By Tom Pick
Event professionals use many different words to describe their world: Vital. Stressful. Exciting. Exhausting. Rewarding.
But one adjective they never use is “dull.” True to form, there are several big changes on the horizon for the live events industry in 2020. But is there a single “biggest change”? Here’s what 14 top event professionals had to say when asked that question.
There were several one-off answers, reflecting clear trends in the events space, such as improvement and expanding the use of event mobile apps; more utilization of non-traditional venues; greater focus on diversity and inclusion; and improved measurement of event results not just during but after the event.
There may be a significant disrupting technology in the event industry, not yet on anyone’s radar, the result of thinking outside the box (or as Christy Lamagna puts it, “standing on top of the box!” to see the future). Perhaps it will be related to other answers here, like using technology to deliver 24X7 service or taking a human-centered design approach?
Multiple respondents mentioned changes coming for event pros over concerns such as:
- Global uncertainty: How will, in the words of Michelle Bruno, ” the uncertainty associated with national elections, Brexit, a possible economic downturn, and ongoing trade wars” affect travel and events?
- Security: Event planners need to be even more mindful of both physical and cybersecurity at events as new threats emerge.
- New communications channels: Planners need to find new ways to “cut through the noise” to grow, connect with, and engage their audiences pre- and post-event. Are Twitter and Facebook still viable? Is Instagram still a useful channel in the wake of its decision to hide “likes” and influencer fatigue? Should planners look at shifting efforts to platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitch?
But the most popular response—the biggest change—cited by these event experts is “sustainability.” How can planners make their events more green, more eco-friendly? There are the obvious steps such as recyclable badges, LED lighting, and minimizing or eliminating single-use plastics.
But there are limits. People still need to travel to events. Tahira Endean encapsulates this challenge beautifully in writing that “We must do a far better job of the narrative around how meetings and events drive business results and build bridges between humans—and that the same results cannot be achieved without face to face interaction, which can be supported but not replaced by technology.”
Here are the complete responses from these 14 incredible women in event tech.
Environmental sustainability continues to be a topic (and an ever-growing one at that). Event profs across the board will need to keep this in mind and turn their focus towards sustainable events and how their role in the industry can play a part in the go green movement, what they can do to make events more sustainable, and how they can provide clients with an ecological balance while meeting event needs.
I really think there are two issues that are on the forefront or should be top of mind for all planners:
- Security. We want and need to be aware of our attendees: who might be attending that is a threat and how do we protect those in attendance? This has certainly changed over the years and new event planners will have challenges we have not had to deal with in the past.
- Sustainability. How do we work to really make events less wasteful and more green? This is a hot topic and all planners need to be looking at their events with this in mind. There are so many ways for planners to be more conscientious when it comes to waste at events.
Event profs have a lot of moving parts. I would love to see how to maximize the face-to-face experience while minimizing carbon footprint (related to event travel) + incorporating the #golocal movement (to support local business) + selecting more interesting/engaging spaces (than the typical conference center or meeting hall) AND having solid WiFi to stay connected (sigh)….incorporating technology and keeping the budget aligned. (Current struggles!)
Also, it would be neat-o to see something other than linens used as table coverings!
One additional comment from my colleague Nick Beard, director of business development at Boomset: “The U.S. is heading into an election year and it’ll be interesting to see how the geopolitical landscape will affect how businesses domestically and abroad will allocate and spend their event budgets!”
Climate change is at the forefront of world thinking. Travel will be questioned from a carbon impact perspective. How will we respond to this as event professionals who rely on people traveling to the events we design?
We must do a far better job of the narrative around how meetings and events drive business results, build bridges between humans, and that the same results cannot be achieved without face to face interaction, which can be supported but not replaced by technology.
Event profs will be very concerned about the uncertainty associated with national elections, Brexit, a possible economic downturn, and ongoing trade wars.
With the 2020 election coming up, I’m curious to see how this will influence event behavior. I think focusing on bringing people together will be even more important (no matter what their differences are!)
Security is increasingly becoming a challenge for events large and small—that includes plans for active shooters, natural disasters, health emergencies, and cybersecurity.
Continuing to break through the noise, from a marketing perspective. Finding easy and quantifiable measures to grow their audience, and then continuing to relevantly engage or “continue the conversation” with their audiences in the pre- and post-event lifecycle.
Constantly evolving ways to connect with target markets. Finding a way to cut through the noise as more and more methods for reaching people are becoming crowded and new channels are continually emerging.
Thinking outside the box is essential for those who want to succeed. Event strategists stand ON TOP OF the box and see the future. Creating strategic content, and a better understanding of how to measure the behavioral changes stemming from that content, are keys to getting a seat at the table.
The biggest change event planners will need to deal with in 2020 will be the next disrupting idea, a la the next Airbnb. It’s not clear yet what that next disruption will be.
I hope a bigger emphasis on diversity and inclusion will be a focus in 2020 in our industry. This is a huge topic in our society and should be reflected in our industry as well!
Catching up to the client’s expectations and staying a few steps ahead! If the client can’t access what they need and want from their smartphone they are not buying! The clients want everything NOW NOW NOW and 2am and 7am business hours for this new client are a thing of the past. Event pros must change with the climate of this new client!
I’ve been studying the philosophy behind human-centered design. I think many planners already have this skill but we’re often derailed by competing priorities from stakeholders and our events end up missing the mark with attendees. As more organizations start to value human-centered design in everything they do, planners will be poised to help facilitate that conversation.
Tom Pick is a digital marketing consultant who works with event management platform developer G2Planet to share the company’s insights and knowledge with corporate event marketing professionals.