of sponsored content regulations.
How to create a persuasive campaign:
- The best strategy for working with any influencers is to ensure that they have the freedom to create authentic content. Although it is tempting to be prescriptive and dictate the messaging, imagery and output that you want influencers to use, this can be a turnoff for their followers looking for something more personal.
- Be brave and work closely with influencers. Hear their ideas for what they think will resonate best with their audience and be willing to take a risk on what they suggest. This will then stay true to the blogger’s voice, without being filtered and losing the credibility of the influencer and your event brand.
- Social media is changing in line with this now and Facebook even has specific tools for branded content, which means that partners have to be tagged and gives them high-level performance insights too.
Images and video are still set to dominate marketing throughout 20210 and this is important throughout the whole event lifecycle, not just pre-event. For many organizations, visual content is the area they are looking to invest the most, second only to blogging. Events offer lots of opportunities for engaging and interesting imagery and the marketing of the event does not end when the doors open to your attendees. Investment into irresistible photo-worthy moments within your event means maximum exposure online.
A picture is worth a thousand words:
- Use emojis, GIFs and living images to bring social media posts to life. Moving images are also replacing static photographs as marketers vye for more attention every way they can.
- Invest in video clips, longer videos and vlogs, with subtitles and imagery to make them accessible even with the volume off (the default playback on some platforms unless you select to enable the sound).
- At events, instead of speeded up time lapse shots, use ‘slow mo’ footage focusing on different elements of our events and guests having a good time.
- Green screen backdrops and tablet operated photo apps can both offer a photograph with a choice of different backgrounds, logos and hashtags automatically overlaid and easy social sharing and sharing with the attendee.
- Using facial recognition, your attendees can be automatically tagged and notified of any photos they appear in from the event, to encourage them to save and share with their networks in a speedy and timely manner.
- The aesthetic of your event is more important than ever as you know that every interesting element and angle is likely to be shared. Event planners are spending more on big props, nostalgic, quirky and awe-inspiring features. This could also explain the popularity of food trucks, which look good and are often well photographed. Life size cutouts and display boards with full-size head-to-toe photography of the stars of your event will also cause a stir.
- The motivation to take part in some events can be the wow factor and awesome photo opportunities above all else. Adult ball pits and play areas and inflatable assault courses can offer such motivation. It is easier to explain quickly with pictures and video why someone should attend your event, faster than you can paint a picture with words.
One of the most important event planning trends 20210 has to offer your marketing mix is drip marketing. The public is immune to advertising and will tune out or bypass sales information that doesn’t immediately interest them. Selling switches people off, blasting out sales and marketing messages is not, therefore, an effective marketing strategy, we need to be savvier for 2020. Gradual introductions and relationship building, without the hard sell, will yield higher overall conversions. There is no quick win situation. A good strategy is to draw people in and get them invested first before any sales call to actions are revealed.
Drip feed your message for better results:
- Build a sequence of ads, ideally three or five adverts, to be shown in a specified order, rather than just a single “buy/act now” message. A drip marketing campaign can create awareness and the stages may be to introduce the event, explain why the viewer needs to attend the event, and finally to invite them to come to the website before hopefully a conversion is made. This approach has been seen on billboard campaigns but it can be more accurate and effective on social media. Facebook sponsored ads, in particular, gives the tools to show a sequence of ads or videos and track who has seen what, to serve up the right content to them, in the right order.
- Drip marketing can also be used with email marketing campaigns. For maximum effectiveness create an audience segment so that the next email is only triggered to mail out at a scheduled time to those that have followed the call to action (click) in the previous email.
- Tony Robbins uses clever grassroots marketing for his events. He sends out a scouting team a few months ahead of the events. They give free seminars to business groups, such as Chambers of Commerce and other business organizations. This cultivates interest within the group by addressing issues that business people are most interested in. They never mention Tony’s event directly but do mention Robbins’ “teachings.” This is a very interesting grassroots undertaking that starts well before tickets are even on sale. Would this approach work for your events too?
