22 Event Trends for 2018

2018 Sign

Want to know what to expect in the world of events next year? Once again we’ve asked professionals from across the industry to look into their crystal balls.

Based on their own observations, these EventProfs have identified 22 trends set to shape our 2018. Read on and discover what’s hot and happening in every area of events including food and drink, technology, venues, networking and more!

1. Venues will provide more than just space

Louise Goalen, Head of Venues, Top Banana and Chair, Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA)

“In 2018 we are going to see venues and event agencies collaborating at a higher level than ever before. Venues have realised they can no longer just provide a space for the event and that they are integral in creating the overall personalised experience for the client. With budgets continuing to tighten, organisations are relying more and more on the venue to help them bring their message and content to life. Events have become very much about the environment that is created and event agencies and venues need to work together in order to achieve this.”

2. Events will be more experiential

Ian Edwards, Chief Executive of Celtic Manor Resort and International Convention Centre Wales (opening 2019)

“The most noticeable trend in 2017 was a massive move towards more experientially-led events. Clients are no longer satisfied to just sit their delegates in the conference room – they want an experience that their delegates will remember, so the activity side of our offering has gone through the roof. We’re lucky here that we have a spa and indoor and outdoor team building activities right on site, but our culinary team has also got on board like never before this year and we’ve done everything from sausage making to cocktail mixing. We anticipate seeing more of this in 2018 so we’re stepping up our experiential offering even further and we’ve produced a Group Experiences brochure for next year so clients can get an even clearer picture of what they can build into their event.”

3. Mental wellbeing will be a focus

Jane Longhurst, Chief Executive, Meetings Industry Association (MIA) 

“Over the next 12 months as we continue to face the uncertainties and challenges caused by leaving the European Union, organisations in the sector will come under increasing pressure to retain and look after their talented staff. From our own research examining the mental wellbeing of the sector, we are extremely aware that the industry both needs and requires more compassionate workplaces to make it a more desirable and rewarding place to work. A key part of the MIA’s work for 2018 will be supporting the sector with a number of dedicated workshops to create environments to foster improved wellbeing.”

4. There will be an increase in team development events

Lizzy Dring, Director, Right Angle Events

“As businesses are planning ahead, especially in light of the looming Brexit, companies are focusing harder on team development as well as team building, both of which are crucial. Looking at team dynamics and individual personality types, managers are aiming to improve not only the productivity of employees and teams but also the interactions between people, to support greater mental wellbeing. There has been an increase in multi-day sessions allowing for greater emphasis and implementation of team development and team building.”

5. Security will get tighter

Michael Watton, Venue Director, Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre  

“I believe 2018 will see a rise in demand for greater transparency around security measures and capabilities of venues, as safety becomes an increasingly important factor when choosing a venue. This, in part, stems from the recent terror attacks that have previously targeted events. It’s understandable that this has resulted in a degree of nervousness for those organising or attending an event. But this change won’t see the demise of the event industry. Instead, this marks the start of an increasing focus towards developing better event security awareness, which will see venues and event organisers working closer together to ensure that events are both successful and remain safe.”

6. More meetings will take place outdoors

Justin Turner, Head of Estates Management, De Vere 

“Hosting meetings outside has seen growing popularity this year and we predict this demand will continue to rise in 2018. Outdoor meetings contribute to improvements in delegates’ minds and bodies, promoting healthy lifestyles in the working environment. We’ve focused on enhancing our outdoor spaces by introducing Wi-Fi, which reaches up to 100m from our properties. We’ve also invested in unique sculptures, outdoor dining areas, kitchen gardens and wildlife initiatives in order to provide the best possible experiences, whether delegates are enjoying the grounds as a breakout incentive, team-building exercise or during meetings.”

7. Food will serve up innovation

Alicia Duncan, General Manager, The Mermaid London 

“The importance that food plays in ensuring a successful event has become a strong trend over the last year, with event organisers and delegates wanting and expecting the latest innovations in food. For the unveiling of our newly refurbished Upper River Room, we worked with our catering partner KUDOS to offer creative food from an illusion themed menu, which challenged guests’ perceptions of what food looks and tastes like. Going into the new year we’re excited to see this trend develop, become more creative and continue to play an important role in successful events.”

8. AR and AI will gain traction

Deborah Sexton, CEO, Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA)

“PCMA’s own magazine, Convene recently reached out to experts for their outlook in 2018 and augmented reality and artificial intelligence were highlighted as two key technologies to keep an eye on. We’ll be exploring them ourselves at next year’s Convening Leaders conference; (Re)ality Alley will invite attendees to experience new, computer-generated environments through virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality tools, which prove how VR can amplify engagement. Amplifying engagement is the theme of next year’s event. Also, Tech Central is the event’s hub for all things Tech, where attendees can interact with emerging technologies, including VR, AR, AI and holograms.”

