By Charlotte Flach
With 2019 just started, event planners will be chomping at the bit to find out what the hottest trends for the year will be.
The good news is that most of these are things that are already on the industry’s radar, such as sustainability and wellness. The following expert tips will help businesses plan ahead for both new trends and those that are ongoing.
The war on single-use plastic has been a hot topic this year and is set to remain an important trend in the coming years.
Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association, says: “We will be continuing to champion sustainable practices and will be calling for the industry to join our pledge to turn the tide on single-use plastic and reduce the sector’s reliance on it.”
2) AR and VR
Technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, and the events industry needs to keep up.
Paul Martins, board member of Westminster Venue Collection and director of sales at Cavendish Venues, says: “Virtual reality walk-through presentations are already popular, but they will become even more of the norm as clients find the convenience, accuracy and even the interactive novelty appealing as an integral part of their decision-making process.
There is an increasing trend for personalization and the ability to be flexible to tailor and adapt to client needs and company values. Corporates are looking for collaborative and bespoke experiences.
Richard Powell, general manager of New Place Hotel, Hampshire, says: “Clients are looking for more from their time away from the office. Every part of the day needs to be considered.
“There will be much more of a focus on food choice, and freshly prepared, seasonal produce paying close attention to food allergies and foods to boost energy and support concentration. There is also a growing trend towards wellness and away days, with leadership development and experiential learning.”
4) Delegate experience
Meetings are to become increasingly reliant on tech for all stages of the delegate experience.
Naveen Leer, conference and events office manager at Whittlebury Hall, says: ‘‘The biggest trend will undoubtedly be technology taking over meetings. From using apps to coordinate their events, delegate lists and bookings, to using phones as keys to get into their rooms and using interactive boards for check-in and wayfinding around the venue.
5) The Brexit factor
Brexit continues to loom on the horizon, with the deadline for leaving at the end of March 2019.
Bradley Gommon, marketing manager at Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa, says: ‘‘When it comes to big event bookings, I think 2019 will be decided by how Brexit goes. Although we have some large corporate events booked in for early 2019, I think a lot of companies are reluctant to commit to big events until the final Brexit agreements have been reached.
“At the minute we’re in ‘the land of uncertainty’ where decisions are much more last-minute, but hopefully this will settle in the latter half of next year.’’
6) Memorable events
Bigger, grander events which make a statement but are held less regularly is a growing trend. Penny McGrigor, group marketing manager at Eventist Group, says: “Budgets are being squeezed and we are seeing consolidation of activities in these larger one-off bookings. In contrast we are also receiving high level of requests for more intimate and high-end affairs, usually being put on to seduce potential investors and top influencers within our clients’ industry.
Wellness and escape from the stresses of everyday life will be a sought after addition for corporate travelers and delegates.
Louise Gee, director of sales at The Grand, York, says: “With increasing levels of awareness about the concerns of stress in our work and lifestyles, we have seen a shift with corporate travelers looking for additional opportunities to enjoy a moment of peace and tranquility while on business trips.
“Relaxing and revitalizing has become a top priority, particularly for those who commute across the country on a regular basis.”
8) Digital attendance
A greater number of events will look at how they can deliver and share their content across continents and audiences.
Clare Davies, board member of Westminster Venue Collection and sales & development manager at IET London Savoy Place, says: “There will be greater digital investment to encourage live streaming, social sharing and looping in guest speakers from abroad for real-time conversation with guests.
“Not only is this a benefit to global MICE professionals, it’s also going to have an environmental benefit, when you consider 500 delegates being able to attend online conferences rather than flying around the world into one destination.”
9) Meetings for millennials
An increasing number of millennials entering the MICE sphere has seen a push to cater for the needs of this discerning demographic. Katie Dartnell, business development manager at Holiday Inn London-Wembley, says: “As the meetings industry becomes increasingly multigenerational with an influx of millennials joining their established peers, consciousness of wellness and ethics remains a key concern for planners.”
10) Zero food waste
With food waste a growing problem, the industry is beginning to respond to the amount of leftovers generated by most events.
Charlotte Wright, corporate responsibility manager at Venuelior, says: ‘‘In 2019, catering teams will take more care and attention to engage with event planners ahead of their events to learn of exact numbers of delegates. They’ll analyze previous events to benchmark volume and use food redistribution technology and apps.