THE TOP EVENT SPONSORSHIP TRENDS IN 2021
A La Carte Options on the Rise at Smaller Events
While most sponsorships were sold in packages, there were still 10-30% of events selling sponsorships elements a la carte, with a customizable selection of options.
Sponsorship Packages Feature Awareness and Value
Across all verticals, 67% of the sponsorship packages we analyzed were a combination of awareness and value. They offered branding opportunities and something of tangible value, most often event tickets or booth sales. 23% of packages offered only awareness.
Forward-thinking planners are even dismissing the traditional ‘Platinum/Gold/Silver’ package names for more value-oriented ones, such as ‘Social Media Awareness’ package. This helps marketers with sponsorship dollars to quickly identify the sponsorship opportunities best aligned with their goals. Some planners are tying titles into their themes, while others are using titles that are important to the mission or the organization.
Premium Events Being Used to Increase Sponsorship at Others
Event planners with sell-out sponsorship events and sponsorship waiting lists can consider requiring sponsors to purchase sponsorship at lesser events, or packaging smaller events in with larger ones. Associations with local events may consider adopting this tactic for national or state-wide event sponsorships. This helps trickle down sponsorship dollars to the smaller events by requiring participation in them in order to be considered for the larger events.
Sponsorship Pricing Varies by Vertical
The pricing variance from the top sponsorship tier to the third tier across all verticals was at least $15,500, with the largest gap between the top and third tiers in luxury events ($31,384) and the smallest in finance ($15,547). The largest singular spread (not averages) was in tech where an event had a $375,000 difference between first and third tiers.
Hybrid Events Are Increasing
With hybrid and virtual events on the rise, sponsorship options have been evolving along with event formats. Virtual platforms provide various opportunities for branding, such as live-stream overlays, that were not previously offered at in-person events. When organizing hybrid events, keep both the digital and physical sponsorship opportunities in mind when creating packages, and design specific channels for each audience to connect with brands and sponsor stakeholders.
THE TOP MEETING DESTINATION TRENDS THAT WILL HELP YOU CHOOSE THE PERFECT LOCATION
It’s not all about the venue, attendees are looking to the destination as a whole to provide unique offerings.
But what should you look for in a destination to make it stand out?
A destination must appeal and complement the event, particularly as a lot of time is spent in hotels, networking or with scheduled free time. You don’t want the event to fall flat because attendees are holed up in a motel, miles away from activities when they break for the day, so choosing a destination that opens up further opportunities is important. We look at the meetings and events industry trends influencing event destinations as well what they can do to prepare themselves for event planners.
Safety Standards Are the Most Important Factor in Destination Selection
More planners (37%) indicated that safety standards are the factor that would make them feel most confident in choosing a destination for their next event than for any other factor.
A fifth of planners care about a low local case rate more than any other factor. We’ve previously mentioned the role of Covid safety designations based on the honor system, and a low local case count could be the proof in the pudding — a more tangible metric that indicates whether or not the local establishments and institutions actually enforce Covid safety measures in practice.
Look for destinations with a centralized health and safety effort:
- Destination partners that have created a community pledge will help reassure planners that local businesses are adhering to health and safety measures.
- By creating a system for cataloguing businesses who acknowledge and commit to following the health and safety guidelines, destinations provide event planners with a directory of compliant venues, vendors, and suppliers — another huge asset when it comes to sourcing for a Covid-conscious event.
- Destinations that can make sense of the constantly evolving local regulations and provide all of the key information at a glance will also enable planners to better understand what kinds of events they can realistically accommodate.
Historical or Literary Context to Reinforce Event Themes
If hybrid events offer new opportunities for storytelling, then smaller destinations and venues can amplify the narrative by adding a historical or literary context.
