Feeling excited about 2019 and all the opportunities the new year will bring? You should be!

We asked 26 event professionals to tell us the key factors they think will shape the events industry next year and their answers paint an optimistic future.

They believe events will become more focused on well-being, on creating emotions and memories and bringing people together for a purpose. They also foresee events becoming more sustainable and venues becoming cheaper, while technology will make planners more effective than ever.

Roll on 2019!

Venue pricing will be more transparent

Rebecca Kelly

Rebecca Kelly, CEO, VenueScanner

“Before we get excited about the potential of AI and VR for events, the technology the industry should be getting excited about is dynamic pricing. It will enable venues to automate different pricing offers, according to availability. This will improve transparency and reduce costs for budget-conscious event organisers.

“Automation will save venue management teams’ time and this saving may be passed on to event organisers through lower costs. This means creating an event will become more affordable than ever before, hopefully resulting in more events and meetings happening.”

Wellness will be on the agenda

Jemma Peers

Jemma Peers, Commercial Director, Top Banana

“With health and fitness fanatics rising to fame on Instagram and YouTube and apps such as ‘Headspace’ and ‘Calm’ growing at an exponential rate, health and wellness are at the forefront of our minds and this is transitioning into the workplace. Questions will be asked about the use of technology in regards to employees’ wellbeing.

“The relevance of this will grow in 2019 and we will see events incorporating this more and more into the agenda. Whether that’s simply allowing more time to think, reflect and relax, or through the topics, speakers and live event experiences.

“This theme will also transition to the incentives industry with itineraries becoming less about jam-packed itineraries and more about wellness, with time to rest and recuperate. This will be combined with once-in-a-lifetime “wellness for the soul” type CSR experiences.“

Events will have more purpose

Hannah Sheppard

Hannah Sheppard, Events Director, Clownfish Events

“One big trend for 2019 is an expectation for events to be more socially responsible and have a wider purpose. A lot more thought will go into the planning stages, with people trying to deliver an underlying message and maybe make a social or environmental statement. They’ll want to take their guests on a ‘journey’ and try to evoke their emotions. This makes the whole event experience that bit more memorable and is a very powerful way to get guests talking about it for days afterwards.

“Carrying on with the theme of emotions, personalised event aromas will be a new trend as people try to tap into all five senses. From summer parties with a lovely fresh-cut grass aroma to breakout sessions at conferences with delicious smells of fresh coffee, it can create a really memorable experience.”

Planners will seek venues with a story

Raffaela Pozzi

Raffaela Pozzi, Corporate Sales Manager, Museum of London

“We’re seeing an increasing emphasis being placed on added value element, which offer guests that money-can’t-buy experience. Clients are looking at ways they can lean on a venue’s story to enhance their own event experience. This has also led to an increasing demand for historic and unique venues, as clients are very much looking for ways to add that wow factor into their events.”

Meetings will become more social

Amber Holdforth

Amber Holdforth, Sales Director, Altitude London

“Mental health is an issue which has really hit home over the past few years and those working in the industry know all too well about the stresses that come with modern working life. We’re keen to see event formats adapt to draw on the advantages that come with leaving the office and changing your environment. This means ditching the long, drawn-out sessions which keep guests glued to their seats all day and increasing social interaction among delegates.”

Hiring on-demand event staff will be easier

Greg Lusk

Greg Lusk, Co-founder, Live Force

“One exciting trend which will undoubtedly continue to grow and develop throughout 2019 is the way in which freelancers find work and get paid for it. Facebook groups have dominated this space for years, allowing pretty much any company looking for event talent to create a post within seconds and have it seen by thousands of dedicated event professionals. The downside has always been the rest of the booking then relies on more traditional and time-consuming practices e.g. email for communication and invoicing for payment.

“2018 has seen the emergence of recruitment companies like ‘coople’ and ‘gigstr’ who have made steps to streamline this process by offering on-demand event staff booked and paid for through an app. The obvious downside is having to pay a commission. Recent rumours would also suggest that Uber are planning on offering their own version, aptly named ‘Uber Works’.

