Soft Trends and AI Leading the Change in Meetings and Events

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Accor's research suggests soft trends and AI will help make attendees happy, healthy, and productive while maximizing value for clients.

A report published by Accor, in partnership with Globetrender, looks at trends in the events industry driven by the necessity to adapt and cater to changing workforce demographics. Trends include soft trends like promoting health and wellness, selling belonging, taking advantage of engaging environments, the push to create sustainable events, as well as embracing new technologies. 

Promoting Health and Wellness 

The report titled Meeting Expectations: The Future of Meetings & Events highlights the focus on nurturing the overall wellness of event participants. “Work hard, play hard” is giving way to “softer productivity,” a healthier balance of life and productivity. Increasingly, attendees don’t look forward to long days filled with presentations, followed by hitting the hotel bar. 

As a result, event planners should consider certain motivators, including the adjustment of typical event menus. A planner survey showed that 36% wanted to see less meat on menus, with 38% requesting more vegan options. Striking down the emphasis on serving alcohol and more inclusive food offerings is also top of mind.

Gen Z now entering into the events industry workforce is primarily driving this trend. “A younger generation is going into the workforce, and their understanding of wellness and wellbeing is strong. This is fuelling the conversation,” said Accor’s Senior Vice President of Well-Being, Emlyn Brown. According to the report, members of Gen Z drink 20% less than millennials, who drink less than Baby Boomers and Gen X.

Other health and wellness factors include creating space at an event for attendees to relax and recuperate. Experiences geared towards physical activity and prioritizing healthy sleep habits are popular.

The Power of Belonging

The meetings and events industry had to come to terms with the use of video conferencing during the pandemic, but 80% of survey respondents said they would be opposed to utilizing the technology to close deals in 2024. Not only are in-person meetings more lucrative than remote or hybrid formats, but they are far more valuable for connecting with peers and networking.

The report also advises planners to take different communities within generational demographics into consideration – don’t assume it’s a one-size-fits-all solution from any one group. However, understanding and engaging with online communities creates the opportunity to convert them to in-person events, according to Mark Adams, global tech and innovation entrepreneur. 

Engaging Environments 

Gone are the days of slogging through lengthy sessions, resulting in glassy-eyed audiences and information slipping through the cracks. Planners see the benefit of leveraging reimagined interiors that drive interpersonal connections and curated activations.

“The customer of tomorrow is looking for an experience-led but also purpose-driven brand, a brand that cares about the needs of the individual and the community,” said Kishan Chandnani, Accor’s global senior vice president of Premium Brands. According to research by Montreal-based creative studio C2, 71% of attendees expect some level of personalization during an event. Additionally, a lack of personalization would taint their view of an event for 76% of attendees.

C2 has created radically designed physical event environments intended to use metaphor as a means of exploring different topics. These intentional design elements offer an effective method of sparking conversations and creating networking opportunities.

Sustainable Motivators 

Sustainability is now more frequently seen as an imperative. An Ipsos report found that 81% of European and 74% of American travelers will avoid activities that aren’t socially responsible. Additionally, 77% and 68% said they would actively seek accommodation with a hotel that had a green certificate.

Attendees demand a reduction of carbon emissions and more efficient and sustainable events. Clients are asking kitchens to help meet waste reduction goals, according to Valerie de Robillard, senior vice president environment at Accor. Also, having less meat on event menus brings health as well as environmental benefits. “If you look at the carbon footprint of a beef meal in France, it’s 14 times more carbon intensive than a vegetarian meal,” said Robillard. 

Embracing New Technologies (Yes, AI) 

But it’s not all about soft trends. Many, if not all, conversations focused on technology have included talk of AI and its imagination-grabbing possibilities. AI technology is already a powerful resource for planners in many areas, including venue sourcing, event marketing, and reviewing contracts. 

“The ability to get so much done so quickly is exhilarating. Learn to vibe with AI tools properly, and you could be one of those whose productivity and creative output outpaces the Luddites,” said James Wallman, CEO of the World Experience Organization. AI’s ability to translate and transcribe allows for efficient repurposing of content and improves accessibility. 

The application of VR tech may still be a ways off from being commonplace among attendees. However, planners can now take advantage of technology on a practical level. Hotels such as Accor’s Pullman Bangkok, offer virtual tours using VR gear – allowing event organizers to experience the space first.

Photo credit: Med Mhamdi / Unsplash