Enhance your event’s narrative:
- Choosing a destination with a rich history can add to an event’s thematic focus by giving a real-world dimension to key concepts. An event with a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) theme, for example, can benefit from a location whose struggles and achievements are documented on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. Ideally, the destination’s historical context should provide opportunities to pay homage t
- Locations with a connection to literary classics automatically lend themselves to a compelling event narrative, and smaller venues often have the most character — which in turn makes them ideally suited for an on-screen ‘adaptation’ in the form of a hybrid event.
Sustainability and eco-friendly behavior have a positive impact on attendees and they want this reflected in the destinations themselves. Destinations that show that they care are also more likely to attract loyal attendees who speak their praise.
- Managing impact. Destinations that consider their environmental impact by managing their emissions, energy efficiency and safety will generally have healthy atmospheres and environments for attendees to enjoy at events.
- Recycling. Encourage attendees to explore sustainability by making public bins dividable to easily recycle or placing recycling zones and initiatives. Guests are more likely to be conscious of the environment if they are led by example.
- “Green” offerings. Cities and locations that offer incentives and work with venues to improve their sustainability status are able to offer more to event planners in terms of value. A destination with one “green” venue may not suit all event types, whereas working to improve the sustainability offerings as a whole gives a greater chance of success.
Risk Reduction in the Great Outdoors
The general consensus is that meeting outside is less risky than meeting indoors. Restrictions on group sizes are typically less for outdoor events, and people can normally stand closer together. Shifting to the great outdoors may not allow you to forego safety measures entirely, but it does reduce the risk.
What to look for in an outdoor meeting venue:
- Rhett Wilson and Kevin Hodder of the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa recommend looking for a venue that is not only nestled in a spectacular setting, but also comes with an existing infrastructure for open-air meetings. This way, planners can take advantage of the best of both worlds: They will have the convenience of an easier setup, and the benefit of scenic outdoor views with lower transmission risk.
- In practical terms, this means thinking about a venue with a flat and level surface area, preferably covered in a durable material like artificial grass; the supplies and the structures required to build secure tents, preferably ones that allow for maximum ventilation with removable walls; and a business model that works to minimize the event’s environmental impact.
- A venue with ample outdoor attractions also gives both attendees and their guests a chance to enjoy a little leisure while heeding safety concerns.
Virtual tourism has become increasingly popular as destinations have turned to online tours and cultural experiences to keep their clientele — including both eventprofs and tourists — interested while travel plans remain uncertain.
Leverage virtual city and country tours:
- Instead of traveling to a destination for a site inspection prior to an event, take advantage of virtual tours to get an idea of the area and whether it would be a good fit. For example, both the JNTO and Discover Puerto Rico have introduced virtual tours of their respective countries to allow eventprofs and prospective attendees to explore what these destinations have to offer.
- Virtual tours can also be used for hybrid events in order to engage virtual attendees who are not able to experience the destination in peerson.
Support From the Convention and Visitors Bureau
Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) can be an invaluable resource for planners who are searching for a destination to host a small in-person or hybrid event. Some CVBs have made more of an effort to adapt to the changing landscape than others, which will make their destination more appealing by making planners’ lives much easier.
Look to CVBs for assistance:
- Most destinations will already have the inside scoop on which of their local establishments are still operating, as well as how they are handling health and safety guidelines. If CVBs can present this information in an organized, easy-to-navigate format, event planners can gain a head start on their research.
- CVBs may also be able to provide more detailed information on the local venues that have upgraded their live streaming capabilities to meet the new demand for hybrid events.
- Ask CVBs for recommendations on activities that may be possible in their city while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
With the rise of neighborhoods creating an authentic experience of unexpected encounters and discovery, destinations are highlighting this individuality and uniqueness for events. This means that an event can rise in a neighborhood with the atmosphere to complement it, which is particularly useful for marketing and gaining traction.
Ideally, locations chosen for their historical significance and cultural heritage will include multiple venues that exemplify the region’s characteristic charm — a particular advantage when constructing an event theme while coping with limited group sizes.