“It would even seem that impending changes in employment law proposed by the Taylor Review would better support people choosing to work in this gig economy. With 2019 rapidly approaching and new players entering  the market streamlining this process even further, it looks likely that finding work will become even easier for both workers and those looking to hire an on-demand workforce.”

Planners will reduce their carbon footprint

Christopher Cashman

Christopher Cashman, Sales & Events Manager, LSO St Luke’s

“Next year, we’re predicting that the trend for sustainability is going to go from strength to strength as clients make it a larger focus of their business strategy. The recent global warming reports show that we’re on track for a three degree rise in global temperature and the associated dangers will keep hitting headlines.

“As such, savvy event professionals will be looking more closely at ways they can reduce their carbon footprint and offset event pollution, especially if they are keen to attract a younger demographic. This will also mean venues having to spend more time considering their facilities and how they can best support a client’s CSR objectives.”

Cities will become even more influential

Sherrif Karamat, President and CEO, PCMA

“There is a theory that 80% of the world will be concentrated in only 600 cities by 2050. Think of how powerful those cities will become. They have the potential to become even more influential than national governments. I believe we have an important role in this urbanisation because our industry has the ability to drive economic prosperity, organisational success and the social agenda when it brings business events to those cities.”

Live data will make planners more effective

Masha Boh

Masha Boh, Business Development Manager, The Brewery

“Technology is going to be a key factor in the way event professionals do business in 2019. We’re predicting the increased use of event management technology where event organisers will utilise live data to inform real-life elements. A good example of this is using attendee tracking systems to redistribute guests and avoid big queues at popular locations like bars or toilets.”

Speakers who can give confidence will be in demand

Nick Gold

Nick Gold, Managing Director, Speakers Corner

“We are expecting to see more and more conversations about dealing with uncertainty and managing risk, especially with the approaching Brexit leave date in March. We are in a time where there is no historical precedent to draw learnings from and as such, companies are having to look forward and make decisions when there is no clarity in the world (and certainly the UK) from a macro perspective.

“Speakers who can deliver content and context around these subject matters, drawing on personal stories to demonstrate creative solutions as to how decisions can be made are expected to be significantly in demand in 2019 and beyond.”

Venues will invest in collaborative technologies

Mark Cooper

Mark Cooper, CEO, IACC (International Association of Conference Centres)

“We have discovered that venues are continuing investment in screen-sharing technologies and video conferencing hardware. These continue to be the leading collaborative technologies for venues, while some are offering these services ‘free to use’ to clients.

“As more venues bring in collaborative technology, venue bandwidth capacity will become vital to the success of meetings. Venue operators and planners feel that high-quality internet will be the most important meeting element in the coming years. To address this, we have created a useful IACC Internet Guide for Meeting Planners and Venues, which helps them to estimate required bandwidth.”

Personal and professional will mix

Patrick Delaney

Patrick Delaney, Director, SoolNua

“We need to stop thinking about B2B and B2C as different markets; I think the real disruptor is that it should be H2H – human to human. We have to get back to understanding the power of human connections, the power of the live event – the power of making that true connection that only comes when people actually treat each other as human beings. We need to look at what people’s needs are, see how they can be met, and deliver on that.

“I think technology can be used to connect people and provide genuine experiences – experiences that will leave a delegate saying, ‘You know something, that had an impact on me, it emotionally engaged me, it intellectually engaged me – it changed me in some way.’ The continuation of this will also see personal and professional mixing to deliver an end result.”

Single-use plastics will be reduced

Jane Longhurst

Jane Longhurst, Chief Executive, Meetings Industry Association

“While the war on single-use plastic was unleashed in 2018, it will remain a key trend over the next few years. We will be continuing to champion sustainable practices and will be calling for the industry to join our Plastic Pledge to turn the tide on single-use plastic and reduce the sector’s reliance by 20%. We recently held a roundtable debate to set the agenda for the campaign and will soon be publishing a white paper to share best practice.”

