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Event Trends Watch: The Largest Trends Database of 2018

By Julius Solaris

event trends100+ event trends transforming the industry. This is your insight platform to navigate 2018 and access the latest ideas changing the way we plan and execute events.

If there is one thing that event planners from all over the world love EventMB for it would be current trends in event planning.

Since 2010, we have published some of the most successful research ever done on trends.

This is what makes our meetings and events industry trends different from others.

Don’t get me wrong.

It’s fun to speculate on what the future may look like. It is my idea though that you have a business or an event to run. And you don’t have time for chit-chat.

This is the catch.

Research makes a difference. Internally we call this ongoing, eight year-long research, Event Trends Watch.

It is based on the following:

  • keyboard_arrow_right The largest and fastest growing database of event technology companies
  • keyboard_arrow_right The largest research ever carried out on event technology
  • keyboard_arrow_right The feedback from approximately 5,000 event professionals on what is trending.

This is why eyebrows rise when we read about trends sometimes. Give us facts, not fluff.

Ok, but what’s in it for you, dear reader?

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We are making our Event Trends Watch public. This page will become the reference for those researching the industry. We will update it with research (we just closed one with 2,400 respondents).

And we are stepping it up.

For each trend, we are giving you practical tips to make it happen.

It is a great complement to our annual trends report (where you will find examples and thought leadership advice). 5,000 eventprofs got their free PDF in a month. Did you?

For event industry trends 2018, here’s what I am going to give you:

THE EVENT TECHNOLOGY TRENDS THAT WILL ELEVATE YOUR EVENT IN 2018

2018 will be a big year for event planning as many of the long talked about event planning trends will soon be within our reach. Smartphones have more capabilities and connections to our lives, event tech is becoming more reasonably priced and targeted to individual needs, and tech that used virtual and augmented reality was on many people’s gift-giving lists this year.

Another factor shaping event tech is the coming together of companies to offer one-stop-shop experiences. Integrated services are the hot sellers this year.

Marketers and sponsors are also becoming more savvy and data-oriented. Fluff has no place in event tech these days. Products must deliver measurable value.

Here at EMB, we’ve predicted a lot of the event planning trends over the years. In this guide, we’re sharing how they all come together for the benefit of the planner and the audience.
1. Bolster Guest Management and Experience with Facial Recognition
Home tech is influencing event tech. Just as in the case of voice search, we’re likely to see facial recognition from devices like Apple spill over into the event industry. The ramifications of this are extraordinary but the processing time is still being fine-tuned. Still, it’s something we all should be watching. Ultimately, we’ll learn how to... Increase efficiency with facial recognition:

  • Check-in and registration become much quicker with this tech. Some theme parks are already using this technology. It’s also more secure.
  • Ensure greater safety by using facial recognition to spot people on known security lists.
  • Improve your social media reach by using facial recognition in tagging people in photos from your event.

2. Play Up Group Tech Experiences
Another hot trend is using tech to create social experiences out of what was previously alone time. Friends are watching movies together from thousands of miles away. They’re competing with one another on video games across continents. This has some fantastic implications for your event attendees and those who are following the excitement at home. They no longer have to be mere voyeurs but can join in. Link up people online for stronger connections:

  • Use live 360-degree video (what many refer to as VR) to connect remote audiences. Give them the opportunity to attend an event together in order to bolster buying online-only tickets.
  • Create content for sharing. YouTubers make a living out of commentary on videos. Their commentary becomes additional content and a way to enjoy a video or event. You can use industry influencers for play-by-play commentary on your events, creating a secondary event (and additional content) in the process.
  • Develop tracks for niche interests at your event. With a virtual ticket and a paired up “host,” guests could experience inside tracks in a way much different than in prior events. They could attend meetups and the hallway track by being able to select from in-person led experiences not just watching sessions.

3. Employ Voice for Greater Engagement
AI is increasingly becoming the norm behind attendee experience. Even if you haven’t started using it at your events, your attendees are using it at home and work. In fact, according to Google, in 2016 20% of searches were voice searches. Use voice to drive engagement:

  • Look into ways for your voice tech to perform actions. People are moving away from asking questions to asking voice assistants to perform commands, from “where is my next session” to “sign me up for the session on X."
  • Create “if, then” scenarios that are helpful to attendees. Be proactive in your voice assistance. For example, if someone asks where vendor X is on the exhibit floor, the assistant could then ask if they’d like to schedule some one-on-one time with that vendor.
  • Link the ability to read badges with your chatbot or voice assistant so it has all the information about the attendee it needs to be helpful.

4. Build the Data from the Ground Up with Clever Floor
Clever flooring is creating some exciting opportunities for events. It’s making data collection and analysis easier than ever and something that happens (nearly) organically. Slay data collection by:

  • Using smart mats and other unobtrusive technologies to collect data from critical areas.
  • Employing smart mats to increase sponsorships with known traffic numbers and accurate, real-time data. No more talk about generic “great exposure” with potential sponsors. You can show them real numbers.
  • Collecting floor traffic data and correlating it on the spot so that you can sell sponsorships for next year before sponsors leave your event. You can use fear of missing out and scarcity to sell out sponsorships in key locations while your current event is still going on.

5. Connect with a Greater Number of People Through App Interpreters
Electronic translators aren’t new for 2018 but the technology has undergone some much-needed maturation. These apps are now reliable enough to offer a positive experience for event attendees and help bridge some of the previously-existing communication gaps. Traverse the communication gap:

  • Use remote translation services. Finding local translators isn’t always easy. With this type of technology, translators could be available remotely or through an app giving your attendees a good communication experience regardless of time and where they are at your event.
  • Save money using remote translation services. Apps don’t have to be paid hourly, for travel, or incidentals.
  • Use subject matter experts regardless of their knowledge of the language that most of your attendees speak. This frees up the selection process to find the person who knows the most without sacrificing attendee experience or understanding.

6. Putting Chatbots to Work
It’s estimated that by Q3 of 2017, Amazon alone had sold over 20-million Alexa units, not factoring in non-Echo smart speakers with Alexa built in.

Why do you care?

If your attendees are using voice assistants at home, you can bet it’s become their new normal. That means you want to be covered at your next event.

Harness the power of chat for better response:

  • Design a system to answer questions with chat. It’s faster for attendees and won’t tie up your staff with the same old “where is the restroom” type question.
  • Use chatbots for exit surveys. They are much more adept at matching questions with answers and using “if, then” pathways for more meaningful information gathering. Plus they’re fun for your audience.
  • Employ chatbots to assist attendees on next steps. Voice assistants have become wildly popular because they’re easy and enjoyable to use and they act as our own personal attendant. They can remind us of engagements as well as tasks. Use chatbots to tell attendees if their silent auction bid was trumped or what their next session is and where it’s located.

7. Improving Attendee Experience Through Personalization Tech
Personalization has been tops on most trends lists for a few years now but with event tech, it’s becoming even more actionable. According to Statista, the average email open rate for a personalized message was 18.8% versus 13.1% for one that was not personalized at all. But personalization is about more than just adding someone’s name to an email.

Personalize your approach to make an impression:

  • Use activity history for personalization such as removing those who have registered already from the “reminder to register” email list.
  • Analyze attendees’ preferences by keeping track of their click-throughs and noting which URLs drive clicks. Present content based on those interests.
  • Alert attendees when they are in close proximity to their contacts or “want to meet” list. The dating apps do it and many event networking apps have those abilities as well.

8. Gain More Sponsorships Through Augmented Reality
Online marketing has pushed the need for accountability, tangibility, and return on every dollar of investment. Events are starting to feel the hit of not being able to obtain satisfactory sponsorships. However, augmented reality can help.

Harness creative opportunities in augmented reality:

  • Animate static objects to gain more attention. Think of it as 2018’s version of neon.
  • Use customized filters like Snapchat does. Even Facebook is making profile frames easier than ever to use.
  • Tell the sponsor’s story with augmented reality. Cruise ships are already using this tech to educate cruisers about the artwork on board as they pass it.

9. Win Over New Attendees and Larger Audiences with Influence Marketing Tech
There are a lot of marketers doing influencer marketing wrong. They understand the importance of it and how suggestions from a tribe have greater conversions but they fail to understand the importance of the approach. Propositioning a complete stranger and asking for a favor will undoubtedly yield horrendous results.

But how do you develop those relationships over time? How do you scale for it and make it worth your while? Is there an efficient way to approach it. There is with tech.

Build valuable relationships with influencers:

  • Look past numbers. The number of followers means very little if the said influencer can’t motivate their tribe into action. Look for a high interaction ratio, not just audience numbers.
  • Approach the midrange of influencers. Most marketers look at the same A-listers as someone to target for their marketing efforts. While these names are well-known, they are often more difficult to approach and win over. Midrange influencers still have adequate-sized followings and you won’t have to hurdle their gatekeepers to get their attention.
  • Look at influencers who are already among your supporters. Those are much easier sells.

10. Roll Out the Red Carpet and Create VIP Experiences
No one wants to be a number and this preference is becoming more pronounced with tech. Voice assistants make us feel like royalty. Few people are ready to give up the personalization we've gotten used to in our everyday lives at an event. But are you using personalization to impress and retain without sacrificing the needs of the larger group?

Create meaningful VIP experiences:

  • Personalize based on type. Vendors, sponsors, attendees, and the like should all get their own set of communications and drip marketing. Tech is making this much easier by correlating data and sorting before sending.
  • Offer specials to “frequent flyers.” Reward loyal attendees by creating automatic communications and available discounts for those who have attended in the past. Ensure your communications have a familiar feel so recipients feel like you’re sending them to a friend, not a stranger.
  • Offer exclusive VIP experiences for those who qualify. Analyze data to track what makes someone a successful attendee. What have they been a part of? Reward those who perform those activities and find ways to encourage those who haven’t through drip marketing and “if, then” scenarios.

BONUS video

THE EVENT EXPERIENCE AND MEETING DESIGN TRENDS THAT WILL WOW YOUR AUDIENCE

Event experience is the focus for most event planners. They know it’s one of the most important things you can do to improve retention numbers and increase word of mouth marketing. But coming up with innovative ideas can be taxing, especially with all the organization and marketing required.

But you need to find a way.

The underlying current that flows through almost all of the trends in event experience below is a further embracing of the human side of the event world. Recognizing that the people at events really are the event and that their issues and their internal world should be of paramount concern.

Below we have brought together meeting design trends from our latest two trends reports: 2017 event design trends & 2018 event design trends. Use these trends and actionable ideas to guide your event planning for an improved attendee experience.
1. Improve Your Event EQ: Mindfulness, Wellness and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)
While these concepts have been around for quite some time, they are moving up into more prominent and consistent positions at events because they are on the mind of your attendees. It’s something they are trying to incorporate in their own lives so they need to play a role in your event as well. Intention, wellness, and mindfulness appeared on many New Year’s resolution lists.

Don’t believe us?

Do a search on Facebook on resolutions. Go ahead. We’ll wait.

Emotional intelligence is on every leader’s list and events that focus on the softer side are getting a lot of attention. This softer side is spilling over into much more than just session content or activities. We’re seeing it in event design, food, breaks, room set up, snacks, furniture, downtime, mental health discussions, mindful minutes, getting outside at events and much more.

Embrace Brain-Friendly Mindfulness:Add brain-friendly foods to your menu.

  • Start each day of your event with a mindful minute.
  • Incorporate mental health seminars and discussions at your conference.

Adopt Wellness and Play to Increase Attention:

  • Add a creativity or wellness zone that provides an oasis of play opportunities, guided socializing, and/or wellness techniques.
  • Offer quick chair massages after a morning of sitting in sessions.
  • Encourage movement through fun play or outdoor adventures.

Play up Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

  • Host a volunteer activity for a local organization that aligns with your values at your event.
  • Make sure you include your sponsors in the fun. Give them a chance to participate too and build some good PR for themselves.
  • Report back on the impact in your closing event session. Did you feed 2,500 people? Did you clothe 10 families? Whichever way you impacted the community make sure your attendees know how they helped.

2. Move Past Speeches: Rethinking Content Delivery
Another trend that has been progressing since the introduction of social media is our delivery of content. Speeches at events are so 1980s. The materials aren’t retained as well and participants (if you can call them that because they’re certainly not participating in a speech) lose interest quickly. There’s no active learning during a session of this type and most event planners insist upon interaction in their calls for speakers.

But some innovative groups are going beyond that.

Make learning more meaningful:

  • Employ a learning coach. A learning coach guides participants on their networking and learning journey. They tie presentations together, identify the resonating concepts, focus on wellness and mindfulness, remind the audience of its power and work to create a hive mind. While a learning coach entertains and educates, this is no standup comic. The facilitator should entertain with a focus on the audience’s needs.
  • End ‘sage from the stage’ presenter attitudes and cultivate a ‘facilitator on the floor’ idea. This should improve interaction and engagement. Activities could include hands-on group work, small group discussions, and talking (with attendees having a loud voice).
  • Incorporate play to improve learning and retention. Science tells us that if you play with someone and then share an additional experience, that experience will evoke empathy. That’s the power of play. It bonds you to those you play with, outside of your conscious control.

3. Appeal to the Bleisure Traveller for Greater Attendance
What do you get when you add leisure plans to your business trip? You get a cute name (bleisure) and a lot of fun. At events or conferences, adding in pre- or post- adventures or in-conference day trips provides extra incentives to attend. Recent surveys show that employees and employers are both seeing the value in bleisure as a work/life balance tool.
Provide work/life balance for your attendees:

  • When selecting a venue and a location, choose something that might be on an attendee’s bucket list. Something like Iceland and the aurora borealis gives someone an additional reason to check out your event.
  • Offer an extra activity that appeals to a specific niche your ideal audience shares. This could be a love of a sports team or a historical reenactment.
  • Plan your conference dates to end before the weekend, to give maximum bleisure travel opportunities. Staying over for an extra night or two can drop the cost of the flight by almost 50%.