By choosing a neighborhood with several thematically-linked venue options, planners have the advantage of being able to host multiple simultaneous events or event components in separate spaces — a plus for events that want to have multiple simultaneous tracks. The locations can be close enough that a single onsite team can prepare the logistical arrangements, but separate enough to minimize the risk of cross-contamination among attendees.
Meet the neighbors:
- Cultural Communities. Ybor City, a historic district just north of Tampa’s downtown core, is a reminder of Tampa’s “Cigar City” heyday as well as a living testament to Florida’s vibrant Latin community. Ybor has several venues that retain the Latin-American architectural style originally introduced by the Cuban immigrants who founded the community.
- Authenticity. Trastevere in Rome is considered by locals to be its most typical authentic quarter or neighborhood. Cognoscenti now are venturing deeper into the neighborhood beyond Santa Maria di Trastevere to the other side of Viale Trastevere where you’ll find cobblestone laneways crammed with simple Osterie run by families who’ve been making their own fettuccine for decades.
- Edgy Neighborhoods. Williamsburg, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, was colonized by refugee creative types (and, dare we say it, hipsters), escaping the high rents of Manhattan. The result today is a highly coherent neighborhood vibe that visitors to the city want to channel. Nicknamed “Little Berlin” for its edgy art scene, independent hotels and great nightlife, Williamsburg provides a real ‘neighborhood’ experience and… increasingly higher rents!
Local Intellectual Capital
There is more than one way to consider sustainability as a destination, and another element of this includes talent and how to source locally to support communities and better the destination for the future. This investment ensures that events aren’t just using the destination and leaving but also networks and the economy thriving as well.
Find your team:
- Sourcing experts. Sourcing unusual intellectuals such as experts, academics or scientists to enhance the event and educate attendees. For example, using local museums and galleries as a historical or unusual venue but then organizing a local curator or expert to provide tours and answer questions to draw guests in and make it more participatory and dynamic. This personal approach not only benefits the venue but adds more dimension to the event to put destinations into context for attendees.
- Community programs. How much does a destination invest in local communities, and how can DMO’s utilize this to create networks that event planners can tap into? For example, using local street artists or musicians to book at the event gives an authentic twist that attendees won’t have seen before.
- Local speakers with unique perspectives. Using conference speakers or performers that are destination specific creates more of a unique offering which also encourages thriving communities as a result of these events and stronger ties between DMC’s and the local talent.
Attendees are expecting to see destinations in line with technological advancements and areas that are keeping up with or even innovating the future. Technology is still one of the key factors when choosing a destination and this is not only the meeting the requirements of the event but going above and beyond.
- Wi-Fi. It’s a necessity now and attendees notice when it is not available. This is not just limited to venues, this is a destination and city issue. Free hotspots are preferred and large cities such as London have free Wi-Fi zones, perfect for staying in touch on corporate event breaks.
- Airport technology. Show your advances as soon as attendees arrive by ensuring airports are up to scratch. In-flight WiFi is popular, particularly with the corporate crowd and helps facilitate productivity. Other ways this could be done are with scanners that reduce wait times. Gatwick Airport, for example, has made the security check in after a long-haul flight a seamless experience in some areas with digital scanners and retina displays. As long as you have an updated passport with an electronic strip it can recognize you according to your face and other features and you simply scan your passport under the monitor to electronically register that you have arrived.
- Landmark beacons. Around prominent areas of the destination or city, utilize beacons to educate and enhance a visitors’ experience.
- Self-driving cars. Adoption of these is increasing and locations where these are available, even in a smaller capacity such as the self-park functions, are going to gain a lot of traction. New advances such as this are key for showing how you intend to future proof your destination and continue to thrive.
In order to facilitate travel, certain countries have been introducing the idea of travel corridors, also called travel bubbles: specific regions that will lift travel restrictions with each other and only allow unrestricted travel within the region, likely based on proximity or mutually successful suppression strategies.
Research how travel corridors may affect travel to your event:
- Travel corridors may apply to counties, regions, or entire countries depending on the location. For example, certain US states have designated other states or counties as safe, and are not requiring travelers from those areas to quarantine upon arrival.
