New Event Planning Trends

The new year is well under way, and all of us in the event space are watching out for the new trends that’ll continue to influence our work throughout 2019. So what’s changed, and what can we expect to see going forward? At all ends of the spectrum – from shrinking budgets to investment in advanced technology – there are several trends you should add to your watch list. Here are the five I’m paying attention to this year:

1. Shrinking Budgets

You’d think that, given that the Oxford Economics and Events Industry Council reports that “meetings generated $1,294 of spending per participant,” event and meeting planners would be given budgetary free rein to produce the kinds of events needed to generate these economic returns.And yet, according to a new survey conducted by Event Manager Blog Editor Julius Solaris and released during his “Event Trends for 2019” educational session at IMEX America in Las Vegas, 55.5% of respondents cited “shrinking budgets” as a concern in 2019 – the highest response rate out of any concern reported.

It could be that shrinking budgets are occurring because events are being asked to compete against the greater number of channels in today’s marketing landscape. Or it could be that organizers haven’t yet succeeded in reporting their ROI or justifying their impact on a company’s bottom line. Regardless, it seems likely that planners will be asked to do more with less in 2019, which makes selecting the right event technology tools even more important than before.

2. Event Personalization

Those event planners facing shrinking budgets won’t want to hear this one, but event personalization is likely to continue impacting meeting and event organization and outcomes in 2019.

For an example of just how extreme event personalization can get, consider the C2 Montréal 2018 event – attended by more than 7,000 participants. Cramer reports that “Between the Conference Blocks, Conference Sessions, and Labs, there were literally 11 different ways for every attendee to experience every hour of the three day event.”

Event personalization extends beyond offering multiple sessions and tracks so that attendees can customize their own experiences. An increasing number of events are adopting non-traditional layouts and session formats as part of their personalization efforts. For an extreme example of these alternatives, take “silent conferences,” which make use of technology so that multiple speakers can present in the same space while attendees toggle between the audio feeds of each according to their own preferences.

3. Adoption of Advanced Technology

While I’m on the subject of technology, it’s worth exploring the explosion of advanced products and systems that have the potential to influence events in 2019 and beyond:

  • Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), which could make it possible for event speakers and exhibitors to present experiential learning experiences beyond simple lectures or presentations.
  • The expansion of 5G networks, which could facilitate new forms of technological connectivity as their adoption grows.
  • Increased use of RFID systems for everything from cashless payment systems at events and on show floors, to attendee data capture at every stage of event participation.

These three forms of advanced technology barely scratch the surface of what I expect we’ll see in the event space in the next few years. I’m keeping an eye on these trends (as well as how practical they actually are), and I recommend you do the same.

4. Events as Experiences

Perhaps in an effort to differentiate themselves from others, meetings and events appear to be taking inspiration from experiences such as movies and music festivals.

As an example, Event shares the emerging idea of “Emotional ‘Un-Themes.’” In an article on event trends for 2019, the team reports that “The rise of un-themes involves focusing the event on an emotion or feeling rather than a tangible concept or idea.” The authors describe an event with a “dream theme,” which combined “different dream stages and elements to create varying atmospheres for the event and allowed greater freedom in the planning stage for color schemes and ideas.”

Or, take the example of Forbes’ 2018 Under 30 event in Boston. Rather than simply introduce a musical act, the event transformed into a fully-fledged music festival, featuring performances from acts like Marshmello and Wiz Khalifa.

Certainly, going to these extremes isn’t appropriate for every meeting, and the scale of each event must be taken into consideration. Think about the personalities of your attendees as well, but don’t be too quick to pigeonhole them into limited sets of experiences. Even the most traditional and buttoned-up of audiences may enjoy elements of experience-building at their events.

5. Going Back to Basics

Having said all that, I’m particularly interested in a trend predicted by the Rapier Group: going back to the basics.

Essentially, the Group reports, it’s fine to go all out if you have the money for all the technological bells and whistles available to planners today. But all the technology in the world won’t make up for failing to get core event principles right. The Group explains, “Don’t overthink things – don’t overestimate what you need to offer to create a great event. If you can get the visitor experience just right – which doesn’t need to include flashy tech and an over-amped budget – and delight delegates at every turn, you’re sure to succeed.”

In particular, the Group calls out “ensuring amazing website functionality, a straightforward ticket ordering process, an effortless journey to and from the venue, a strong WiFi connection, and comfortable networking spaces” as the basics organizers should be concerned with. And although Attendease can’t rig up your venue’s WiFi or arrange car service for your attendees, we can help with the first two basics – effective website and ticketing solutions – on the Rapier Group’s list.