4. Amplify Security without Causing Alarm
Ensuring your event is as secure as possible without causing alarm and anxiety for attendees is an important balance to strike. You need enough security so that people feel safe but not so much that people feel anxious or in a police state.
Help attendees feel safe, not anxious:

  • Institute peer security. Uniformed police and security can be a big assistance but they can also make people feel anxious. Take a tip from the airlines that have employed plain-clothes security professionals. These people aren’t just standing outside of doors. They’re in the sessions and mingling at the event providing greater coverage.
  • Explore what it would take to achieve safety certification. There is a push underway to create an “international meeting facility security standards certification.” The Secure Venue Standard is composed of 12 elements, including customer security, health and safety, risk management, and event security.
  • Prepare for natural disasters by reviewing your event contract(s). Once you experience a weather disaster, it’s too late to worry about your contract. Be aware of what it covers before you need it. Investigate whether you need additional coverage before you are onsite. By then, it’s often too late.

5. Navigate Travel Bans
Most of the event trends we’re referencing here are due to growing preferences or innovations but some of them are hoisted upon us. Growing travel and laptop bans fall under that category. Due to increasing security concerns, the United States instituted a laptop ban in 2017. While it has since been lifted, there remains the question of whether it could happen again. Could we be one security issue away from losing our valued electronics on international flights coming into the US?

Stay apprised of global issues:

  • Prepare a scenario of what would happen to your event should another ban of this kind be instituted. Research laptop rentals and other options to ensure your attendees wouldn’t be disconnected from tech.
  • Create a speaker backup plan for situations where bans could keep a valuable presenter from attending.
  • Create a Wiki page or use a chatbot that would go into effect on your event site should an issue like this occur prior to your event. It could field questions faster and more efficiently than someone answering the phones.

Use Neuroscience Persuasion at Events
Neuroscience has entered marketing and now events. Using neuroscience is a subtle technique to say things in the most advantageous way to influence people to act. It helps you make the most of your time and efforts without a salesy tone.

Become more persuasive for greater success:

  • Build consensus. Instead of asking people to do something, tell them how many of their peers are already doing it. For example, “93% of our registrants register during Early Bird pricing so don’t miss out.” This works because we take social cues from other humans.
  • Use movement to improve event energy. Sitting is the new smoking. If ‘the brain can only absorb what the butt can endure,’ then purposeful movement in sessions is a good idea. Set a goal to get your participants to move around for 2 minutes every 20. They will be more focused, more energized, more alive!
  • Employ active learning in the form of activities such as reiterating what has been learned out loud in the attendee’s own words. An attendee who takes ownership of the materials will retain more and be able to retrieve it. Provide time for reflection, small group discussions and building a hive mind.

3. Safeguard Your Event Reputation Through Safeguarding Attendees
Most event planners want attendees to have fun but there are times when “fun” takes a dark turn. We’ve seen this happening in Hollywood where accusations of sexual harassment have shown a spotlight on activities that no one wants at their events. Conferences and events can be a target environment for inappropriate behavior. With copious amounts of alcohol and some people seeing events as an opportunity to take a vacation from themselves, the stage is set for problems. According to a recent report, 60% of respondents said that they had experienced harassment at scientific meetings in the last 24 months. Only 18% of those that had experienced it reported it at the time.

Create a safe environment for everyone:

  • Draft a code of conduct. Discourage unwanted behavior by creating policies outlining inappropriate behavior, channels to report issues, and protocol for staff on how to deal with allegations. Be specific about how the code will be enforced. Attendees need to know that they are valued and can expect to stay safe. Your code of conduct should be communicated and visible and adapted specifically for each event.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol can play a factor in inappropriate behavior. Because of this, some event planners are deciding to remove free bar service from their events, while others are regulating and managing it differently. This can be a drastic change to the event experience, particularly if this is an established annual event. Loyal attendees may question the change in alcohol policy. If you want to continue offering drinks consider changing the open bar to something like servers distributing the drinks to control the flow. Or stipulate a drink limit per guest or voucher system.
  • Provide a safe environment by banning offenders. Be aware of who is attending your event. If someone has a history of sexual harassment complaints against them or has been known to display inappropriate behavior, track this and ensure they are not allowed to attend in the future. Share intelligence with the event industry or specific sectors on serious allegations. If a guest is acting inappropriately at your event and you shut them down, they may move onto the next.

Bring Attendees Together Under DFI (Demand for Impact)

This trend counters the personalization shift that has been occurring over the past few years. Instead of designing an event around individual preferences, a DFI event strives to unify people under one banner, one goal. The focus is shifting to the importance of outcomes and the desire to make an impact and difference.

Be part of the solution, not just the conversation:

  • Build support for a movement by empowering attendees to spread the mission of the organization. Use the event to advertise, support, and promote an external message and movement.
  • Give attendees an easy task to help with a larger movement. Sometimes event planners ask attendees to collect something on behalf of the effort or sometimes there’s a sponsor who offers to match whatever is raised. Whatever you decide, be specific about the impact it is making.
  • Break a record. Maybe your undertaking is something you want to accomplish on a large scale. In that case, consider involving the Guinness World Records folks to raise awareness by breaking a record, creating a spectacle, and having fun.

Increase Your Event Publicity by Inviting the Public

Private conferences with public-facing events are on the rise. With this idea, the public is invited in to share the value the event brings to the city, to the participants, and to the world. This involvement of the public increases engagement, improves education, appeals to a new target audience in its marketing and PR. In general, it brings awareness of your niche and makes your message applicable to a larger community. It also impacts the experience of the delegate by affecting the emotional connection they have to the event, their chosen profession and, of course, those they assist.

Garner more attention by offering services to a wider audience:

  • Host a health fair as part of a larger medical society conference. This leads to raised awareness, gives back to the destination city, builds brand awareness, knowledge and support and, ultimately, affects those members of the public that participate. These types of events can also be hosted by other professional organizations such as a free drama class put on by an organization of actors. Use your creativity to draw a connection between your attendees and what their knowledge could offer the larger community.
  • Give your attendees a reason to participate in the public event. Give “participation points” or a discount on next year’s registration to attendees who “participate in a community service event” or community offering. You can also host a VIP meet and greet for those who gave of their time.
  • Bring the community together for mutual exchange. The two examples above show how your attendees and event can give back but why not consider ways in which you can leverage the local innovative minds for an exchange that would benefit them as well as your attendees? This type of concept extends the benefit and the reach of other trade shows and innovators to your private event.

Increase Attendee Loyalty Through Hive Mind Power

There is growing recognition that the power and experience of the people in the room need to be accessed and honored. With hive mind power, the stage and the audience share the power and prestige. This ends the “same old, same old” presentation aspect of circuit speakers. Even with the same presenter, events that use the hive mind will have very different outcomes in their presentations much the same way improv shows vary from night-to-night. It all depends on the audience.

Create an amazing experience through cultivating the hive mind:

  • Allow for a reflective time for the audience to determine the most resonating points of the day. Then follow it with individuals sharing those thoughts with the full group.
  • Bring in students, interns, and young professionals to share their ideas of the future of the industry. Who said only seasoned experts know what the shape of the world will be? Feature newcomers and experts together for a range of ideas. The power in the room (the hive mind) is strengthened when outside perspectives are included.
  • Encourage disagreement and debate. The hiive mind isn’t akin to zombie brain where everyone thinks the same. It’s about opening it up to different perspectives and multiple voices are heard. Different and conflicting points of view should be sought and presented. Try a debate on stage where participants are encouraged to “Collaborate or Compete.” Pull out audience members and tell them to argue for the other side. Use a skillful moderator to randomly divide up the group. Assign each group a specific perspective and ask them to argue for it even if they don’t hold that opinion. This activity helps people see the other side. It often creates a super-engaged audience and strengthens the empathy muscles.

Empower Attendees to Be Heroes with a Conference that Cares

Event planners are responsible for finding the specific, unique qualities that unify delegates into tribes. They do this by thinking through the desires of those tribes and finding ways to offer them authentic versions of what they want. They want events to reflect their full self, their true self and successful events pay that out in spades. Participants will demand more of this feeling and this specific hero energy because it’s addictive. That hero feeling makes people want to continue to make a difference in the world. This will be a virtuous circle supporting and encouraging more ‘Conferences that Care’ or, more likely, more elements of care and compassion at more events.

Create an ethos of caring:

  • Maintain and provide updates on the work you did in the community at your event. People cared enough on the day of the event, they will continue to keep caring with periodic updates. It also provides you with a reason to stay in touch.
  • Add conference programming that addresses the challenges and opportunities from the local perspective. Sessions about solutions to such challenges (e.g. lack of clean water) lead by local entrepreneurs, can show accomplishments and explore assistance opportunities.
  • Organize a relevant trip into the local area to allow attendees to witness firsthand the local culture, the difficulties and the work being done to address it.

Create a Sense of Place

The best event designs play into our dear sense of belonging. Loyalty stems in part from participants feeling at “home.” It’s about creating a place where “everybody knows your name.” People want to be missed when they’re not able to attend. That can be evident in your event communications but you first need to make them feel at home.

Make them want to be a part of your group:

  • Encourage diversity by awarding discounts based on how far an attendee travels to attend your event. This helps them offset the cost and it helps you bring in attendees with different life experiences allowing them to network with one another and expand their tribe.
  • Use Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) as a pricing structure. Instead of the traditional early-bird pricing discount, base the cost of your ticket on how many you’ve sold. The first 100 are this price, the next slightly higher, and so forth. This means people can’t wait until the last day of early-bird registration. They don’t know how many tickets have been sold so if they want a lower price, they need to buy quickly.
  • Offer a 100% Money Back Guarantee if they’re not satisfied with the event. This will cause everyone on staff to provide a top-notch experience at all times. If you do this, make sure you draft participation stipulations ahead of time. It’s difficult for an attendee to enjoy the experience if they never show up.

Show them the comforts of home:

  • Select music that makes them feel at home. Music anchors emotion and can be nostalgic so use it to set the scene and control energy levels.
  • Use voice assistants. This tech is everywhere and most of us are used to it. If your attendees have to go without voice assistance, they will notice and (likely) complain. It’s becoming a part of daily life.
  • Feed them like they’re at home or better. A lot of attendees are doing Whole30 and Paleo diets. Some people are vegan. Others have a gluten intolerance. Providing a variety of food choices will make them feel more at home and as if you have their best interest in mind.

Capture Imaginations with Time Travel

Okay, so even the best event professional can’t harness the power of time travel but you can win over an audience with it and with technology like augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR), you can create a very inventive experience.

Spark their imagination with these ideas:

  • Celebrate an anniversary by “going back in time” to host an event in keeping with when your event or organization started.
  • Flash forward to the future when you’ll celebrate another major milestone. Envision what the world will look like at that time and expose your attendees to that vision. Or create a post-apocalyptic theme (like Walking Dead), one that mirrors history but isn’t historically accurate (Game of Thrones), or a mishmash of two popular time periods like how the Jetsons incorporates the early 60s social mores with the future.
  • Create a VR session with a famous speaker from history. Recycle advice from them that is applicable to your audience.

Address Industry Challenges

Sometimes you can make a theme or event experience based solely on actionable items and ideas. In that case, addressing industry challenges and opening discussion about solutions can be a valuable experience for all involved.

Name the challenges. Find solutions:

  • Use past experiences to understand future scenarios and challenges for the industry. Do your research to find out if these issues are new or if they’ve been faced before in another way.
  • Get in front of the challenges in order to create viable solutions. Responding to something in a reactive climate does not generate the most successful outcomes.
  • Don’t focus on doom and gloom. Keep a good sense of humor in dealing with the challenges. Use it as inventive to master them. These are not problems. They are challenges and can be overcome, making your group the better for addressing them.

Ditch Innovating for Innovation’s Sake
One experience you need to avoid is “innovating” just because it’s trendy. Don’t bill your event as innovative if it’s not. A marketing buzzword that isn’t followed through on won’t make for a good experience, although the lack of delivery on your promise may make it memorable but not in a good way.

Offer true innovation:

  • Do your research on what other event planners are doing in your area, industry, and type of event. Then expand on that. If you copy it exactly, you’re not innovating. Take their idea and make it scary.
  • Call upon your audience to do something. Ask them to add their intentions for what they want to get out of the event. Do so in a visual way, like asking them to write it down and post it to a wall or tuck it into a Chinese lantern and set the night sky aglow with them.
  • Do something big. Literally. Have a design component, display, food, or some other part of your event larger than life. These types of things make great photo ops and people will wonder what will be in store for everyone next year.

Open Labs for Extraordinary Experiences

Live labs create extraordinary experiences and fuel innovation. They provide hands-on learning opportunities and encourage experimentation, which increases retention and the fun factor.

Transform the lives of your attendees:

  • Set the stage from the moment your attendees arrive. This is often a missed opportunity as most event planners wait for everyone to gather at the first session or opening keynote. Instead, make an impression the moment they arrive at the venue or if many are coming in from out-of-town, the first impression begins at the airport.
  • Make it visual. Never miss an opportunity for incorporating visuals because they evoke emotion and are easily shared without context. Use photo ops. Pass out sketchbooks. Hold contests for best visuals. Anything to get people sharing images. Images will help others get a view into your event and bring it to life for them regardless of where they are.
  • Map out the attendee experience by creating a mind map. Using this tool for brainstorming can help you plan your event from an attendee perspective. As you sketch it out, ask yourself where the attendee would go next. What will be the next experience? What do you want it to be and what would you like it to be? Asking these two questions can help you see where it is versus where you would like it to be. Then you can begin planning how you will close that gap.

Basking in the Cloud

From pre-planning bespoke Snapchat event geofilters (if you cater to the early innovators and youngsters) to sharing in the cloud, the more you share, the more likely you are to be discovered by a new audience. The cloud allows this to happen easily no matter where your audience is located.