- In addition, airlines are testing travel corridors based on Covid tests, wherein passengers who test negative would be allowed quarantine-free entry into their destination.
- Travel corridors are constantly being updated based on local case counts, so be sure to stay up to date with the latest restrictions, and keep in mind that designations may change in the weeks or even days leading up to your event.
Destinations With Depth
Locations that offer an enriched background can work for the planner and destination to create stunning results. A destination with depth opens a wealth of options from venues with historical importance to well-known landmarks or traditions that deepens the connection between the city and attendees.
- Historical importance. From landmarks and structures to city layouts, historical or cultural significance that can be found should be capitalized upon. For example, the cobbled London streets with some of the earlier architecture, in line with traditional storefronts create walking tour opportunities and simple “must-see” locations in the city, purely by showcasing its history.
- Cultural education. It is up to the DMC to educate their meeting planner on the customs and beliefs of the host destination in order to best serve the visiting guests. Meanwhile, it is the meeting planner’s job to respect those customs and ensure that their guests have an authentic and enjoyable experience in that destination while respecting the beliefs of the host country. A meeting planner traveling with their group to Mumbai, India, for example, must have conversations with their Mumbai DMC beforehand in order to educate their guests on the culture, and the likelihood that beef would be omitted from all menus. Still, DMCs must be the driving force in inclusion and maintain that force through the coming years.
Personalization on a Grand Scale
The finer details and finishing touches make an event and allow attendees to feel important but how do you get this level of personalization for an entire city or destination?
Make it personal:
- Source local. Small, local vintage vendors are being used more and more over the commercial nationwide giants because they have more time to carefully create a vision for the DMC and that DMC’s meeting planner. Local vendors have the ability to understand the importance that is placed on a DMC when a group is choosing to host its event in that destination. That is not to say that the big businesses are no longer needed; rather, the latest trends with intense customization make it more preferable to utilize local vendors.
- Custom packages. Clients that want an authentic experience are not wanting commonly sold packages. Sure, the constant customization does mean more internal costs and time because it requires a deeper sales staff with the right people skills. But if a DMC wants to win that big business, it needs to put the time and effort into a truly customized proposal.
- Cuisine alternatives. The menu options are important inside and out of the event so ensuring that cities have alternatives to suit the growing health conscious or alternative lifestyles. Cities like Memphis, Tennessee, for example, are so focused on barbecue and meat-forward foods, it is imperative that DMCs within those cities come up with similar vegetarian options that are both healthy and tasty. It may be a hurdle in the beginning, but it will pay off in the long run.
Humanizing the Destination
In the past, attendees would fly in, attend the event, and then off they went with minimal interaction with the destination. Today, that is changing. Planners are breaking out of typical event spaces and instead opting for non-traditional venues and locations. There is an opportunity to take it a step further by taking the normal, everyday business event and softening it in order to create a more authentic connection between attendees and the event.
People are looking for local or cultural events to attend, mixing business with pleasure; bringing guests with them so they can enjoy a little mini vacation on the heels of their event; and insisting on other ways to enjoy themselves.
Serve up the host city in spades:
- Create culinary adventures, side tours, and sessions involving culture experts, as long as they adhere to safety regulations.
- Offer an opportunity for the group to volunteer for a local organization as part of a service project. Charitable activities can have a profound effect on attendees and make them feel a bigger part of the destination city.
- Bring a surprise element to your event, as a useful tactic to make an otherwise standard business meeting a memorable and positive experience for the group.
- It is worth breaking the mold of traditional destination management by merging it with realness in order to create a connection that otherwise would be missed. Groups are more and more leaving the traditional meeting style in the past. They are moving towards adding unique and unforgettable components; or in some cases, removing anything that feels stiff. Powerpoint presentations are running on empty, and blank notepads laid throughout a classroom style ballroom are disappearing. Moving into their place are live visual notes done by an artist in the room. This focus on authenticity and connection will only continue to grow in the DMC industry as business becomes more approachable and less rigid.