Virtual venue show rounds will become the norm

Paul Martins

Paul Martins, Board Member, Westminster Venue Collection and Director of Sales, Cavendish Venues

“Virtual 3D walk-through venue presentations will become an integral part of the decision-making process for planners. Clients from all distances find the convenience, accuracy and even the interactive novelty appealing. At Cavendish Venues, we have introduced 3D model floorplans for three of our conference centres. Just by sharing the links with clients, who can easily share them with their colleagues, we’ve witnessed an increase in conversions.”

Attendees will have greater accommodation choices

Mohamad Al-Sadoon

Mohamad Al-Sadoon, Marketing Director, Stay22

“We expect a significant trend in catering to the needs of attendees through accommodation search solutions. Event organisers will integrate an accommodation solution that enables patrons to seamlessly purchase tickets, iron out event details, and book their stay – all in one place. Moreover, they’ll want a solution that caters to the wide range of event traveller audiences – from those looking for a five-star hotel, to those hoping to book an Airbnb near their event venue, and even for adventurous types with plans to camp out.”

Meetings will become increasingly digital

Naveen Leer

Naveen Leer, Conference and Events Office Manager, Whittlebury Hall

‘‘The biggest trend will undoubtedly be technology taking over meetings; from using apps to coordinate their events, delegate lists and bookings, to using phones as keys to get into their rooms and using interactive boards for check-in and wayfinding around the venue. Trainers will be expected to utilise the cloud to store and share sessions for delegates to refer to and technology will provide on the spot service for any additional requirements.”

Small events will be consolidated into larger gatherings

Penny McGrigor

Penny McGrigor, Group Marketing Manager, Eventist Group

“A big trend we’ve seen growing for the year ahead is a focus on grander, more impressive events, perhaps on a less regular basis, but which aim to make a statement. Budgets are being squeezed with financial concerns, and as a result, we are seeing consolidation of activities into these larger one-off bookings.

“We’ve also seen this trend carrying through into the festivals and large-scale public events sphere, with bigger contracts being proposed on an elevated scale that become award-winning worthy.”

Event programmes will be pared back

Chris Powell

Chris Powell, Director, The Event Expert

“I have attended a number of events where the speaker/session list runs to several pages. The choice is overwhelming, meaning the sessions with the funkiest titles win the greatest number of bums on seats.

“It’s time to get back to basics and the delivery of a sensibly sized event programme, which is consistently themed to deliver the required behaviour change. It should be presented by industry professionals with a proven track record in delivering what they are going to teach. It must be impactful, engaging and relevant to the audience and delivered in a style and format that best suits them (not us or the speaker). Yes, we might know our stuff but we are not all great speakers.

“Speakers must understand it is a privilege to be invited to educate somebody else’s audience and to stand on your platform. Conducting thorough speaker research and insisting they jump through a number of hoops is a must do event management activity. After all, the time a delegate spends with you must be a worthwhile and valuable experience for them. Less and properly aligned programme content is definitely more in this case.”

Remote participation in events will increase

Claire Davies

Clare Davies, Sales & Development Manager, IET London: Savoy Place

“More events will look at how they can deliver and share their content across continents and audiences. This will be with greater digital investment to encourage live streaming, social sharing and looping in guest speakers from abroad for real-time conversation with guests. Not only is this a benefit to global MICE professionals, but it’s also going to have an environmental benefit, when you consider 500 delegates being able to attend online conferences rather than flying around the world into one destination.”

Millennials will influence what’s on the menu

Katie Dartnell

Katie Dartnell, Business Development Manager, Holiday Inn London-Wembley

“As the meetings industry becomes increasingly multigenerational with an influx of millennials joining their established peers, a consciousness of wellness and ethics remains a key concern for planners. Meeting these needs by ensuring conference menus cover a variety of dietary and moral requirements including veganism, organic, non-GMO or paleo, ensures the expectations of a wide spectrum of delegates is met.”