Build a larger audience with the cloud:

  • Record your event content digitally. Create a real-time library of learning through collaboration and encourage everyone in the room to be a part of it.
  • Challenge others to build in real time on what is being addressed and shared at the event and publish their work as the conference comes to a close. Encourage them if they’ve been inspired by an idea to create something in the media of their choosing and upload it for everyone to partake in and add to.
  • Invite people at home to share their thoughts and commentary in the cloud. Create a community that goes beyond your in-person event community.
    Creating Illusion

Curiosity is a natural action driver whether in life or at events. What’s behind that curtain? Who’s on Coachella’s lineup? The unknown can drive ticket sales, increase engagement, and keep people talking about your event. In a time with constant access to information, where all the world’s knowledge is a quick Google search away, secrets are the magic ingredient that can create a memorable experience.

Harness the power of the unknown:

  • Host a secret speakeasy as part of an evening activity at your event. Tell a few people and watch it spread like wildfire. Don’t forget the secret knock or password.
  • Create a world for attendees to enter for an evening. Escape rooms and murder mystery dinners use this type of pretending to draw a crowd.
  • Leave an element of your event as a mystery until the last minute. Some secret dining events keep the venue as a last-minute reveal for extra excitement. Attendees purchase tickets without knowing where it will be. But believe us, it draws a lot of conversation before and after the reveal.

Build Trust

Trust is the building block for any relationship. Marketers will tell you that you have three main jobs these days: establishing know, like, and trust. Without any of them, you’ll have difficulty selling tickets. This is especially true in the service-rich industry of events.

Create a reputation based on safe and reliable event promises:

  • Avoid hyperbole about your event unless you are doing it for comic effect. Let attendees tell others your event is the best. You don’t need to say it.
  • Build a referral engine. People interested in your event will always believe what others say about it above what your marketing does.
  • Honor your promises and claims. Create an event based on transparency, not smoke and mirrors. Hard sells aren’t appealing to today’s attendee. Let event ambassadors and influencers sing your praises. Use data whenever you need to make a claim.

Be Exclusive

Another way to drive interest is through exclusivity and we’ve seen this trend growing over the past couple of years. Not only through exclusive invitations but VIP programming and options. The latest use of exclusivity can be seen in creating roped-off communities and enveloping the attendee in complete seclusion at your event. Our experience economy is driving us towards creating event design sweet spots where participants can be passive and active at the same time. Where brands and venues are being commoditized, complete villages are now starting to collaborate to create extraordinary experiences.

Take them away:

  • Rent out an entire luxury resort so that everyone there is one of your event attendees. It creates a communal feel and improves networking time because whether they’re meeting a stranger in the elevator or by the pool, they know they’re associated with the event.
  • Got to sea with your event. Cruise ships and private boats can be chartered for special events (so can private islands). Cut down on the distractions and increase the bonding.
  • Create a venue from scratch the way they do with Burning Man each year. This idea allows you to construct something completely synchronized to your brand.

THE VENUES TRENDS THAT CAN TURN AROUND MEETINGS AND EVENTS IN 2018

The venue plays an essential role in any event and it’s usually one of the first things selected and one of the biggest costs. A venue shapes the event and makes a big impression. It may even be one of the deciding factors as to whether someone attends the event or not.

So what are some of the trends in event venues you need to be aware of?

The venue flavors the event. It’s style and ambiance create an impression on your audience. Although venues are bricks and mortar constructions we have explored the event horizon and listened as growing interest in the following trends has bubbled up.

  1. Sustainability

Sustainability is not a new concept. It’s been bandied around for years and venues are progressing at making changes to their facilities as well as their policies. These changes have brought about a new class of venue with green certifications and the like. This is likely a trend we’ll continue to see. As long as it’s on the minds of attendees, it will continue to be important to venues and planners.

Select a greener event venue:

  • Events are wasteful so select a venue that takes their environmental responsibilities seriously. Choose venues in line with your CSR policy and feedback to venues that don’t make the grade so they can make improvements.
  • If you have selected a venue on its green credentials, let your attendees know about it. Share the venue ethos with your guests.
  • Test the venues public transport policy. Ensure they can provide detailed instructions for attendees to reach the venue via public transport and that there are provisions such as cycle racks.

2. Branded Venues
Another trend in event venues is venues that were created as visitor attractions and are now becoming brand homes. Marketers may have taken note when Willie Wonka opened his great chocolate factory to the golden ticket contest because using the corporate headquarters as an event venue quickly became an intriguing way to tie in a brand, revenue, and attendee experience.

Capitalize on the venue brand name:

  • Select brand spaces that come with personality and cater to a love of the brand. Even if attendees aren’t enamored of the brand itself, there is a certain amount of fascination that comes with insider tours.
  • These brand spaces needn’t necessarily be affiliated with real companies. Even fictional and spin-off ideas can have a broad appeal for your guests.
  • The idea of being part of something exclusive is the big draw; like seeing a factory off-hours or a behind-the-scenes look that others don’t get. It thrilled us as children (thank you, Mr. Wonka) and it continues to do so as adults.

3. Nose to Tail and Everything in Between
Soup to nuts has long been a draw for many venue spaces. Planners who don’t want to be consumed by the details gladly sign on the dotted line with a venue that will provide it all. All inclusive packages free the event planner from worrying about the cost of every extra, knowing that attendees can indulge and have all the comforts they can imagine.

Get peace of mind with venue packages:

  • For high-level events, all-inclusive packages can often give the impression of luxury, and the event planner knows exactly what it costs them per head for each additional attendee.
  • Just because it is a package price doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate the rates. Shave off any elements of the package you don’t want and see what they can offer.
  • Conversely, if the venue doesn’t have a package or DDR rate, ask if they could create one and compare this to the anticipated cost of paying on a per item basis.
  1. 4.Unthinkable Spaces as Event Backdrops

Some venues are making the most of every square foot of their venue.

It’s no longer simply offering many services under one roof. It’s also about the service space itself. Venue managers have noted a trend with event planners longing for non-traditional spaces and are accommodating this wish through making non-standard spaces available in the contract.

These original spots are helping venues capitalize on areas of their business they weren’t using before. It also increases the amounts and types of groups they can accommodate and it gives event planners options that make a big impression.

Get an edge with your venue choice:

  • Explore spaces that you can really put your stamp on by renting a parking lot or the roof of a venue. Popular venues are capitalizing on this demand for unusual spaces by hiring out areas that would previously have been off limits. The main concourse at sporting venues and outdoor spaces are now in high demand. As a planner, you can enjoy the benefits of a purpose-built venue but the wow factor of creating something that guests would never expect.
  • Be brave and explore dry hire options for venues that have never been used for events. Food courts in the mall, aircraft hangars, industrial wood shops, and anywhere guests can be accommodated might provide a versatile space for your event vision.
  • Focus on the architectural details of the spot, such as the exposed piping of a warehouse, these gems will give an authentic and photo-rich opportunity to your event.

5. Landmark Venues
There are lots of benefits to using a landmark venue, and many building investments today have a multi-purpose approach and can have a civic and commercial remit. They become part of the fabric of the city in which they stand and contribute to the architectural aesthetic of that city. Architects, strive to build truly iconic structures that, on the inside, seamlessly host conferences and events and, on the outside, add something beautiful and extraordinary to the city in which they live, or touch the lives of those that use them.

Make your mark:

  • Landmark buildings can add an element of grandeur to your event. Find ways to incorporate the story of the building into your event for a greater connection with the surroundings.
  • Sporting venues are often imposing buildings on the horizon of the city and are well versed in managing traffic and crowds effectively, well signposted and served by transport links. They can provide a great venue option whether you are a team supporter or not!
  • Landmark venues make a statement and the venue design could even be incorporated into your event branding and marketing.

6. Multi-Purpose Venues
In the past cities built convention centers specifically to attract out-of-town delegates and thus inject other people’s money into the local economy. This was all fine and dandy so long as there was a constant flow of conferences and events. But what if the external pipeline started to dry up and business flows reduced to a trickle? And what if no long-term legacy plan had been put in place? You ended up with the white elephant syndrome, the piece of useless beauty that nobody used and many cities that previously hosted Olympic Games or World Expos can point out far too many examples of such practice.

What the new modern venue can bring to your event:

  • There is a trend these days is to cluster buildings together in a campus-style configuration, mixing education and entertainment, learning and laughing, conferences and events. This can be a great opportunity to create a community feel around your event, encouraging attendees to stay close to the action, with multiple options from them, shared with like-minded participants. After-hours conversations and activity can be just as valuable as the learning within the plenary sessions.
  • Individual venues, too, are tending to be multi-purpose. If there needs to be amphitheater-style seating then it’ll definitely be retractable; large spaces will be pillarless and divisible using truly sound-proof air-walls; kitchens and other event structures will be removable; everything will be on wheels and nothing will be nailed down. This allows event planners to reinvent their event spaces as they need them, quickly and easily, without needing two hours to turnaround the room.
  • Innovative events do not always conform to the traditional conference or exhibition format. Instead, events are combining multiple elements and modern events need venues that can accommodate complex wishes and requirements within one venue or campus.

7. Weirder and More Wonderful Venues
Events prosper, live and reproduce on social media so the weirder and more wonderful the venue, the more shareable it is on social media and that brings profile, awareness and… FOMO! Crucially, it also brings stimulation, excitement and energy - three characteristics that all meeting organizers want to foster. On the one hand, we have the health and safety police insisting on ergonomic chairs, proper lighting and safe access while, on the other, marketers want weird, wonderful and ‘out there’.

There will always be a traditional cohort that insists on top-down meetings with PowerPoint decks and classroom style configurations. Horses for courses. However, more and more ‘traditional’ companies are now coloring outside of the lines and seeking out meeting locations that both delight and discombobulate attendees. After all, our creative juices are hardly going to flow in a beige world that’s sanitized and bland!

Make a statement with your venue choice:

  • If you are running edgy, hip event, you want a unique, funky venue to backup your ethos, not a beige box that zaps creativity. Choosing wisely will set you apart from the competition.
  • Play on the zaniness of your venue in your event marketing and even within your event press release.
  • Don’t just hunt for venues via the usual channels. If you really want to stand out you might need to go directly to the owner of a property, rather than traditional channels to find a venue.

8. Go Rogue
Perhaps a kick-back from our super connected, 24-hour lifestyles is that some events are choosing venues and locations that are completely off the beaten track. Opting for quiet, rural locations, outside of busy city centers, is removing distractions and bringing the focus back to the core objectives for the event.

Take some time away with your venue choice:

  • By choosing a more rural location you are potentially creating a more immersive experience and the opportunity to connect more deeply with more people.
  • Away from bustling city life, it can be easier for your participants to switch off from their everyday stresses and enjoy the tranquility around them. Green spaces, water, mountains and picturesque surroundings can be grounding and make you appreciate the important things in life and our place within it.
  • Some event planners want attendees to unplug and are even banning technology completely from their meetings. This might be a drastic step for many, however, combined with a rural setting it can provide the ultimate break from the outside (or online) world.

9. Multi-Sensory
Along with the entire events industry, venues continue to explore the potential of one of the biggest event technology trends, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Event organizers have been increasingly incorporating these new and exciting technologies in their own event delivery and venue owners/managers are responding in kind, ensuring the necessary digital infrastructure is in place and starting to use these technologies within their own businesses, particularly for marketing and communications.

That said, there’s also the beginnings of the equal and opposite reaction: the ‘plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose’ syndrome. The more technologically focused and orientated we become, the more we hunger and thirst for real human contact, for taste and touch, for tactile reassurance. It’s the swinging pendulum syndrome.

How your venue choice can appeal to the senses:

  • There is an increasing use of dedicated scents across retail and hospitality establishments. Venues have been fleshing out their brand proposition, not just with technology but with good old-fashioned olfactory appeal. You walk into the lobby and you immediately get that tactile reassurance through the familiarity of the smell. Smell is a powerful tool to evoke memories and nostalgia - what better way to transport someone back to your event.
  • Lighting is a big deal and more and more venues are installing lighting systems that can be tuned perfectly into the brand colors of the event or hosting company. For many venues, this is part of the package offered and an appealing proposition for event planners keen to create an ambiance.
  • Textiles and textures are often important in modern venue design. Choose a venue that has textured wallpaper, rugs, cushions, curtains and sumptuous table coverings to give a tactile and opulent element to your event.

10. The Rise and Rise of BYO
We all recall when the meetings and events community first embraced the brave new world of handheld technology. After registration you’d get in line to pick up the piece of hardware on which the latest technological development would be delivered to you – a polling keypad system to allow you vote in live polls or a matchmaking system for perfect networking.

The “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) phenomenon is having a huge impact on the digital infrastructure that venues invest in, putting the focus firmly on wireless speeds and connectivity and on power supplies to facilitate easy charge of mobile devices. Many venues have signed up to this and can now deliver adequate bandwidth and speeds to exceptionally large numbers of delegates. Many, however, still have not and need to look at their digital infrastructure before they lose significant business to the competition.

Choose your venue to meet the demands of digital savvy attendees:

  • The biggest implication of BYOD is, of course, on WiFi consumption and many planners are now calculating their broadband requirement at a factor of 3 times the delegate numbers (many delegates travel with a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, a watch and maybe other wearables). Never rely on a venue’s reassurances that the WiFi is sufficient. Always do your own checks and calculations to avoid connectivity fail.
  • At your site visits check on the easy availability of power outlets in the meeting and events spaces. If need be, bring in additional charging stations to facilitate the charging of multiple devices.
  • Check if your venue enables the network and password that attendees will use to be given your event or sponsor name.

11. Explosion In Use of Non-Dedicated Meeting Spaces
Changing workplace demographics are also having an impact on destination and venue selection. Formality has given way to informality in how communication takes place in the workplace and this, of course, is now spilling over into how meetings and events are conducted and the selection of location in which to conduct them.

Venues designed with meeting rooms to maximise classroom configurations are also away with the dinosaurs. Traditional meeting and event locations like hotels continue to reinvent themselves and to offer casual, informal and multi-purpose gathering spaces.

This is most strikingly illustrated by reference to the veritable explosion in Sharing Economy platforms that offer new locations for new generations. Banished are the beige sterility of hotel meeting venues while the dynamic excitement of private lofts, photo studios and rehearsal rooms are decidedly in. And these spaces are being booked not just by creative types but by VC guys, medical consultants and accountants!

