We’re now into the final quarter of the year, and it’s time to start making plans for the year ahead. 2020 has seen some exciting developments in the events industry and there’s a lot to look forward to over the coming months. By keeping an eye on some of the top event trends expected for 2021, you can make sure you plan an event to remember.
- Sustainability and corporate responsibility will be key for events run in 2021 and the foreseeable future.
- Emerging technology, including augmented reality and AI, will continue to offer more opportunities for event planning.
- Brands must focus on highly personalized events and forging personal connections with attendees.
A Move Towards Sustainable Events
The world is heating up – both figuratively and literally. Concerns around climate change have been one of the major themes of 2019 as an increasing number of individuals and corporations make a commitment to lessen their impact on the environment.
This eco-friendly approach has spilled over into the world of events, which traditionally has been a fairly wasteful industry – just think about all the plastic water bottles and catering waste, not to mention the merchandise and freebies that often get thrown away as soon as the event is over.
Now the tide is turning, and sustainable events are becoming the more popular (some would say the only) option.
So how do you make a more sustainable event? There are many opportunities, from switching to digital ticketing systems to replacing plastic bottles and cutlery with biodegradable alternatives, using seasonal, local produce in catering, and donating leftover food to local charities.
However, as you can see from the above chart, travel contributes majorly to the carbon footprint of an event. Event planners can reduce this impact by planning more localized events, and even ditching physical events entirely in favor of online events.
As consumers demand brands to develop more sustainable practices, they will also expect events to be planned in a way that will have a minimal environmental impact. Organizations failing to follow this trend may well find that their audience votes with their feet and finds another, greener event to attend next year. And remember – your event is a representation of your brand as a whole. Make sure it aligns with your core values.
Augmented and virtual reality technology solutions are becoming more commonplace and affordable. There are many potential uses for them in events for a number of different industries.
The AR and VR industry is forecasted to grow by over 25% over the next two years, with AR leading the pack.
While VR has already been a bit of an event trend over the last few years, AR is taking over as the most popular technology, mainly because it’s more accessible and offers more flexibility in the real world.
VR can certainly help to engage your event attendees and enhance their experience, but it’s still seen as somewhat of a novelty. VR can transport your event attendees to another world and can be useful for virtual tours and games, but its applications are limited.
While virtual reality creates a completely virtual world, augmented reality adds digital elements to the real world environment.
AR technology is a more attractive and practical option for many event organizers because the technology is more affordable and accessible (AR apps can be used on any smartphone) and it offers a huge range of possibilities.
AR can be used for interactive product demonstrations, to help attendees learn more about each other and network, to create interactive venue maps, provide entertainment and opportunities for engagement, and more.
Mindfulness and Wellness
2020 may be the year we say goodbye to a culture of “hustle and grind”. Working long hours and putting work over personal life is becoming increasingly unpopular with today’s millennial workforce.
The workers of 2020 and beyond favor a more balanced approach – working smarter rather than harder, with more importance placed on the value of mental health and general wellness.
What does this have to do with events? Well, packing back-to-back workshops and seminars into an exhausting schedule is definitely considered to be an outdated approach.
Over the coming year, expect to see more events incorporating mindfulness and wellness activities into their schedule, whatever the industry. This may include meditation and yoga workshops, dedicated “brain breaks” designed to inspire creativity, “unplugged” tech-free zones, outdoor activities, massage stations, and other sessions designed around wellness.
Salesforce’s annual event, Dreamforce, has taken this trend to heart by partnering with mindfulness organizations to provide guided meditations and mindfulness sessions during the four-day conference, as well as running yoga sessions and fun runs.
Smaller, More Intimate Events
Running a big flashy corporate event may be seen as a badge of success by many companies, but demand is actually growing for simpler, smaller events with authentic opportunities to meet face-to-face.
Stop thinking of events purely as a marketing opportunity and consider them more as a chance to engage better with your audience and build trust. Consumers are increasingly demanding authenticity from brands and becoming distrustful of big business. Creating more opportunities to speak with individual customers on a one-on-one basis makes your brand feel more personal and less like a faceless corporation.
Smaller events also open up the possibility of using more unique boutique event spaces that are more appealing to attendees.
The average group size of events in 2019 was under 50 in Europe, and under 100 in the USA and Asia.
The improvements in technologies such as live streaming video and VR also mean virtual events are growing in popularity. In the future, we’re likely to see more blended events where a small number of people physically attend the event, but many more check in virtually.
Networking opportunities are a big attraction for many event attendees, aside from the event itself, so make sure you schedule in plenty of free social time and provide casual spaces that promote interaction.
Advancements in technology mean that consumers are now expecting more personalization in their communications with brands, and this is going beyond digital marketing channels to become a key part of events too.
Big Data and AI are creating more personalization opportunities such as the ability to create a unique event schedule for each attendee, or even just to provide a personalized map of the venue location with nearby points of interest.
Companies using events for marketing can also use data collected about event attendee behavior to create personalized follow-ups and more highly targeted and optimized marketing messages post-event. This practice is commonplace in all the big and popular digital marketing conferences today.
Non-traditional Venues Gain Popularity
If you’re about to book the conference room in your local hotel for your next event, stop! Research by Social Tables shows that over 90% of event planners agree that events are more likely to be booked in a non-traditional venue than five years ago.
Thinking outside the box when it comes to your event venue comes with advantages. Choosing a visually appealing venue is more engaging for attendees and encourages them to post images of the event on social media.
Some examples of venues that are becoming more popular for hosting events include warehouses, barns, gardens, museums, art galleries, and co-working spaces.
This doesn’t mean that hotels are out completely though. In line with this trend, more hotels are thinking about how they can meet this need for more inspiring surroundings with non-traditional spaces such as rooftops and outdoor venues, or simply offering more options when it comes to event design and styling.
The growth of ridesharing apps has also made it more practical to host events outside of the typical downtown venues. More accessible and affordable transportation means that organizations can now take advantage of more varied locations and lower cost event venues.
As more event planners are seeking out new venues for events, this hasn’t gone unnoticed. There’s now a new breed of venue sourcing software available that makes it easier for event planners to find an ideal venue based on several different criteria.
Use of AI in Event Organization and Analysis
Another emerging technology that we’ll see more of in the events industry in 2021 is artificial intelligence.
Event planners can use AI in a number of different ways from event planning to during the event and for post-event analysis.
Just as e-commerce sites use AI to power their recommendations engines, event planning software has started using AI to assist planners by finding potential attendees, speakers, influencers, and topics, and suggesting optimal times and venue locations.
AI-powered Chatbots can be used for pre-event marketing and customer service to answer common questions, automate ticketing and follow up leads.
Facial recognition is another highly useful application of AI that can be used in events for everything from security and streamlining registration to personalizing experiences.
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