Food waste will be driven down

Charlotte Wright

Charlotte Wright, Corporate Responsibility Manager, Venuelior

‘‘Food waste in the UK is an ever-growing problem and will become a particularly prominent topic in the events industry next year. In 2019, catering teams will take more care and attention to engage with event planners ahead of their events to learn of exact numbers of delegates, analysing previous events to benchmark volume and utilising the full potential of food redistribution technology and apps. As a group, we will continue to work towards our pledge to work towards zero food waste to ensure no food goes into landfill.’’

Events will take guests on a ‘journey’

Jodie Guildford

Jodie Guilford, Business Development & Marketing Manager, Science Museum Group

“Demand is ever-increasing for event experiences that break from the norm and offer something truly memorable, often flowing from a daytime event into an evening reception or dinner. Venues offering multi-space hire options have the upper hand in terms of creating an event journey, though more often than not organisers have to compromise on either the quality of a dedicated daytime space or the memorability of the evening’s setting.

“That’s why the opening of our new space Illuminate in February 2019 is so exciting, as we’ll be able to hold multi-faceted events that include daytime conferences, smaller meetings and exhibitions combined with receptions and dinners in the main museum’s unique and thought-provoking galleries.”

Team building will play a central role

Dan Elliott

Dan Elliott, National Sales Manager, Center Parcs

“At Center Parcs, we’ve seen an increase over time of companies incorporating team building as a much bigger part of their conference agenda, as well as clients coming to us purely for our team building facilities and ability to offer corporate away days that have a universal appeal. No longer is team building viewed as a jolly out of the office, rather companies are fully recognising the benefits of getting the team together for some time spent outside in the fresh air away from the daily routine. With objectives made clear from the outset, team building can go a long way when it comes to enhancing the office culture, and showing staff how much you value them, both as individuals and for their input into the company.”

They’ll be more ‘Instagram moments’

Ali Blows

Ali Blows, Head of Commercial Events & Business Development, National Theatre

“At our launch event earlier this year we set up hair and make-up stations hosted by the National Theatre’s very talented Wigs, Hair And Make-up Department to give guests a few minutes of pampering and get them selfie-ready – it proved to be very popular. More interactive experiences will definitely be a big theme at events in 2019, whether it’s DIY cocktails, temporary tattoos, flower arranging or a graffiti board.

As well as it being a great way to encourage guests to bond and network, activity stations come with the added bonus of being extremely Instagramable, meaning a brand can achieve additional exposure through digital platforms. It’s important to make sure the activity fits the tone and theme of the event but, if you nail it, guests will be talking about your event long after it’s over!”

More events will go ‘offline’

Gill Bonham

Gill Bonham, Director of Sales, Richmond Hill Hotel

“People are choosing to switch off their devices and get back to nature. We’re already noticing more event planners are encouraging delegates to get out of the city to swap their constantly connected, fast-paced lives for more peaceful experiences and this looks set to become more popular for meetings and events in 2019.

“Being based in the heart of Richmond we have 2,500 acres of parkland at our disposal and we encourage delegates to enjoy a countryside walk before breakfast or during breakout times. Adding extra activities to a conference or event such as an outdoor activity or a visit to a local attraction is another great way to encourage delegates to disconnect from their phones and laptops and really embrace the moment – we find that nothing gets a team to bond like a stand-up paddle boarding session on the Thames!”

‘Challenger’ destinations will emerge

Heledd Williams

Heledd Williams, Head of Business Events, Visit Wales

“In 2019 we are going to see the further rise of conferences and events taking place in so-called ‘tier two’ destinations. Planners are looking for the right destination with particular sector strengths to suit their meeting and this doesn’t necessarily have to be the same city or destination every time. Event bookers are also realising that challenger destinations offer fantastic meeting venues and accommodation at a lower cost, have great transportation links and enhanced visitor experiences with plenty of local culture to discover.”

Ready to start planning your 2019 events? Get our guide to finding the perfect venue.

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