There’s an interesting parallel between the workspaces favored by tech companies and startups, and the meeting spaces increasingly sought out by meeting planners today. The fixie bicycle + bean bag + hot desk + magic fridge workplace setting of tech giants is mirrored in the dockland + warehouse + exposed redbrick + high tech setting of the “new” meeting and event spaces enthusiastically chosen by today’s meeting and event organizers.

Make the most of this venue trend explosion:

  • Turn to sharing economy inspired venue finding tools to highlight different and exciting spaces.
  • “Pop up” is decidedly “in” as planners seek to surprise and delight delegates with quirky, unusual venue selections. Could this work for your brand?
  • Strengthen the intrigue around your event by keeping the specific location top secret until just before it happens.
  • For ultimate control and creativity, consider taking a disused, unknown warehouse and spending weeks meticulously transforming it into a “brand home” for your event.

12. Food, Glorious Food
The explosion in the search for authenticity, a macro-trend that’s increasingly influencing the selection of destinations and venues, is bringing considerations around food, its provenance and sustainability, front and center for meetings and events organizers.

Venues are responding by hiring executive chefs from the restaurant sector and turning meal breaks into gastronomic experiences that reflect the authenticity of the destination and become fantastic talking point amongst attendees.

If you work for tech giants then you’re used to top quality artisan food served on demand and at no cost to you in your workplace. This fact alone is putting huge pressure on venues used for company meetings or away days – if you’re out of office on a work-related meeting and event then you’ll expect food at least as good, if not better, than the workplace.

Tantalise your delegates taste buds:

  • Food is an important part of the event experience. Work with your venue to create a unique and appealing menu. Don’t be confined by the standard menu offerings.
  • Choose a venue that is open to creating signature cocktails and dishes which emphasize your ethos, brand and culture.
  • Many venues are also building interactive, team building style activities around their food offerings and getting chefs out of the kitchen into attendee facing roles.

13. Vive La Difference!
We continue to see a further shift from venues in “globalized” tier 1 destinations to destinations with unique, unusual, different and differentiated profiles. We’re moving finally from the pursuit of standardized, homogeneous experiences where destinations were chosen specifically because they were similar to our own, to the search for new, unusual encounters where we come face to face with difference. With the increased risk of terrorist attacks, avoiding the usual suspects can bring greater peace of mind to organizers and attendees alike.

Embrace alternative venues and destinations:

  • Choose a venue and location that your attendees couldn’t reach easily on their own budget, or that provide different travel experiences that take people a little out of their comfort zones.
  • Considering up and coming destinations means that you are likely to get much more from your budget.
  • Make the most of the bleisure trend and provide compelling reasons why attendees will fall in love with the destination and need to attend the conference and spend some time exploring.

14. Live Like a Local
The word “authentic” and its derivations appear frequently in many of the event industry trends we are highlighting. That’s because it’s an overarching trend, defining behaviors in society at large and, obviously, trickling down to impact the meetings industry too. In relation to venues, it’s a priority filter that’s applied from the outset and defining choices in the event planning process.

Sharing economy platforms like Airbnb are tapping into this current obsession with authenticity by helping visitors to destinations to “live like a local”. The search for authenticity is also having some unintended positive consequences for budget too.

Make your venue choices and events more authentic:

  • Choose a venue that uses local produce and wants to showcase local specialties within their menu, for a real taste of the area.
  • Seek out venues with public spaces, so that your attendees and the locals can mingle.
  • Go for a venue that has the real world outside and organize dinners and fringe events in other venues across the city to force attendees to explore outside of the conference center!

15. Intellectual Capital Over Physical Infrastructure
Destinations and venue have now transitioned from feature slinging to benefit highlighting. For decades, venues have pushed physical infrastructure as their key reason for selection “we have a humongous convention center and 20 break out spaces, bring your event here!”

These days smart venues are sharing their credentials as intellectual capitals and attracting meetings and events business as knowledge hubs. Universities, innovation zones, business districts

Make a smart venue choice:

  • Choose a venue that can strengthen different areas of your event. For instance, if they are the research capital in a certain field, ask a relevant professor to speak to your audience and organize tours of their research facility.
  • A venue that positions itself well and knows its strengths can help your to catapult your marketing campaigns.
  • Look at boutique and small venues too, for instance, a boutique hotel and combined art gallery or a music school can offer a creative venue for your event.

THE EVENT STYLING AND DÉCOR TRENDS TO QUICKLY MAKE YOUR EVENT BEAUTIFUL

Styling and décor are more than the physical, they are emotive. They set the scene and become the first stage in driving attendee behavior and delivering a memorable atmosphere.

So how do you achieve this without being over the top?

Simple, you understand the trends and adaptations that are popular this year as well as how you can cater to the needs of all of your attendees using elements like the floor plan to drive sales or furniture to promote learning. We look at how each of these trends is driving different reactions and behavior, making events successful and examples of events that have done it best.

Rising event decor trends 2017 - 2018:
1. Extreme Theming
Themes offer structure, particularly to event planners which can lead to ideas or inspiration going forward and they are always popular to draw elements together. This is still the case but themes that go a little deeper, offering more to attendees are becoming necessary to remain memorable.

Themes That Hit Home:

  • Emotional “Un-Themes.” The rise of un-themes involves focusing the event on an emotion or feeling rather than a tangible concept or idea. The 2017 Meta Mixer saw a “dream” theme combine 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.

custom lounges

Credit: Destinations by Design, Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas (catering)

  • Escape rooms. Participatory themes that are also excellent networkers or icebreakers are a triple threat and highly beneficial which has seen ideas like homemade escape rooms created. On a smaller scale, these can be adapted scavenger hunts that involve more logic than actual hunting but still get the ice breaking job done.
  • Superheroes. They have been a top request, thanks to the popularity of box office hits such as Wonder Woman. But when speaking to many clients and digging deeper into the “why” they love the excitement and feeling of empowerment that these heroes evoke. Understanding the message underneath a theme ensures it really hits home for an attendee.

  • Health focussed. The health and fitness trend is still gaining momentum and with new taxes on sugar and fast food, there’s no surprise we are seeing the health-conscious attendees trickle into events and it’s time to keep up. Healthy offerings and themes that encourage attendees to feel good about themselves pre, during and post-event are setting you up for success.

2. Deconstructed Food
Focusing on one particular type of food that attendees construct themselves can create a niche offering with a broad appeal. Ensuring that it is styled effectively is also key to its success and you will have to consider the extra logistics of attendees spending extra time creating their food. This could lead to queues forming and wait times, ruining the experience, to combat this you could opt for multi-levels or longer buffet tables.

Food favorites:

  • Sweet treats. Deconstructing sweet treats can cater to those health conscious we talked about who can go as subtle or all out as they want without feeling like there is no alternative. Having this menu flexibility caters to most of your attendees at once, while being cost-effective and this simple crepe station allows for fruit or naughty toppings in a clean and well-presented way

Credit: Table Top Rental Shop

  • Cook your own. Take it one step further by allowing attendees to cook for themselves, such as this DIY waffle station. This simple idea involved written instructions on the tablecloth and pre-poured amounts so attendees could get the perfect, gourmet waffle themselves with minimal effort!
  • Bars, bars, bars

Stations or bars are in, and we aren’t just talking refreshments (although these are being cleverly adapted too.) Mains, desserts or an intricate buffet are all becoming uniquely styled to stand out and make an impact. This bruschetta bar for example, contains a variety of charcuterie, salads and wine using a tiered display ladder adapted from other décor ideas.

3. Styling Facilitating Networking
Where furniture is placed is key and room design should be carefully considered to encourage networking and avoid dead areas. Large venues and cavernous spaces, for example, can shut down networking leaving attendees feeling exposed, making them more likely to retreat and this need to be combatted.

Making cavernous spaces networking friendly:

  • Candles. Lower lighting throws shadows into corners which tends to draw the room in, make it feel more intimate and large spaces less noticeable.
  • Live music. Music adds to the ambiance and can reduce the empty feeling and enhance attendee experience.
  • Lower the ceiling. Add fabric draping to cover the ceiling to create a tent effect or use canopies, these can be created by a floral roofing or alternatively balloon canopies such as this:

Credit: Arty Party Balloons

4. Storytelling Sponsorship
Neither sponsors nor attendees enjoy poor positioning at an event, with guests feeling like they’re being oversold to and sponsors not being able to form the meaningful connections they need. Instead, sponsorship needs to be a part of the storytelling and flow of the event considered during the design phases and that doesn’t always mean throwing a few banners around and calling it a day. Instead, signage that is used needs to be creative, make sense but be memorable so that if it is “in your face” it’s there for a reason. For example, using gamification or fun makes attendees (and even fellow event professionals) seek out the brand and make contact like this adult ball pit which is just full of blank signage opportunities.

I'll always be cheering for you from 8,127 miles away. 👯

Une publication partagée par Shanelle Rivera (@shanellerivera) le

Credit: Shanelle Rivera

Winning sponsorship ideas:

  • Live streaming. Have a sponsor live stream the event with the potential of a social media Q&A for better reach of your audience and to boost engagement. Live streaming can also allow sponsors to showcase the event from their perspective, highlighting different elements.
  • Workshops/taster sessions. Showcase products, services or create a workshop in line with your offerings. For example, have sponsor’s advocates or influencers run sessions to draw in attendees.
  • Tours for trade shows. This allows sponsors to interact one-on-one with attendees and get real-time feedback on different brands or booths on the trade show floor. A good, engaging leader can leave a lasting impression too.

5. Engaging Furniture
Furniture and seating play an important role in the purpose of the event and the ability to facilitate effectively. This isn’t just for meetings either. Of course, we need to consider comfort but this can mean different things for different attendee types and we are seeing an increase in various seating options so all attendees are being catered for.

Seating considerations:

  • Kinetic Learners. Kinetic learners and those who tend to fidget would benefit from quirky seating options such as swings and bean bags which lend to flexibility while others may prefer the rigidity and support of an ergonomic specialty office chair.

Credit: MRJ

  • Comfortable Learning. Sofas or comfortable benches can be used at conferences or presentations to give an informal feel, particularly if you want attendees in it and focused for the long hall.
  • Remember note taking. Whether it’s meetings, conferences or workshops, allow an easy and effective place for attendees to take notes. One of the top corporate event trends is the facilitation of learning, so accommodating this with ideas such as these stools with adjustable mats can be simple but effective.

1. Local Artwork
Using art can create a unique atmosphere for the event and is an increasingly popular décor type. With sustainability and CSR becoming more important to attendees, ensuring that you use local artists or source locally is in line with their expectations and can showcase local talent.

Sustainable art options:

  • Urban graffiti. Contract local graffiti artists to make a mural or work with digital platforms to turn artwork into lighting projections to decorate walls.
  • Original artwork. Commission local artists to create an original piece that suits the style or theme of your event. This could also be an excellent giveaway idea for fundraisers too.

urban graffiti

7. Sponsorship Customization
Sponsorship packages are becoming more exciting and no longer the one size fits all option. Every sponsor has different budgets, goals and skills they can bring to the table so sponsorship collaborations are becoming more popular. Unique ideas that offer sponsors a unique, personalized package and will more likely land a big deal.

Get more sponsorship:

 

      • Get techy. Sponsors can use tech to stand out, particularly if they have the perfect product for your event but are struggling to deal with a lack of event space. VR or augmented reality product displays and testing offer an interesting way for sponsors to get attendees one-on-one while allowing them to introduce and experience the latest tech.
      • Adapt colors. Sponsorship doesn’t have to be ugly either, even if logos or brand colors don’t suit your event palette there is more than one way of weaving it in and integrating it organically. For example, neon signage converts any color to the retro theme and can be a custom-made homing beacon for attendees to look at. Alternatively, lighting effects like these LED tubes are excellent sponsorship signage but could also be used to light pathways or runways leading to an event or create intimate atmospheres in a darkened lounge.

@jccmanhattan gala tonight @tribecarooftop #18yearsofjoy #lightitup

Une publication partagée par Lindsay Landman (@lindsaylandman) le

Credit: Lindsay Landman

8. Participatory Styling
Décor pieces that are participatory make more of an impact so you should aim for the multi-functional. The more involved an attendee is encouraged to be, the more committed to the event or brand they will become and therefore the more memorable it will be.

Clever décor:

      • Engaging rooms. Turn an entire room into a statement piece of décor like this transition room at the 2017 Meta Mixer. With the ceiling installation, quirky images and painted floor it became a way to transition attendees from one room atmosphere to another so the effect was never lost and it felt like a fluid change in dream states.

participatory styling

Credit: Destinations by Design, Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas (catering)

      • Immersive Entrances. Implement immersion right from the beginning of an event by creating an experience like this balloon tunnel. You could also opt for immediate theming and greeters in character to interact with guests upon arrival.

9. Food Design
Turn food into art and décor pieces by designing something to make a statement. Whether it’s a food carving or sculpture or an intricate art display, the way food is presented adds to the aesthetic and makes the finer details stand out.

Artify your food:

      • Ice bar. Make an ice sculpture multi-functional by converting it into a bar to chill food, giving it a self-regulating display.

Hearts and Seafood #Icepro #Icesculptures #Ice at #IceSculpturesOrlando #IceFoodDisplay

Une publication partagée par Joe Rimer / Ice Pro (@icemanparrish) le

Credit: Joe Rimer / Ice Pro

      • Dessert Showcase. Include lighting elements or shelving and showcase your creative side like this neon dessert wall.
      • Art bar. This chef literally turns the dessert station into an edible artwork on a lit backdrop which is both impressive and culinary genius. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to food design.

10. Color Dynamics
In 2018, expect big bold colors and dramatic textures to complement your styling, whether it’s the fabric of your tables and draping or what your attendees are looking at on the runway, color can make or break an event atmosphere.