Creating Childlike Wonder and Nostalgia
Nostalgia is always a way to make an impression. It helps people harken back to simpler times and conjures up happy memories. When a destination management company evokes those types of pleasant feelings, those emotions get transferred to the event itself. That’s why so many DMCs are getting into the game. Literally.
Add childlike wonder to your events:
- Try doing things like incorporating games, challenges, or childhood competitions — particularly those that can be executed virtually, like a MarioKart tournament.
- Host your event at a venue that caters to children, like an amusement park. An outdoor venue like this will also help mitigate the risk of Covid transmission.
- Giveaways like cube puzzles and stuffed flying monkeys can bring out the childlike wonder in your guests.
Establishing the Softer Side
Gone are the days of stodgy wingback chairs (unless it’s part of your theme, of course) and traditional seats around a boardroom table. Less is more — especially in the age of Covid.
We’re seeing examples of that in the increasing selection of non-traditional venues using their quirks as part of the decor and featuring things like whitewashed brick and comfortable areas trumping mass seating for the multitudes. Clients are looking to transform venues into spaces that reflect the destination itself while incorporating a minimalist feel and adhering to social distancing guidelines. Essentially, this trend means that the venue does not need to be overly saturated with traditional decor; subtlety speaks volumes.
Be bang on trend by careful choice of your surroundings:
- Light, airy, whitewashed brick and walls with greenery make more of a statement than an overly styled hotel ballroom or breakout room these days. In recent years we have seen a shift toward non-traditional venues, and this year will see that venue selection narrow even more into this minimalist realm. The quiet demeanor of this kind of venue shifts the focus to the content of the event; which lets guests truly appreciate why they are there in the first place.
- In addition to the airy venue selection, there is an influx of polygons within furniture and venues. Hexagons, octagons, and trapezoids are becoming the norm within venues and décor pieces alike.
- Though this minimalist style is preferred nowadays, attendees still want to have control when they walk into a venue. It is imperative to think about the placement of furniture and how it will be used by the attendees given distancing guidelines. In order to be the ideal DMC partner to a meeting planner you must ask the right questions. This way, you are not just an order taker. Instead, you are a partner. A partner that suggests the ideal rentals as well as the placement of the rentals. You are the partner that educates the meeting planner, and encourages them to make decisions that result in the best use for their attendees, while maximizing the client’s budget.
The theme of customization continues on with the boom of custom crafted activations that match the destination. The DMC industry has realized the importance of ensuring that guests feel they are experiencing something that has never been done before, especially considering that in normal times, they likely attend multiple events across the country, or even the world, every year. With that in mind, DMCs and their partners are working in totality to build pieces from scratch.
Push the boundaries:
- Something small in stature but big in impact are centerpieces that describe the destination. Create miniature works of art reminiscent of the guest destination, without them even needing to step outside the hotel ballroom.
- On a larger scale, transform an ordinary building into a vintage soda shop. Fill it with the destination’s local beverages and local sweet treats, as well as in-character servers who maintain the feel of that certain era in the location. This type of custom activation is an interesting portrayal of the destination for the guest because it is a hyperbolic example of the uniqueness of a city. While exaggerated, it is an accurate depiction of the quirks within the destination and as a result, greatly benefits the DMC which executed it.
- Connect the destination with non-local guests through custom crafted activations that reflect the city in all of its wonder and weirdness. Any DMC should be focused on honing the relationship of the guest with the city while delivering all event-related tasks.
Walk This Way
When guests travel to an unfamiliar destination, they can feel like they are constantly walking in the dark. This is where good directional signage comes in. While signage has always been a staple of events, we are now seeing the impact that strategic directional signage has in an event.
Point your guests in the right direction:
- Foam core signage has been a reliable resource for non-local guests to use as a directory at destination events for years. Now, though, the days of foam core signage are coming to an end, and in turn, are being replaced by digital directional signage. Going digital is an obvious step into the future, but it also helps reduce the carbon footprint of an event. Additionally, it allows the meeting planner and the DMC to make last-minute revisions if need be, without needing to worry about a print deadline.
