6 Event Trends You Need to Know for 2019

Jill Anonson
Jill Anonson

Event attendees experiencing an event activation

With 2019 just weeks away, new trends and changes in the event industry are already rumbling underfoot. Incorporating a few of these trends early on in the year will be a key factor for developing a successful event strategy. Learn about the trends that will dominate the event space in 2019.

Your Event Spaces Must Be Innovative to be Inspiring

Planners are looking for ways to engage attendees differently and encourage innovation and creativity. A great way to start is by changing up the facilitation or presentation style. Consider incorporating hands-on group work, attendees shaping the content during the session or even a little play.

An environment that encourages respectful discussion and all points of view will open up conversation and allow for various perspectives, and, in turn, improve learning and retention. And what better way to get a new perspective then getting out of the hotel or convention center and into some unexpected venues—the surge in sharing economy platforms has influenced the desire to get out of sterile venues. Private lofts and businesses are starting to rent areas that would previously have been off-limits, which makes attendees feel like they’re getting exclusive access.

Additionally, the new workplace environments of exposed brick, bean bag seating and various work station setups are also influencing unconventional meeting room set ups and seating elements.

Drive Home the Purpose and Mission of the Event

The need to prove ROI and show successful outcomes is still a top priority, but we’re also seeing increased focus on the desire to make an impact and difference. People are inspired when they’re aligned under one goal and can help be part of the solution.

Develop experiences within the host community where they can be part of a larger movement. Allow attendees to immerse themselves with the local culture and the work being done to address challenges and then encourage them to participate. A great way to do this is to include a problem solving session and leverage local innovative minds within your programming. Public-facing events within a conference are becoming more popular. The involvement of the public creates an emotional connection and can allow the brand to hit an additional audience in its marketing and PR.

Disruptive Technologies Are On the Rise

The popularity of eSports events is influencing event connections. Tech is being used to create social experiences out of what was previously alone time. This provides more opportunities for attendees who are participating virtually. They no longer have to be mere onlookers but can join in. Sixty-five percent of gamers said attending live eSports tournaments gives them something to talk about with their friends, whether they attend with them or not.

They also attend to make connections: 61% say they go to live events and tournaments to connect with friends they’ve met and play with online, and 41% said they attend to forge new relationships.

Integrate some eSports elements—use live or 360-degree video, or create video content for sharing on social media. Tap influencers to provide commentary during the event to make virtual attendees feel like they are part of the experience. Arrange “meet-ups” or have them paired up with a “host” to extend the experience outside of just watching sessions. 

In addition, the use of voice and facial recognition will increase and will improve overall experience and engagement. We are seeing voice command activation and chatbots moving to hotels and events, and soon we will be using simple voice commands to assist and guide us through our event and tradeshow journeys. 

Virtual hospitality desks where attendees don’t have to physically go to a desk are on the rise and starting to incorporate facial recognition software. This can increase the check-in speed by a factor of 2–10x and as result, you can check-in the same amount of attendees using fewer check-in stations, less support staff and a smaller registration area, which are all great opportunities for cost savings.

Make Time for Brain Breaks

Events are full of content and activity, and attendees want to maximize their investment of time and money. But, packing several sessions to attend, booths to visit, notes to take and people to meet into two or three days can be quite demanding for conference attendees. Burnout is a reality, and participants are looking for a place of quiet. Adding areas or just time where attendees can unplug from the event and allow them to process what is happening and reconnect, allows them to come back energized and engaged.

And while the goal is ensuring attendee minds are full, don’t discount the benefits of attendees being mindful as well. Leading experts agree that “brain breaks” are crucial to rejuvenating the mind and actually foster elevated levels of creativity. Give attendees time and space to breathe, reflect, and regroup with hands-on workshops, outdoor activities, art exhibits or wellness activities. Meditation is often a fan favorite as it helps to lower stress levels, fatigue and anxiety, while helping to improve mood and increase mindfulness.

Secure Your People and Your Tech

Many companies’ risk management plans cover terrorism and communicable illness, but more than ever, tech security and sexual harassment policies need to be included as well. Events can be an environment of inappropriate behavior. Make sure you create a safe environment for everyone. Draft a code of conduct. Create policies outlining inappropriate behavior, channels to report issues, and protocol for staff on how to deal with allegations. These polices should be communicated and adapted if needed for each event.

Today’s technology features major benefits, but they also come with major risk. Continuous innovation allows event marketers and meeting planners to access and amend attendee data instantaneously, with just the click of a button.

Make sure you have an in-depth supplier vetting process—they are able to secure information and protect you from liability in case of a breach.

Outsourcing doesn’t exempt you from being liable and you need to make sure that they have the right security measures in place, since new regulations to the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, went into effect in 2018.

Push Boundaries While Keeping Food Approachable

What’s popular on the plate is ever changing, which makes it fun to take those trends we are seeing in restaurants and incorporate them at group events. Look for breakfast options that use local ingredients to create flavors inspired by global cuisines. Or clarified cocktails, which are “ultra-smooth” drinks made using a culinary centrifuge—a surefire hit that transforms your mixologist into a mad scientist.

With the increase in vegan and healthier diets, there is an influx in looking for new ways of clean eating. Expect to hear more about vegan seafood options and even cell-cultured meats (lab grown). The hospitality industry is increasingly passionate about reducing food waste and finding ways to increase their sustainable operations. Movements already in the works include straw bans in various cities and the “Waste Not” campaign launched in October by the James Beard Foundation. Pasta straws were recently spotted in restaurants in California.

Additionally, there’s a continued shift from formal settings to ones that are focused on more interaction, more conversation and engagement among attendees. To help facilitate this, utilize pint-sized presentation of food that’s easy to eat while moving around.

The meetings and events industry is ever-evolving, with innovations and advances coming from both within, as well as outside the industry. For event managers looking to become industry innovators, it’s important to take a close look at the above event trends and incorporate them in your next event. And be sure to check out our immersive experiences ebook that boasts expert strategies to engage your people—customers, partners and employees.

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Jill Anonson

Jill Anonson

Jill Anonson has over 20 years of diverse experience in event management, incentive travel and sales strategy, and serves as the Events Strategy Advisor at ITA Group. Focused on continuous improvement and challenging standards, she consults clients and team members with impactful strategies and innovative ideas that deliver successful business outcomes. She is a Certified Engagement Practioner, and certified through Pragmatic Marketing.