Make a rainbow:

      • Color of the year. The 2018 Pantone color of the year is a deep shade of purple known as “18-3838 Ultra Violet”. Find ways for this to complement your styling and be on color trend.
      • Blossoms. 2018 comes at us in a watercolor of oversized floral prints and gorgeous embellished sheers. Think of Monet and his Water Lilies with a hint of whimsy from Van Gogh. Large-scale floral prints in every color imaginable lead the way in 2018, whether on your tables or splashed across a wall or dance floor with gobos. You can’t go wrong with big blossoms.
      • Lighting for color. It can be difficult for larger corporate venues to use fabrics or décor to create an immersive color experience but lighting can have the same effect. As seen here, the ceiling GOBO’s, down and up lighting are all working in unison to project the same color scheme effectively for this corporate gala.

Credit: Staging Connections, Crown Melbourne
11. Incorporating Digital
Online and digital services are bigger than ever, which means they are becoming a necessity at an event, not a luxury. For many, interacting with brands, events or sponsors is also done digitally so ensuring you support all the mediums your attendees and demographic use is essential.

Go digital:

      • Digital conversations. Bring the digital conversation to the physical event using elements such as a large photo screen which can bring a group together, especially when live-streamed into the space.

Credit: Staging Connections, MCG

      • Social media walls. Don’t forget your followers and audience who may or may not be attendees too. Use social media walls that will post when attendees use the event hashtag – that gets people talking to each other and talking up your event.
      • Digital swag. The benefit to digital swag bags is not only from a sustainability angle, or the savings on space and labor to create physical bags, but the marketing and remarketing that can target each individual’s tastes and preference. There are entire websites dedicated to options for e-bags, so no matter what your goals are you can find a great fit digitally

12. Refreshment Revolution
Drinks and refreshments are changing with the increasing health trends and emphasis on healthy living. Attendees are more likely to go conservative when it comes to the sweet, unhealthy options seeing a decline in the incorporation of cocktails unless they are very special. Instead, we are seeing experiences such as mixologists or lighter options.

Who’s thirsty?

      • Healthy alternatives. Include smoothie or juice bars, mocktails or flavored water in place of alcoholic drinks to appeal to all attendees.
      • Self-serve. Allow attendees to make the decision themselves or build their own drinks, cocktails or mocktails to their own specifications.
      • Mobile bars. These are coming into their own with increasing demand, particularly for larger events. This, in part, is because they are now capable of wider ranges than the traditional one or two options with some fun converted vehicles being stocked more than a full bar!

Credit: Cuckoo Couples, Cuckoo Wedding Photography, Beetle Juice Events Limited
13. Zoning
Sectioning off areas of your venue into separate “zones” that meet different attendee needs or niches seems to be popular currently. Making use of all of your venue is important so these multi-functional areas add a dynamic element where a variety of needs can be met.

In the zone:

      • Charging zones. Attendees can leave their phones or devices in a secure location and come back for them later. This option is manned by staff but freestanding options with keypads are becoming a common sponsor favorite too.
      • Pamper zones. Allow attendees to feel even more taken care of with areas that are designed to pamper. Particularly beneficial at trade shows, where you might offer quick massages, or like this pamper station at the Meta Mixer. Pamper zones can also offer various types of sampling from sponsors so attendees can see and try the products while disconnecting from the stress and pressure of a sales pitch.

zoning

Credit: Destinations by Design, Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas (catering)
15. Structured Flow
Your seating arrangements, lounges and overall flow in the design will help to ease people into natural areas of conversation and engagement, which is a design element that must not be overlooked, regardless of the style of event.

Get networking:

      • Close quarters. Utilize every bit of space and seat attendees in groups that will bring each other out of their shell. Use different table lengths and sizes to create an intimate space and also seat your attendees comfortably.

Credit: Muzika

      • Add a roundtable. Roundtable discussions are a top request by attendees looking for

solutions and ideas to help solve their specific set of problems. People are coming to a live event to connect, so give them multiple opportunities to do so in various formats.

      • Use play. Whether it’s a seated game at the table or a team competition, play and fun at a corporate event aim to improve networking and adds to the flow of the day.

15. Custom Lounges
Lounges are on the rise, if not to just facilitate comfort and networking but also be a key piece of décor and use of space. A lounge will usually add an informal element, drawing attendees to them in the same way that cocktail tables do but they can come in a variety of formats.

Take a load off:

  • Theming lounge. Lounges can also reflect the theme; like this lounging bed that is perfect for taking a load off at the Meta Mixer’s dreamscape.

custom lounges

Credit: Destinations by Design, Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas (catering)

  • Networking. In a corporate setting, a lounge can be a comfortable facilitator for attendees to take the conversation further so providing a specific networking lounge that caters to the corporate individual is bound to be a hit. Include things like a charging station, low tables for drinks and notes as well as varied seating to make all attendees comfortable.
  • Gifting lounges. With these increased budgets we’re also seeing the re-emergence of the gifting lounge, much like you’d see at the Oscars, but with gifts that speak to your specific audience. Guests can come through and custom select items for their favors and takeaways so you have the opportunity to connect directly with them and personalize the experience. Everything from sunglasses to makeup, custom fragrances and oils… any luxury product could be a crowd pleaser.

16. Balloons, Balloons, Balloons
Balloons are back! Don’t think of the balloon arches of 1989, but simply use Google “Balloon Art” to see an array of sizes, colors and textures of balloons being manipulated into gorgeous creations by top artists around the globe.

With a bang:

  • Filled balloons. Glitter and confetti filled globes or shapes are more eye-catching and can spruce up the traditional balloon entranceway.
  • Balloon Backdrops. These helium backdrops are a great way to showcase sponsors as well – you can print on them and create an entry or backdrop that’s interesting and Instaworthy.
  • Installations. Incorporating as part of a larger entertainment, balloon installations can be adapted into statement pieces, staff uniforms or even aerial décor that complements this aerial artist’s Wonder Woman performance.

Credit: All About Balloons

17. Furniture Power
Power, particularly in a corporate setting helps to facilitate learning which means you should aim to provide charging options wherever possible. The recent trend is integrating this into the furniture or seating so that attendees don’t have far to travel and therefore keep their focus where it needs to be.

  • Tabletop mounts. Particularly useful for meetings, seated conferences or breakaways as you can accommodate a variety of attendees at once with small mounted power units.

Credit: Aviancenj

  • Chair integration. If you can’t afford or find seating with integrated charging options you could instead provide a fully charged charging brick on each seat at a conference as a mini swag gift. That way it is available during the event rather than after and could be an interesting sponsorship opportunity too.
  • Outdoor Sustainability. Solar power benches that provide charging or Wi-Fi encourage attendees to congregate and network while also showing an integration of technology.

18. Sustainability Styling
As leaders in the industry, it’s our responsibility to expect, and sometimes-even demand, that the companies we choose to work with have sustainable practices in place. Renting items is a way to contribute vs. buying pieces and subsequently throwing them out. Repurposing will be our trending green buzzword of the year.

Be sustainable:

  • Use your venue. Turn existing elements into a new area or benefit to your event like this swag wall that used to be the office mail sorting pigeon holes!

sustainability styling

Credit: Destinations by Design, Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas (catering)

  • Living Décor. Centerpieces and décor that is alive and can be planted after the event are a great give back and a trend we’ll see incorporated more into events - choose floral with roots or manicured hedges.
  • Donate Leftovers. Donating of food to various charities that have set up the framework to safely transport leftovers, or working with facilities to compost the excess, is a mindful way to approach the food aspect of events, which is one of the easiest (and largest!) waste-saving tips for your program.

19. Networking Hubs
Creating interesting hubs for idea sharing will help spur organic networking amongst attendees. Meals should have various sizes and shapes of tables so guests have the option of joining a large group or finding a smaller, more intimate group to dine with.

Start a conversation:

  • Go smaller. Tables that are too large prohibit open dialogue and attendees only truly network with those to their left or right. A smaller surface area between guests will help conversation flow and also be more budget friendly when adding table décor.
  • Ice break. It sounds simple but helping attendees break the ice is important to encouraging conversation. Opt for something simple like placing questions on the table for everyone to ask or answer.

20. The Unicorn Trend
The rise of unicorn popularity has seen an increase in inspired events and parties. It deserves a category of its own because it is still highly popular and goes further than just being a theme. With attendees donning body glitter and flocking to anything branded unicorn, it stands to reason that replicating this would be successful.

Be a unicorn:

  • Pastels. One of the key identifiers of the unicorn trend is the color scheme which is present throughout the styling, whether it’s food, décor, table scaping or even attendees, pastel and gentle colors seem to be a classy favorite.
  • Dreamy décor. This piece still falls in the unicorn category even though it isn’t explicit for a sophisticated twist. The pastels, balloons and whimsical styling of this event line up with the unicorn trend perfectly.

THE 2018 TRENDS IN EVENT MARKETING THAT WILL HELP YOU SELL MORE TICKETS

We all know that keeping up with the latest marketing tips and techniques can be a challenge but you don’t want to get left behind on your marketing strategy.

The good news is that there are plenty of new techniques you can apply right now to ensure you’re ten steps ahead of the competition.

In case you hadn’t noticed, everyone’s a marketer these days. From the person who answers the phone to the individual who pitches the clients, you’re marketing your event firm or department at every turn.

Marketing has evolved a lot over the past several years with social media and data making connections possible that wouldn’t have happened even a few years ago. Are you staying ahead of the curve when it comes to event marketing?
1. Share the Pain
We’ve been speaking about the importance of providing your audience what they need from a content perspective for a while. Knowing and understanding their struggles can help position you as THE resource to help them overcome. American Express created an entire website and a marketed holiday (Small Business Saturday) around becoming a resource for one of their major client demographics and solving problems for small businesses.

This idea was likely inspired by one of the true pioneers of content marketing - John Deere or Michelin Tire. John Deere created a magazine in the 1800s entitled the Furrow, aimed at farmers. This magazine wasn’t a brochure but a publication that spoke to helping farmers be more productive and better business owners. Michelin Tire, on the other hand, created and published the Michelin Guide in 1900. This 400-page document looked to help drivers with car maintenance and finding travel accommodations. The guide also offered travel tips and addresses of filling stations, mechanics, and tire dealers. The guide encouraged travel, which in turn wears out tires. Thus, Michelin created a need for itself, while positioning itself as a resource.

When focusing your event marketing on pain points, you need to ensure your event and marketing collaterals provide a solution and that it’s something they already feel or are afraid of encountering. If they don’t feel the pain point, they won’t be looking for solutions to it. A little market research on your ideal attendee can help you figure out what their pain points are. You’ll need to put a strategy in place on how you’ll present the issue and help them find a solution. Too heavy a hand and they’ll feel too demotivated to move.

Support your target audience and gain their loyalty:

  • A good guideline for your marketing is to aim to think about how many people you have helped today. Informative content and advice can position your event favorably and make the ticket purchase an easy next step.
  • A lot of thought should go into your conference session programming to ensure that it is appealing clearly to the right people and what they want to achieve. Sessions should be explained well in terms of who should or shouldn’t attend and simply labeling sessions with beginner, intermediate and advanced tags can be restrictive, insufficient and hold people back from attending. For example, a CEO may not want to attend an introductory level session and a junior team member might be put off attending an advanced session. Try using descriptors, such as “This is a participatory workshop session aimed at practitioners with two or more years experience. Expect to take away 10+ ideas you can incorporate right away.”
  • A powerful way to create buy-in or share learning in a memorable way is to use storytelling. Stories can be woven into the pre-event marketing to use emotion to drive sales and your speakers at the event can be briefed to share real-life examples wherever possible too, to increase learning and retention. Those discovering your event for the first time are often interested to learn more about the background history and sharing a story of this can hook people and be the trigger needed to purchase tickets there and then.
  • Mass marketing is unlikely to be a good strategy if your event niche is high-level training and mentoring for C-suite executives. Exclusive invitation lists and selection criteria, personal action plans, and support from peers to reach their goals are more likely to be the unique selling points the target attendee will take notice of. Some event planners are having success using communication platforms, such as Slack, to build a community and support around their conference or event. This should be established at least 3 months before your event. Think about the solution you can provide within your event and how you can guarantee your event promises come to fruition.

2. Embrace the Last Minute Attendees
One of the hottest event industry trends for 2018 is ensuring you continue marketing up until the last minute. Attendees are waiting longer and longer to register and buy tickets. People are leaving options open and waiting for last-minute travel deals to help offset ticket prices. So how do you capture those last-minute registrants and still maximize your resources?

Keep ticket sales going:

  • One suggestion is personalized follow-up and targeting. Send out reminder emails to previous attendees who have yet to register. Personalize the message to make the recipient feel like they’d be missed if they didn’t attend. To instill even more of the VIP feeling, send it from your founder or CEO.
  • Step away from early bird discounts to more extreme early bird pricing. Set a limited number of tickets at a lower price or offer the discounted rate until the program is finalized, giving no set deadline. When people have no guarantee of how long the cheaper rates are available it creates a bigger sense of urgency akin to Black Friday deals that are available until they run out. You don’t know when that will be so you buy now or risk missing out.
  • Use reverse psychology in your event marketing. By having standard tickets and a late booking ticket rate it can start to change people's approach to leaving it to the last minute as no one wants to incur a perceived penalty rate.
  • If you are running an event that runs for more than one day, another good strategy to boost ticket sales for subsequent days could be to create video highlights which is edited and published quickly at the end of each day. This can be promoted, with clear messages that tickets are still available, to entice people to buy and come along on the remaining event days.

3. Different Pricing Models
One of the most effective event planning trends 2017 and 2018 have seen is in ticket pricing. Borrowed from music events, premium ticketing and pricing are becoming popular event planning trends for 2018. People aren’t willing to wait for a serendipitous chance to meet a keynote. Instead, they’ll pay to do it.

Popular motivational speaker, Tony Robbins charged a ticket price based on seat much the same way you would for a concert. Premium charges and VIP packages guaranteed attendees a seat in the first five rows.

Perhaps a risky, or perhaps a genius event marketing strategy, would be to make all visitor tickets free to visitors. Although registration should still be requested to monitor demand and although the dropout rate on free tickets will be much higher than purchased tickets, it could be a good strategy for maximum footfall to keep exhibitors and sponsors happy.