- The meeting planner should lean on the DMC’s knowledge of the venue and local area to ask where directional signage needs to be and if a human arrow is a necessary addition in order to ensure the best possible experience for the attendees. Even so, while we continue to make strides in the adaptation of technology within events, a DMC always needs to be prepared to utilize human knowledge of the area in case technology should fail.
Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle
Creating a unique environment and a custom experience for each and every client can be a challenging task, but take a moment to take a step back and evaluate the request you have received. Chances are, this request is influenced by a previous decade. Much like fashion, events and trends in destinations get recycled. We are just seeing that trend hit our industry harder than ever before.
Go vintage and shop local:
- This intense need to revisit past decades and incorporate threads of older times means DMCs need to transition their selling style to fit the market’s vintage desire. While this may produce challenges in inventory, it provides opportunities to purposefully tune each event to the needs of the meeting planner. DMCs always know what items can easily be repurposed in their destination to make what was once old new again.
- The best way to repurpose vintage materials is to source them through local vendors. Small, local vintage vendors are being used more and more over the commercial nationwide giants because they have more time to carefully create a vision for the DMC and that DMC’s meeting planner. Local vendors have the ability to understand the importance that is placed on a DMC when a group is choosing to host its event in that destination. That is not to say that the big businesses are no longer needed; rather, the latest trends with intense customization make it more preferable to utilize local vendors.
- Knowing and understanding the city’s history alone can generate different themes and ideas that can be used by corporate meeting planners. These types of themes go hand-in-hand with a destination meeting, and also increases the likelihood of using and supporting local vendors. It is these local vendors and themes that will be continuously growing throughout the year. This makes groups understand and connect with their destination better than ever before.
Culinary Awareness and Alternatives
Numbered are the days of high caloric foods dressing the tables. In their place are healthier options, with allergens labeled, that are both cost-effective and tasty. So why this change? And why now? Well, in this age of information, people are not only more educated and aware of what they consume, but more concerned about potential long-term health effects. If you’re going to be offering F&B at your event, it’s important to keep these preferences in mind.
Please your guests and respect your location:
- As health and wellness move to the forefront of people’s minds, their diets are changing. People are focusing on ensuring they make healthy choices when it comes to food. In so doing, the vegetarian diet is becoming increasingly popular in Western countries, especially given the rise of autoimmune diseases. With those two major changes, DMCs and catering companies must incorporate more vegetarian options more regularly.
- Destinations have been adjusting accordingly but at a slow rate. The largest change that DMCs are set to feel in 20210 is the expectation to have multitudes of healthy vegetarian options using fresh, unprocessed food. These options must be offered at the same rate as non-vegetarian options, including sides and desserts. Even if you are in a city where meat dishes are at the core it is imperative that DMCs come up with similar vegetarian options that are both healthy and tasty.
Even more important is understanding the destinations that may have different diets because of religious beliefs. It is up to the DMC to educate their meeting planner on the customs and beliefs of the host destination in order to best serve the visiting guests. Meanwhile, it is the meeting planner’s job to respect those customs and ensure that their guests have an authentic and enjoyable experience in that destination while respecting the beliefs of the host country. A meeting planner traveling with their group to Mumbai, India, for example, must have conversations with their Mumbai DMC beforehand in order to educate their guests on the culture, and the likelihood that beef would be omitted from all menus. Still, DMCs must be the driving force in inclusion and maintain that force through the coming years.
So, there you have it – 100 trends event planners should definitely take note of for 2021. Covering event technology, meeting design, event styling, event marketing, and destinations – we hope that you are inspired to put these cutting edge suggestions into practice.
The most important information and hottest trends all event planners need to be aware of for 2021 are right here within this free report:DOWNLOAD 10 EVENT TRENDS 2021 NOW
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