In this 2017 event trend report, we’ve compiled the interesting and innovative ideas, activations, and themes as percolating trends on the horizon for 2017. Listen here for the full conversation on our podcast, Event CEO.
FOOD: I think the health kick is going to continue. There are continuing requests that meals be balanced and include healthy options. The gluten-free, dairy-free, and growing awareness around diets and restrictions will continue to be prevalent and it will be even more important that guests are confident in caterers and providers to be serving and labeling things properly. The local food movement is also growing in importance. People want to know where their food is coming from. While food trucks continue to be a fun addition at events, I think it is the activation and engagement of the trucks that will be distilled from the experience and transferred into the catering world. Caterers and restaurants can provide a donut-making station or an interactive menu building component. This sense that you know how your food is being cooked and where it’s coming from, and that you have a voice in how it’s being created, will not be limited to vehicles.
TABLE LAYOUTS: In the gala environment, we’re seeing longer and longer tables. The king’s tables are coming back! With a circle, you’re very limited to your left and right table companions. In those longer seating settings, you have the opportunity to also speak across the table and engage a bit more. It’s a different feel. I also think it adds a community vibe that is a big part of events in general.
EVENT STRUCTURE: The health focus continues beyond food and into how events are being structured. The importance of sleep is a big topic as a nation and event organizers are tapping into that. We had a corporate client cancel some of their evening activities so guests could get a full night’s sleep and a workout in. Being active and aware of the mental and physical exhaustion of being at a multi-day conference is something that’s going to continue being incorporated as new technologies and experiences are created. Even in a plenary setting, we’ve had a five-minute yoga break in between speakers, where you stand up, get really nice and close with your neighbor, and do a little bit of stretching. Maybe even sneak in a quick, light massage! While it is just a snippet, I do think that it’s healthy and important. Getting the circulation going, even a little bit, helps attendees focus and stay alert.
CONTENT: Virtual Reality was a big topic of conversation through 2016, but I haven’t seen it filter into the events world as much as anticipated. I think the experience we’ve been seeing people have with virtual reality is an individual experience, so it needs to be connected the right way with the content that you’re sharing. But it’s interesting and people are very curious about it. They want to be a part of it. They want to come over and talk to you about it, so it’s a big draw to be able to connect in that way. To best utilize this technology, think not only of what’s on the content of the screen, but the audience that you have around. How can you showcase the experience that the person is having? How do you continue to get that message out to everybody that’s standing around and watching this take place? There’s an organization called Charity Water that is using the VR Goggles. They’re having smaller dinners, including in somebody’s home for fundraising opportunities. So there’s 35 people, say, and they have a Goggle Goggle for each of them, and it’s a joint experience. It showed the path of how to get water to certain countries that don’t have fresh water. In this way, it can be used in a smaller environment but maybe less so in a larger audience. I think using some of it in an exhibit hall or small activation would be great.
TRANSPORTATION: There have been great advances. Many of the apps you can get on your phones now make it much easier to navigate any city. Uber is, of course, an app that continues to grow and evolve and is becoming a more viable option for the events industry. They are launching a new leg of their service where you can actually reserve a car in advance to take you to and from a special event. They also have a tagged receipt or alert for you that notifies you when the car has arrived, the driver’s name, etc… all in the palm of your hand. And the event organizers can make those arrangements with Uber or allow the guests their own freedom. Either way, there is certainly some more flexibility in this option compared to the traditional limo or bus service, as well as cost savings.
SAFETY: “If you see something, say something” has been the largest campaign with the Department of Homeland Security. The importance for this within the events industry is making sure that you’re educating your staff and your clients. Everyone should trust their gut and notify the best point of contact if anything is out of the ordinary. Geo-fencing is another tactic that is becoming more prominent. Geo-fencing is a way to put an electronic or wireless perimeter around something. Within these areas, alerts, texts, hot points are used to alert participants and security enforcers.
BEVERAGES: “Sipping Bars” are something that I saw recently in New York, which ties into what Megan discussed with regards to food being paramount and activations. People have much higher standards than they used to 20 years ago, when I started the business. At the sipping bar, they don’t mix drinks. It’s about the purity of the bourbon or the scotch or the vodka, and the discussion around how it was distilled, where it was distilled, and what it’s made of, the process. We’re seeing the same with craft beers, local produce… I think it’s going to move into the beverage experience, and be less about fancy cocktails and more about the pure taste experience.
VIRTUAL REALITY: To continue on Megan’s point, virtual reality is a very, very potent potent storytelling mechanism. When you’re trying to cultivate brand partnerships for the corporations or sponsor relationships for the nonprofits, you can really see where making that investment in a smaller environment pays off – where you can have a shared experience around virtual reality and also make that investment in how you’re telling your story. It’s pretty powerful. It doesn’t always have to be the big conference and the big experience; it could also be this very intimate one as well.
RFID TECHNOLOGY: I wouldn’t be surprised if this moves towards a Disney format, where your bracelet also serves as your wallet, essentially, allowing you to pay for things with it, check-in to your hotel room, etc. It becomes all-inclusive and also a major data generator for analytics purposes. That’s one of the big challenges we have in the events world is providing ROI to clients. Outside of registration and social engagement, it’s a very disparate process. Having a chip or some form of tracking piece on attendees would allow insight into every move, engagement, purchase, etc. and provide real data that can then be implemented into tactical changes to the program or overall event that make the experience better for everyone the next time around.
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Listen to the full interview: Episode 18 of Event CEO
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