Experiment and mix up your pricing model. Look at alternative revenue sources and upgrades. Innovate and do things differently to gain the competitive edge.

Change your business pricing model:

  • Get creative with the different tiers of packages available to exploit VIP, upper-tier pricing and strategically create a limited supply, special product, with the scarcity of the package pushing up the level of demand. From a psychological point of view having top tier pricing options makes the standard ticketing options seem more appealing to the masses, whilst having a top dollar option available to those willing to pay the premium.
  • Offer different layers of tickets, with perks such as top seating, meet and greets, speedy check in, exclusive lounges, food and beverage upgrades and extra education settings.
  • Premium seating is not the only way to offer more to your attendees. The VIP packages may include the perk of having travel brokers book your travel arrangements for you at a discount as well as concierge service at the airport, and a welcome pack delivered to your room.
  • For exhibitions, premium pricing is also being used at exhibitions for those wanting fast track entry, VIP entrance, access to meet and greets, complimentary refreshments, priority seating, access to seminars and VIP goodie bags.

4. Brand Power
Events are an important part of the marketing mix and a powerful way to cement brand recognition and loyalty. The perception of a brand is instrumental in terms of market positioning and pricing strategy. Google is looking for signals that identify a quality brand, to decipher who should display at the top of the search engine listings. Popular brands increasingly dominate online search results, and is it any coincidence that these brands are often investing most heavily in live events too.

Elevate your brand:

  • Google seems to look favorably on brands which have a lot of users searching, clicking and interacting with the brand. Events can encourage all of these behaviors to happen.
  • Many big name brands have an active events program and produce annual user conferences to bring together many of their community. It can be a great marketing opportunity if you have supportive users who are eager to keep up with the latest developments and tricks to get more from the software or product. Offering free tickets to the event can also be a sales incentive for new customers. Salesforce, Amazon and Hubspot are just a few of the huge brands behind massive and successful annual events, attended by tens of thousands or, in the case of Dreamforce, hundreds of thousands of attendees, every year.
  • Instead of sterile, official and anonymous corporate social media accounts, personalities behind the brands are being encouraged by more organizations. Previously employees were being told to add disclaimers on their social media profiles to confirm that “these views are my own, and not those of my employer” however individual staff members are increasingly able to proclaim who they work for and to have an active presence on social media. Twitter accounts with the first name and company name are popping up more frequently, to keep some degree of anonymity for the individual, whilst representing the business name front and center for the brand. Creating encouragement and positive parameters and guidelines for your team is the way to make this company policy.
  • Employees can be thought leaders. Enable them to have an opinion, be more outspoken, be more authentic, share behind the scenes stuff. Most of all, staff can give an honest and natural representation and show off the personalities behind the company. Not all organizations are being brave, but it can pay off as a strategy and your talent can be the best brand ambassadors and creatives you have. After all, people are more likely to take action or a purchase decision on the advice of someone they know and trust so widening that reach can only be a good thing.

5. Dark Social
84% of social sharing happens via dark social - online conversations that are not trackable by marketers. This is driven by copying and pasting links to share via email, text message, chat and messenger apps, such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Line and WeChat.

Micro-influencers can have a big impact across dark social. Although difficult to influence, encourage, control and monitor, dark social should definitely be front of mind.

Take a walk on the dark side:

  • Make sharing your content easy for attendees so they can share it via their preferred communication channels.
  • Use trackable links to better identify those that have come to your content via dark social.
  • Using text messaging is a good way to get your audience’s attention. 98% of text messages are read, unlike email.
  • With Facebook messenger now plugging into websites with its chat feature, we’ll begin to see a lot more businesses using this direct appeal. Facebook used its own messenger bot for its F8 conference this year to make it easier for attendees to connect with each other and provide updates for upcoming sessions.

6. Micro-Influencers having Big Impact
Many events are having success working with multiple micro-influencers. Instead of working with one celebrity name with hundreds of thousands of followers it can be more cost-effective to work with a number of hyper-targeted influencers with thousands or tens of thousands of followers instead. The audiences of micro-influencers can be more focused on niche interests, meaning that the ratio and interaction can actually be greater and more effective, offering a scalable way to combine influence and authenticity. It can also suit event marketers who are looking to pay for the experience, instead of paying for the endorsement.

Harness growing stars:

  • Research and list the micro-influencers that you would be interested in working with.
  • Come up with a compelling offer to encourage them to work with you. With micro-influencers they may be open to packages and experiences and command lower fees than the top influencers do.
  • Harness the power microblogging - either through your own account or by working with a micro-influencer that uses this technique. In essence, an image is shared with text, often a longer description than the few lines most Instagram posts publish. The posting frequency is regular, perhaps once or a few times a day. This can be an effective engagement strategy and works for some influencers better than a traditional blog format, allowing them to post within the platform their followers are extremely active on. Others use microblogging to push traffic through to their blog. Consider using microblogging for your own event marketing strategy and working with those influencers that are seeing success in your niche.

7. Authentic Content
There is governance and legislation around working with influencers. By law, it must be disclosed when it is an #ad or paid for placement, whether it is a social media post, YouTube video or blog post. It is not fair to mislead people and savvy audiences can sniff out and mistrust any sponsored content trying to flaunt the rules. If you can identify a genuine affinity between an influencer and your event, marketers shouldn’t be scared of sponsored content regulations.

How to create a persuasive campaign:

  • The best strategy for working with any influencers is to ensure that they have the freedom to create authentic content. Although it is tempting to be prescriptive and dictate the messaging, imagery and output that you want influencers to use, this can be a turnoff for their followers looking for something more personal.
  • Be brave and work closely with influencers. Hear their ideas for what they think will resonate best with their audience and be willing to take a risk on what they suggest. This will then stay true to the blogger’s voice, without being filtered and losing the credibility of the influencer and your event brand.
  • Social media is changing in line with this now and Facebook even has specific tools for branded content, which means that partners have to be tagged and gives them high-level performance insights too.

8. Visual Appeal
Images and video are still set to dominate marketing throughout 2018 and this is important throughout the whole event life cycle, not just pre-event. For many organizations, visual content is the area they are looking to invest the most, second only to blogging. Events offer lots of opportunities for engaging and interesting imagery and the marketing of the event does not end when the doors open to your attendees. Investment into irresistible photo-worthy moments within your event, means maximum exposure online.

A picture is worth a thousand words:

  • Use emojis, GIFs and living images to bring social media posts to life. Moving images are also replacing static photographs as marketers vye for more attention every way they can.
  • Invest in video clips, longer videos and vlogs, with subtitles and imagery to make them accessible even with the volume off (the default playback on some platforms unless you select to enable the sound).
  • At events, instead of speeded up time lapse shots, use ‘slow mo’ footage focusing on different elements of our events and guests having a good time.
  • Green screen backdrops and tablet operated photo apps can both offer a photograph with a choice of different backgrounds, logos and hashtags automatically overlaid and easy social sharing and sharing with the attendee.
  • Using facial recognition, your attendees can be automatically tagged and notified of any photos they appear in from the event, to encourage them to save and share with their networks in a speedy and timely manner.
  • The aesthetic of your event is more important than ever as you know that every interesting element and angle is likely to be shared. Event planners are spending more on big props, nostalgic, quirky and awe-inspiring features. This could also explain the popularity of food trucks, which look good and are often well photographed. Life size cutouts and display boards with full-size head-to-toe photography of the stars of your event will also cause a stir.
  • The motivation to take part in some events can be the wow factor and awesome photo opportunities above all else. Adult ball pits and play areas and inflatable assault courses can offer such motivation. It is easier to explain quickly with pictures and video why someone should attend your event, faster than you can paint a picture with words.

9. Drip Marketing
One of the most important event planning trends 2018 has to offer your marketing mix is drip marketing. The public is immune to advertising and will tune out or bypass sales information that doesn’t immediately interest them. Selling switches people off, blasting out sales and marketing messages is not therefore an effective marketing strategy, we need to be more savvy for 2018. Gradual introductions and relationship building, without the hard sell, will yield higher overall conversions. There is no quick win situation. A good strategy is to draw people in and get them invested first, before any sales call to actions are revealed.

Drip feed your message for better results:

  • Build a sequence of ads, ideally three or five adverts, to be shown in a specified order, rather than just a single “buy/act now” message. A drip marketing campaign can create awareness and the stages may be to introduce the event, explain why the viewer needs to attend the event, and finally to invite them to come to the website before hopefully a conversion is made. This approach has been seen on billboard campaigns but it can be more accurate and effective on social media. Facebook sponsored ads, in particular, gives the tools to show a sequence of ads or videos and track who has seen what, to serve up the right content to them, in the right order.
  • Drip marketing can also be used with email marketing campaigns. For maximum effectiveness create an audience segment so that the next email is only triggered to mail out at a scheduled time to those that have followed the call to action (click) in the previous email.
  • Tony Robbins uses clever grassroots marketing for his events. He sends out a scouting team a few months ahead of the events. They give free seminars to business groups, such as Chambers of Commerce and other business organizations. This cultivates interest within the group by addressing issues that business people are most interested in. They never mention Tony’s event directly but do mention Robbins' "teachings." This is a very interesting grassroots undertaking that starts well before tickets are even on sale. Would this approach work for your events too?

10. Pop Up Potential
Time limited, temporary events are a popular trend to create a buzz and capture people's interest. Perhaps in keeping with the Snapchat revolution where content is only available for a finite amount of time, pop-up events offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of the moment before it disappears forever. And, of course, it fuels the need to capture that moment and share details on social media too, before it vanishes.

  • Instead of getting people to come along to your event at a specific venue it allows you to take the event to them, by locating the pop-up interaction in high footfall locations.
  • Use pop up events to market larger events you have coming up in the pipeline.
  • Pop up campaigns where your attendees ‘pay with a share’ in return for something is a great way to encourage more social shares and encourage others to come and check it out. It can be a great way to get attention in the lead up to your event, for example by offering a free resource, in return for a tweet or post, to ensure interest and maximum sharing. Opportunities within the event itself can also be a great tactic to increase activity and FOMO (fear of missing out) to those not present, particularly if event tickets are still available.
  • For many, life experiences matter more than possessions, so many people would value and spend their money on attending a special and unique event, over making a tangible purchase.
  • Immersive productions make guests a part of the story. This phenomena is something we are likely to see more and more and it ensures that everyone attending have plenty of tales to tell their friends, to maximize word of mouth notoriety.

THE TOP MEETING DESTINATION TRENDS THAT WILL HELP YOU CHOOSE THE PERFECT LOCATION
It’s not all about the venue, attendees are looking to the destination as a whole to provide unique offerings.

But what should you look for in a destination to make it stand out?

A destination must appeal and complement the event, particularly as a lot of time is spent in hotels, networking or with scheduled free time. You don’t want the event to fall flat because attendees are holed up in a motel, miles away from activities when they break for the day, so choosing a destination that opens up further opportunities is important. We look at the meetings and events industry trends influencing event destinations as well what they can do to prepare themselves for event planners.
1. Destination Playgrounds
Add fun and adventure to corporate events by turning the destination into a playground to enjoy and use. This involves play across the city creating an atmosphere as well as activity planning.

Be a kid again:

  • City-wide themes. Seasonal events are an excellent example of how cities can unify through themes and this becomes a creative starting point for event planners. Winter wonderlands, summer fayres or local events can set the tone for the venue and extend the event theme into the city as if all were participants. When a conference fell on Halloween, a DMC created a pop-up shop outside of the registration desk that fulfilled every Halloween costume desire. Some guests tried their hand at crafting their costume, while others chose from an assortment of wigs and hats. This type of pop-up worked because it was a reflection of the city in all of its wonder and weirdness.
  • Youthful tours. Another adventure DMCs have in their back pocket is the creative tours of the city that are rooted in childhood games. These kinds of tours have a sense of familiarity that encourages guests to join in; but unlike a stationary game, the tours allow guests to step foot in destination landmarks all the while playing a game they know from their youth. For example, a scavenger hunt across the city combines team building, familiarity, and education all in one. This kind of tour takes guests to the more vibrant areas of the destination and encourages them to hunt for the listed items independently, giving the guests the power to make the tour their own as well as providing a first-hand experience of the destination.
  • Utilize nostalgia. For some attendees who want more structure, nostalgia and familiarity can still be used to your advantage through a tour experience by implementing playful games while at various tour stops. For instance, take the group on a “dine around” to experience the city through eats and drinks.

2. Overcoming The Past
Some destinations are inevitably linked in our minds with certain concepts, sometimes prejudices. Changing that perception cannot be only a marketing stunt. It requires the effort of many players, from local authorities to small business owners.

Reinvent destinations:

  • Beat expectations. Focus on the finer details of a destination, whether that’s the experiences, wildlife, local cuisine or culture and capitalize on that by showing a new side to the destination that blows away expectations.
  • Offer something new. Destinations that have previously been known to appeal to one demographic are starting to consider their offerings in other markets. Anaheim, for example, is usually synonymous with its Disneyland neighbor but with its convention center expansion along with the local brewery scene, it is starting to appeal to corporate events.
  • Pleasant surprises. Make a change and surprise attendees by overcoming the odds working against the destination. For example, Detroit, although quite advanced as far as infrastructure and technology, found itself heavily impacted by economic decline but was able to innovate and push through, surprising attendees with connectivity and an urban atmosphere.

3. Next-Level Sustainability
Sustainability and eco-friendly behavior have a positive impact on attendees and they want this reflected in the destinations themselves. Destinations that show that they care are also more likely to attract loyal attendees who speak their praise.

Be responsible:

  • Managing impact. Destinations that consider their environmental impact by managing their emissions, energy efficiency and safety will generally have healthy atmospheres and environments for attendees to enjoy at events.
  • Recycling. Encourage attendees to explore sustainability by making public bins dividable to easily recycle or placing recycling zones and initiatives. Guests are more likely to be conscious of the environment if they are led by example.
  • “Green” offerings. Cities and locations that offer incentives and work with venues to improve their sustainability status are able to offer more to event planners in terms of value. A destination with one “green” venue may not suit all event types, whereas working to improve the sustainability offerings as a whole gives a greater chance of success.

4. Humanization
Authentic connections help make a destination sink in and lessons learned, attendees form that bond and look deeper to discover all the location or city has to offer.

Be human-friendly:

  • Heartfelt partnerships. Creating that connection could be done through something as simple as bringing puppies into an internal meeting. The thought itself is exciting, and it is actually a useful tactic to make an otherwise standard business meeting a memorable and positive experience for the group. Plus, by partnering with a local animal shelter in order to bring the puppies into the meeting, the group forms a deeper connection with the destination. In Austin, Texas, for example, a tech conference partnered with local shelter Austin Pets Alive! and brought in dogs and puppies that were up for adoption. While the group was a mix of non-local and local attendees, all of them felt bonded to the city.
  • Rent a zip code. Turn your city destination into your venue by easily renting an entire zip code. Having the whole city to support your event is a luxury you can have in Aspen. Cleverly supported by a network of hotels, arts, and culinary experiences, you can enjoy everything at a walkable distance. From block parties to nightclubs to the best live music venues around, Aspen will keep your guests entertained until last call.
  • Thriving economies. Led by innovation with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada, Saskatoon, for example, offers safety and is in close proximity to attractions and venues. It is an inexpensive, diverse, friendly city waiting to be explored.
  • Second-Tier Destinations. As a continued trend from last year, the current political climate of uncertainty is favorable for second-tier destinations to flourish. The mix of security, intimacy, and flexibility is appealing to event professionals all over the world who are tired with the usual choices. These are all elements that play a key role in creating immersive experiences that deliver on event objectives.

5. City Immersion
With more time spent on leisure than business during a work trip, it means that traveling attendees need to be reached outside the venue and we are looking to destinations to offer an immersive experience to extend the event floor and message.

Get attendees committed:

  • Human interaction. the DMC knows the venue and the city streets inside and out. Even with the directional signage, the DMC should be a reliable resource for their client, the meeting planner, and act as an audible extension of that signage.
  • Oversized Art. Another form in which this trend is coming to fruition is through the recreation of city murals. Custom installing large pieces of artwork for photo opportunities is more exciting to guests than the standard photo booth. Something to keep in mind is that the larger the destination city, the more room for interactive oversized art. There is more opportunity to pull inspiration, more ways to educate the attendees via art, and a larger platform with which to show off the destination.
  • Unique Transportation. Bring an extra element to the immersion by providing a unique way to get around. Riverboats can be popular as well as the group pedal bikes in Amsterdam or rentable city Segways for a trendy solution. Cater the transportation to best suit the city and benefit the attendee, for example, London traffic can be notoriously difficult so instead, rented bikes are available in a variety of places where you can use contactless payment and simply stop at another hub and connect the bike when you are done.

6. Joining Forces
The idea of co-opetition helps with event destinations providing packages and bids that supersede the greater competition. While one party will inevitably end up the bigger winner, there are benefits to co-opetition and working together when targeting source markets or large events.

Connect with competition:

  • Joint Bids. That’s just what Barcelona and Vienna did to jointly win the 5-day, 5,000 strong European Association of Nuclear Medicine (EANM). Pooling resources, they submitted a joint bid which sees the event rotating between the cities, and another additional city, until 2021.
  • Coming Together as Regions. Destinations, too, are coming together as regions to win big business from mega-markets like India and China. European Cities Marketing (ECM), the association of European destination marketing organizations, has already staged a number of multi-city roadshows in India, highlighting the exciting opportunities across the entire EU region for Indian MICE programmes. More interestingly still, ECM has also been providing practical training for its EU based members on how to deal with the Indian source market.
  • Consortiums. Now in hiatus mode, the Trailblazers initiative was a cluster of destinations all of whom had offices on 5th Avenue in New York. The members of this informal consortium included, at various stages, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, Monaco, Denmark, Great Britain. Trailblazers targeted the North American agency community hosting a workshop and fam trip in turn in each member destination. It was a highly successful initiative that built a great profile and lasting relationships for all members.

7. Growing Neighborhoods
With the rise of neighborhoods creating an authentic experience of unexpected encounters and discovery, destinations are highlighting this individuality and uniqueness for events. This means that an event can rise in a neighborhood with the atmosphere to complement it, which is particularly useful for marketing and gaining traction.

Meet the neighbors:

  • Authenticity. Trastevere in Rome is considered by locals to be its most typical authentic quarter or neighborhood. Cognoscenti now are venturing deeper into the neighborhood beyond Santa Maria di Trastevere to the other side of Viale Trastevere where you’ll find cobblestone laneways crammed with simple Osterie run by families who’ve been making their own fettuccine for decades.
  • Edgy Neighborhoods. Williamsburg, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, was colonized by refugee creative types (and, dare we say it, hipsters), escaping the high rents of Manhattan. The result today is a highly coherent neighborhood vibe that visitors to the city want to channel. Nicknamed “Little Berlin” for its edgy art scene, independent hotels and great nightlife, Williamsburg provides a real ‘neighborhood’ experience and… increasingly higher rents!
  • Alternative. There’s a similar story with Shoreditch in London which, over the past 20 years, has developed a powerfully attractive brand as the pulsating heart of disruption, creativity and innovation. Independent hotels like the Hoxton and Ace Hotel along with a gazillion co-working spaces ensure the feel is decidedly indie and alternative.

8. Social Destinations
While we are seeing the emergence of destinations with social media marketing and promotions, DMO’s need to consider how they approach meeting or event professionals, with clear and targeted campaigns. Some of the ways you can tell your destination story and improve the brand as a whole involve adapting social media to meet the expectations of a potential attendee or clients, i.e. just because you are a destination doesn’t justify poor social media!

Get social:

  • 360 videos or photos. This gives online users a sneak peek at what they can expect at a destination as well as a few highlights. 360 video is particularly popular and adds more depth, although it is harder to shoot so amateurs may need to instruct influencers with knowledge.
  • Research. Know who your demographic for the destination is and show them that you know them! Do research, polls, feedback in and around a city that you can fill in at landmarks which collates into data and understanding of what your potential attendees need.
  • Vary your feed. Keep it interesting and boost your reach by posting content with different accessibility or contact levels. For example, a mix of quotes, videos, pictures and graphics can make for an interesting feed that entices others.
  • Augmented or virtual reality. Offer online tours for event planners to understand what they or attendees will be able to experience at the destination. This level of technology can immediately tell if you are the right fit or not and also shows a level of innovation that will be popular.

9. Local Intellectual Capital
There is more than one way to consider sustainability as a destination and another element of this includes talent and how to source locally to support communities and better the destination for the future. This investment ensures that events aren’t just using the destination and leaving but also networks and the economy thriving as well.

Find your team:

  • Sourcing experts. sourcing unusual intellectuals such as experts, academics or scientists to enhance the event and educate attendees. For example, using local museums and galleries as a historical or unusual venue but then organizing a local curator or expert to provide tours and answer questions to draw guests in and make it more participatory and dynamic. This personal approach not only benefits the venue but adds more dimension to the event to put destinations into context for attendees.
  • Community programs. How much does a destination invest in local communities and how can DMO’s utilize this to create networks that event planners can tap into? For example, using local street artists or musicians to book at the event gives an authentic twist that attendees won’t have seen before.
  • Local speakers with unique perspectives. Using conference speakers or performers that are destination specific creates more of a unique offering which also encourages thriving communities as a result of these events and stronger ties between DMC’s and the local talent.

10. Innovating Futures
Attendees are expecting to see destinations in line with technological advancements and areas that are keeping up with or even innovating the future. Technology is still one of the key factors when choosing a destination and this is not only the meeting the requirements of the event but going above and beyond.

Future-proof:

  • Wi-Fi. It’s a necessity now and attendees notice when it is not available. This is not just limited to venues, this is a destination and city issue. Free hotspots are preferred and large cities such as London have free Wi-Fi zones, perfect for staying in touch on corporate event breaks.
  • Airport technology. Show your advances as soon as attendees arrive by ensuring airports are up to scratch. In-flight WiFi is popular, particularly with the corporate crowd and helps facilitate productivity. Other ways this could be done are with scanners that reduce wait times. Gatwick Airport, for example, has made the security check in after a long-haul flight a seamless experience in some areas with digital scanners and retina displays. As long as you have an updated passport with an electronic strip it can recognize you according to your face and other features and you simply scan your passport under the monitor to electronically register that you have arrived.
  • Landmark beacons. Around prominent areas of the destination or city, utilize beacons to educate and enhance a visitors’ experience.
  • Self-driving cars. Adoption of these is increasing and locations where these are available, even in a smaller capacity such as the self-park functions, are going to gain a lot of traction. New advances such as this are key for showing how you intend to future proof your destination and continue to thrive.

11. Build Destination Connections
Attendees want to experience the destination on a personal level, so creating fun and unique activities that also tie to the destination is a tricky balance to get right. But, if you can create an emotive connection between attendee and destination, you’ll be making the event memorable and more than likely, enjoyable.

Encourage the connection:

  • Adrenaline rushes. Plenty of destinations have a bungee, skydiving or abseiling capacity and doing something that scares attendees will give them a once in a lifetime opportunity. Plus, it gives attendees a chance to overcome fears!
  • Unique activities. Select something you can’t try at home! Goat yoga, for example, gives guests a different kind of activity without being over-the-top. It is sure to be a memorable experience.
  • Connect to morals. Choose a destination that is already synonymous with your event theme that can enhance it. For example, an event that focuses on sustainability, that chooses a destination that is eagerly sustainable connects with an attendee’s focus, makes them feel more authentic and better able to enjoy the event.

12. Destination Development
It’s time to understand that while DMOs are creating leisure and business demands for their locations, they can’t control the outcomes without management and control on their side. These days DMOs are getting more and more into destination development and management too (not in the DMC meaning of the word, it should be stressed) and, in this way, are better able to control the destination experience.

A stronger marketing foothold:

  • Tourism and Business Development. Hamburg has a laser-like future focus in its approach to destination marketing and plays a seminal role in relation to destination development and management too. The core focus for Hamburg Convention Bureau is to become the indispensable interface of tourism and business development and this can be seen in how HCB mines business from a thriving network of local economic clusters.
  • B2B. Dubai is one of the world’s fastest growing cities that, in a relatively short time, has become a major global hub for events. Dubai’s development continues apace and Dubai Business Events, its DMO, is integral to this development and the management of it, ensuring a destination experience that brings true value for meetings, incentives, conferences and events.
  • Proactive Partnerships. An extended horizon that includes destination development and management necessitates greater levels of alignment and partnership with other public and private enterprises within the destination. That’s why clever destinations like Auckland, New Zealand are styling themselves as “knowledge hubs” and building proactive partnerships with economic development and research-related agencies.

13. Supported Infrastructure
A location could be visually stunning and the perfect backdrop but if the logistics are a nightmare it will turn people off. Ensuring the destination has the infrastructure to pull off what they claim, particularly with large conferences or concerts is important early on.

Enhance event support:

  • Transport. If a destination is unable to provide a reliable service that makes the city accessible it can ruin the event and drive the cost too high for car hire or taxis. Attendees want an authentic experience so riding the subway or tube adds to this, so ensure destinations have a network and infrastructure you can utilize.
  • Digital Signage. The best of digital signage is a large touchscreen column that allows attendees to find their destination themselves. It is reminiscent of an oversized tablet that guests can then navigate independently. This type of signage is a growing market now that attendees, more and more, are moving in the “help yourself” direction at conferences. Making directional signage into a self-help directory is the first major step in truly giving attendees the power they would like and this could extend to city maps and public transport stations.
  • Translations. Destinations understanding cultural diversity and being able to accommodate for this makes attendees feel welcome and flock in droves to a home away from home. Simple executions of this could include QR code translations on signage or multi-lingual staff at the airport.

14. Destinations With Depth
Locations that offer an enriched background can work for the planner and destination to create stunning results. A destination with depth opens a wealth of options from venues with historical importance to well-known landmarks or traditions that deepens the connection between the city and attendee.

Utilize depth:

  • Historical importance. From landmarks and structures to city layouts, historical or cultural significance that can be found should be capitalized upon. For example, the cobbled London streets with some of the earlier architecture, in line with traditional storefronts create walking tour opportunities and simple “must-see” locations in the city, purely by showcasing its history.
  • Cultural education. It is up to the DMC to educate their meeting planner on the customs and beliefs of the host destination in order to best serve the visiting guests. Meanwhile, it is the meeting planner’s job to respect those customs and ensure that their guests have an authentic and enjoyable experience in that destination while respecting the beliefs of the host country. A meeting planner traveling with their group to Mumbai, India, for example, must have conversations with their Mumbai DMC beforehand in order to educate their guests on the culture, and the likelihood that beef would be omitted from all menus. Still, DMCs must be the driving force in inclusion and maintain that force through the coming years.
  • Unique Traditions. A destination that hosts annual unique events of their own is an excellent reason to coincide with a corporate event. For example, there are some weird and wonderful traditions that attendees can participate or observe in destinations such as the battle of wine in Spain, Harbin ice festival in China or the English world gurning championships.

15. Personalization On A Grand Scale
The finer details and finishing touches make an event and allow attendees to feel important but how do you get this level of personalization for an entire city or destination?

Make it personal:

  • Source local. Small, local vintage vendors are being used more and more over the commercial nationwide giants because they have more time to carefully create a vision for the DMC and that DMC’s meeting planner. Local vendors have the ability to understand the importance that is placed on a DMC when a group is choosing to host its event in that destination. That is not to say that the big businesses are no longer needed; rather, the latest trends with intense customization make it more preferable to utilize local vendors.
  • Custom packages. Clients that want an authentic experience are not wanting commonly sold packages. Sure, the constant customization does mean more internal costs and time because it requires a deeper sales staff with the right people skills. But if a DMC wants to win that big business, it needs to put the time and effort into a truly customized proposal.
  • Cuisine alternatives. The menu options are important inside and out of the event so ensuring that cities have alternatives to suit the growingly health conscious or alternative lifestyles. Cities like Memphis, Tennessee, for example, are so focused on barbecue and meat-forward foods, it is imperative that DMCs within those cities come up with similar vegetarian options that are both healthy and tasty. It may be a hurdle in the beginning, but it will pay off in the long run.

THE 2018 TRENDS FOR DESTINATION MANAGEMENT COMPANIES (DMCS) THAT WILL IMPACT YOUR EVENT
As a destination management company (DMC) are you wondering what you can bring event planners that they haven’t seen? Are you striving to make 2018 a one for the record books? Or maybe you’re an event planner looking for an innovative DMC and are wondering what others are doing?

The 2018 trends in event destination management companies reflect what is going on in events at large, more personalization and a greater focus on creating a memorable attendee experience. While this means something different in every area of events, for DMCs it’s a calling to provide something extraordinary or difficult for the planners to do themselves, more value for less effort on their end.
1. Humanizing the Destination
In the past, attendees would fly in, attend the event, and then off they went with minimal interaction with the destination. Today, that is changing. Planners are breaking out of typical event spaces and instead opting for non-traditional venues and locations. There is an opportunity to take it a step further by taking the normal, everyday business event and softening it in order to create a more authentic connection between attendees and the event.

People are looking for local or cultural events to attend, mixing business with pleasure; bringing guests with them so they can enjoy a little mini vacation on the heels of their event; and insisting on other ways to enjoy themselves.

Serve up the host city in spades:

  • Create culinary adventures, side tours, and sessions involving culture experts.
  • Offer an opportunity for the group to volunteer for a local organization as part of a service project. Charitable activities can have a profound effect on attendees and make them feel a bigger part of the destination city.
  • Bring a surprise element to your event, as a useful tactic to make an otherwise standard business meeting a memorable and positive experience for the group.
  • It is worth breaking the mold of traditional destination management by merging it with realness in order to create a connection that otherwise would be missed. Groups are more and more leaving the traditional meeting style in the past. They are moving towards adding unique and unforgettable components; or in some cases, removing anything that feels stiff. Powerpoint presentations are running on empty, and blank notepads laid throughout a classroom style ballroom are disappearing. Moving into their place are live visual notes done by an artist in the room. This focus on authenticity and connection will only continue to grow in the DMC industry as business becomes more approachable and less rigid.

2. Creating Childlike Wonder and Nostalgia
Nostalgia is always a way to make an impression. It helps people harken back to simpler times and conjures up happy memories. When a destination management company evokes those types of pleasant feelings, those emotions get transferred to the event itself. That’s why so many DMCs are getting into the game. Literally.

Add childlike wonder to your events:

  • Try doing things like incorporating games, challenges, or childhood competitions most everyone can play, like kickball. Use giant Jenga as a networking icebreaker, for example.
  • Host your event at a venue that caters to children, like an amusement park or rent a bounce house (just make sure you run that by your risk person).
  • Giveaways like cube puzzles and stuffed flying monkeys can bring out the childlike wonder in your guests.

3. Fun Exploration
Getting to know a destination does not have to be forced for clients or guests. Whether they are visiting for a conference or an incentive trip, guests are eager to learn about the city around them. A powerful and subtle way to get the destination’s message across is by funneling details of the destination into familiar activities for the guests and this will have a positive output in terms of networking and team building too.

Providing custom, familiar experiences is a must for the DMC industry moving forward, and these types of activations will only continue to increase in popularity.

  • Use gamification to entice participation and to dive into the city surrounding them. Technology solutions are an easy and fun way to monitor and manage activities fairly.
  • Work with DMCs to offer a creative tour of the city and allow guests to step foot in destination landmarks. For example, a scavenger hunt across the city combines team building, familiarity, and education all in one. This kind of tour takes guests to the more vibrant areas of the destination and encourages them to hunt for the listed items independently, giving the guests the power to make the tour their own as well as providing a first-hand experience of the destination.
  • A citywide scavenger hunt is good for the right group - but what if your group appreciates taking things slowly and savoring the moment? Slow down the pace and take the group on a “dine around” to experience the city through eats and drinks. Upon sitting down at the first stop, the guests can be greeted with a custom cocktail and then challenged to note the ingredients by choosing from an expansive list. This type of challenge gets guests into a lively spirit and ready to take on the destination.

4. Establishing the Softer Side
Gone are the days of stodgy wingback chairs (unless it’s part of your theme, of course) and traditional seats around a boardroom table. Room flows are open. Less is more.

We’re seeing examples of that in the increasing selection of non-traditional venues using their quirks as part of the decor and featuring things like whitewashed brick and comfortable areas trumping mass seating for the multitudes. It’s now accepted that some people will just mingle and not everyone needs a seat at all times for some events.

Clients are looking to transform venues into spaces that reflect the destination itself while incorporating a minimalist feel. Essentially, this trend means that the venue does not need to be overly saturated with traditional decor; subtlety speaks volumes.

Be bang on trend by careful choice of your surroundings:

  • Light, airy, whitewashed brick and walls with greenery make more of a statement than an overly styled hotel ballroom or breakout room these days. In recent years we have seen a shift toward non-traditional venues, and this year will see that venue selection narrow even more into this minimalist realm. The quiet demeanor of this kind of venue shifts the focus to the content of the event; which lets guests truly appreciate why they are there in the first place.
  • In addition to the airy venue selection, there is an influx of polygons within furniture and venues. Hexagons, octagons, and trapezoids are becoming the norm within venues and décor pieces alike.
  • Though this minimalist style is preferred nowadays, attendees still want to have control when they walk into a venue. It is imperative to think about the placement of furniture and how it will be used by the attendees. In order to be the ideal DMC partner to a meeting planner you must ask the right questions. This way, you are not just an order taker. Instead, you are a partner. A partner that suggests the ideal rentals as well as the placement of the rentals. You are the partner that educates the meeting planner, and encourages them to make decisions that result in the best use for their attendees, while maximizing the client’s budget.

5. NO to Boring Ballrooms
As destination managers, we take pride in showing our city off through group events. There is nothing quite like the wonder in a guests’ eyes as they experience your destination for the first time. But what happens when the majority of their time is not spent experiencing the city first hand; rather their time is spent within a hotel for a conference? It is then the planner’s responsibility to pull the destination within the selected venue.

Bring the outside in:

  • While this has been done in ways since the beginning of the destination management industry, we are seeing an expansive boom in the actual recreation of the destination within venues. A popular example of this is seen when planners recreate the various boroughs or neighborhoods of their destination on a microscopic level within the venue. Recreate the distinct neighborhoods within your event space and give the attendees a real opportunity to experience the destination in the limited time that they are in town.
  • One of the ways planners have succeeded in this recreation effort is by using emerging technologies to set the ambiance and tone immediately upon guest arrival. Video mapping the walls of a venue, for example, can open up an array of possibilities that were not possible just a couple years ago as costs have since come down. Capturing footage of your destination and mapping the walls with it allows for an all-encompassing experience within a venue. It also does not hurt that it is such a wow factor!
  • Sourcing local vendors and local foods is a great way to educate guests about your destination. The authenticity that pours out of local eats, drinks and décor is something that is guaranteed to resonate with your guests, especially if it is a part of a recreation of the city.

6. Supersize
Supersizing is one of the event trends 2018 will be bringing to DMC table.The first impressions of a space affect the perception of the rest of the event - especially when guests are non-local. The pressure to give the guests a memorable and accurate impression of the destination is always on; however, lately, there has been an interesting turn in what is expected. Rather than using multitudes of supplemental décor, DMCs are seeing a surge in oversized, giant statement pieces.

Go large or go home:

  • Over an oversized step-in frame that provides a photo opportunity for your guests. Placing a giant frame in the space provides an automatic connection between the visitors and the destination in a big way.
  • If you have the budget, commission a fully immersive art installation which reflects your event vision. While these types of installations have been around festivals for years, the DMC industry is exploding with similar requests in order to soften the tone of a corporate event and of course, provide a social media worthy post.
  • Another form in which this trend is coming to fruition is through the recreation of city murals. Custom installing large pieces of artwork for photo opportunities is more exciting to guests than the standard photo booth. Something to keep in mind is that the larger the destination city, the more room for interactive oversized art. There is more opportunity to pull inspiration, more ways to educate the attendees via art, and a larger platform with which to show off the destination.

7. Originality
The theme of customization continues on with the boom of custom crafted activations that match the destination. The DMC industry has realized the importance of ensuring that guests feel they are experiencing something that has never been done before, especially considering they likely attend multiple events across the country, or even the world, every year. With that in mind, DMCs and their partners are working in totality to build pieces from scratch.

Push the boundaries:

  • Something small in stature but big in impact are centerpieces that describe the destination. Create miniature works of art reminiscent of the guest destination, without them even needing to step outside the hotel ballroom.
  • On a larger scale, transform an ordinary building into a vintage soda shop. Fill it with the destination’s local beverages and local sweet treats, as well as in-character servers who maintain the feel of that certain era in the location. This type of custom activation is an interesting portrayal of the destination for the guest because it is a hyperbolic example of the uniqueness of a city. While exaggerated, it is an accurate depiction of the quirks within the destination and as a result, greatly benefits the DMC which executed it.
  • Connect the destination with non-local guests through custom crafted activations that reflect the city in all of its wonder and weirdness. Any DMC should be focused on honing the relationship of the guest with the city while delivering all event-related tasks.

8. Walk This Way
When guests travel to an unfamiliar destination, they can feel like they are constantly walking in the dark. This is where good directional signage comes in. While signage has always been a staple of events, we are now seeing the impact that strategic directional signage has in an event.

Point your guests in the right direction:

  • Foam core signage has been a reliable resource for non-local guests to use as a directory at destination events for years. Now, though, the days of foam core signage are coming to an end, and in turn, are being replaced by digital directional signage. Going digital is an obvious step into the future, but it also helps reduce the carbon footprint of an event. Additionally, it allows the meeting planner and the DMC to make last-minute revisions if need be, without needing to worry about a print deadline.
  • The best of digital signage is a large touchscreen column that allows attendees to find their destination themselves. It is reminiscent of an oversized tablet that guests can then navigate independently. This type of signage is a growing market now that attendees, more and more, are moving in the “help yourself” direction at conferences. Making directional signage into a self-help directory is the first major step in truly giving attendees the power they would like.
  • The meeting planner should lean on the DMC’s knowledge of the venue and local area to ask where directional signage needs to be and if a human arrow is a necessary addition in order to ensure the best possible experience for the attendees. Even so, while we continue to make strides in the adaptation of technology within events, a DMC always needs to be prepared to utilize human knowledge of the area in case technology should fail.

9. Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle
Creating a unique environment and a custom experience for each and every client can be a challenging task, but take a moment to take a step back and evaluate the request you have received. Chances are, this request is influenced by a previous decade. Much like fashion, events and trends in destinations get recycled. We are just seeing that trend hit our industry harder than ever before.

Go vintage and shop local:

  • This intense need to revisit past decades and incorporate threads of older times means DMCs need to transition their selling style to fit the market’s vintage desire. While this may produce challenges in inventory, it provides opportunities to purposefully tune each event to the needs of the meeting planner. DMCs always know what items can easily be repurposed in their destination to make what was once old new again.
  • The best way to repurpose vintage materials is to source them through local vendors. Small, local vintage vendors are being used more and more over the commercial nationwide giants because they have more time to carefully create a vision for the DMC and that DMC’s meeting planner. Local vendors have the ability to understand the importance that is placed on a DMC when a group is choosing to host its event in that destination. That is not to say that the big businesses are no longer needed; rather, the latest trends with intense customization make it more preferable to utilize local vendors.
  • Knowing and understanding the city’s history alone can generate different themes and ideas that can be used by corporate meeting planners. These types of themes go hand-in-hand with a destination meeting, and also increases the likelihood of using and supporting local vendors. It is these local vendors and themes that will be continuously growing throughout the year. This makes groups understand and connect with their destination better than ever before.

10. Culinary Awareness and Alternatives
Numbered are the days of high caloric foods dressing the tables. In their place are healthier options, with allergens labeled, that are both cost-effective and tasty. So why this change? And why now? Well, in this age of information, people are not only more educated and aware of what they consume, but more concerned about potential long-term health effects.

Please your guests and respect your location:

  • As health and wellness move to the forefront of people’s minds, their diets are changing. People are focusing on ensuring they make healthy choices when it comes to food. In so doing, the vegetarian diet is becoming increasingly popular in Western countries, especially given the rise of autoimmune diseases. With those two major changes, DMCs and catering companies must incorporate more vegetarian options more regularly.
  • Destinations have been adjusting accordingly but at a slow rate. The largest change that DMCs are set to feel in 2018 is the expectation to have multitudes of healthy vegetarian options using fresh, unprocessed food. These options must be offered at the same rate as non-vegetarian options, including sides and desserts. Even if you are in a city where meat dishes are at the core it is imperative that DMCs come up with similar vegetarian options that are both healthy and tasty.

Even more important is understanding the destinations that may have different diets because of religious beliefs. It is up to the DMC to educate their meeting planner on the customs and beliefs of the host destination in order to best serve the visiting guests. Meanwhile, it is the meeting planner’s job to respect those customs and ensure that their guests have an authentic and enjoyable experience in that destination while respecting the beliefs of the host country. A meeting planner traveling with their group to Mumbai, India, for example, must have conversations with their Mumbai DMC beforehand in order to educate their guests on the culture, and the likelihood that beef would be omitted from all menus. Still, DMCs must be the driving force in inclusion and maintain that force through the coming years.
In Conclusion
So, there you have it - 100 trends event planners should definitely take note of for 2018. Covering event technology, meeting design, event styling, event marketing, venues, destinations and DMCs - we hope that you are inspired to put these cutting edge suggestions into practice.

Now onto you:

  • Do you have a tip to make this page better? Or an idea to add to the idea engine for how to attract more business? Send an email to contact@eventmanagerblog.com.
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about the author

Julius Solaris
Julius Solaris is the editor of EventManagerBlog.com, he is an international speaker, author and consultant.
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