9. Facial recognition tech will measure emotion

Hayley Greaves, Operations Director, Ashfield Meetings & Events 

“Facial recognition software will start to proliferate the ­mobile technology market in 2018 with Apple and Samsung leading the way. It has its uses for on-site check-in but, at present, can be time consuming and just as reliant on support from the events team to really take off…yet. Where I believe it will add value to future events is through the power to read individual or group emotions, understanding how your customers feel by detecting and measuring facial expressions. It has the power to quickly capture demographics, record the attention span of an audience and help to understand what motivates and grabs their attention. This ability to identify patterns in emotional behaviour and engagement, segmenting by age and gender will be incredibly valuable in providing metrics for ROI, pinpointing specific moments within the event. Goodbye post-event surveys!”

10. Networkers will be given human help to make connections

Rachel Fay, Professional Introducer 

“At events with a social or networking element, I think we’ll see an increase in organisations using the services of a professional introducer, such as myself, to ensure that attendees meet people who are relevant to them. We’ll see a corresponding decrease in the number of ‘self-service’ networking events where attendees are expected to get on with it without assistance. Since I launched my business I’ve had a lot of interest from the national press and from attendees who frequently leave social/networking events disheartened at not meeting people relevant to them or their business. I believe the increasing number of online-meeting platforms is creating a desire for the antidote: meetings in the flesh. This trend will lead to greater satisfaction amongst attendees and a decrease in no-shows.”

11. Event communications will be part of a “digital experience”

Melissa Saunders, Event Marketing Consultant 

“I think there will be more consideration given to a visitor’s end-to-end digital experience – from the first banner they click on, email they receive or Facebook ad they see, through all visitor comms pre, at and post-show, including follow up and research. It’s not just visitor comms but a digital visitor experience from start to finish, engaging with the visitor at every stage not just “please buy tickets” or “please turn up messages.” I’m also hoping organisers will continue the dialogue with visitor audiences between events. It’s something I recommend to all my clients rather than popping up in someone’s inbox three months out from a show because you want them to buy your tickets.”

12. Tech will provide enhanced engagement with social media audiences

Dewi Jones, Bilingual Social Media Consultant, AWR Cymru

“It is becoming increasingly important for organisers to shape their events around the needs and expectations of their social media audiences – before, during and after an event. 360-degree images/videos and augmented and virtual reality within social media will become a big tool for event promotion in 2018. You can buy a VR headset for £10 now so there will be more people interested in accessing this type of content on Youtube, Facebook and Periscope. Snapchat will an interesting platform to watch because Facebook is busy stealing and improving on its ideas.”

13. New event formats will kill off traditional conferences

Paul Heil, Millennial Meeting & Event Expert

“As much as I want to say and support VR/AR, I fear it’s still not yet a scalable feature for events, but it is definitely in the pipeline as a major industry disruptor. For now, the trend that is within event organisers’ control and already well in effect as a major trend in 2017 is disruptive event formats to transform conferences – active learning sessions versus traditional passive learning presentations. So, essentially the death of traditional conferences and the evolution of engagement based events.”

14. Events will take place in the office, not out of it

Rasmus Bech Hansen, CEO, Airfinity 

“Whereas event-marketing used to be about companies sending their people to town with bags of business cards, nicely coloured pencils and not always pretty roll-ups – it will increasingly be corporates inviting the events inside. Events will be used as a channel for broader engagement with real-life communities. The co-working space WeWork’s recent acquisition of the event platform Meetup is the most visible example of this. But it’s a trend that is prevalent in corporate offices scattered all over and is bound to grow. Why? Because it’s a win-win. It’s a wise use of space (corporate offices are mostly half empty after 6pm when most weekday events take place), it’s also a great opportunity for entrepreneurial event organisers to get free venues, new kinds of sponsors and attendees. And, for companies, this is a cost-effective, authentic and powerful way to plug-into the outside world and turn the work-place into somewhere people want to spend time after 6pm.”

15. Refreshments will be more engaging

Richard Maxted, Director, Mix & Muddle 

“Organisers will need to be more and more creative with how they form an identity for their event. Whether that’s in entertainment, unique catering options, or new technology. As a bespoke cocktail events company, and in response to a booming cocktail scene, we’ve seen a huge increase in event organisers wanting to provide ‘talking piece cocktails’. They’re seeking something to engage with; drinks with an experiential element that ties in with the reason for the event. For example, for one event we fashioned an ‘Adult Playtime’ station where guests could serve themselves alcoholic orange squash in a sandwich bag. For another, a dinner hosted by Asada, we created mini ‘palette preparer’ cocktails, served before each course to set up the palette.”

16. Tech providers will collaborate

Adam Parry, Editor, Event Industry News 

“I am seeing a huge trend where complementary technology providers are doing deeper integrations for the benefit of the customer and user journey. An example of this would be Event Tech Tribe, with a total of six companies in the tribe – Swoogo, Hubb, Glisser, TRC, Insight XM and EventOps. This collaborative approach between technology providers means that organisers and event marketers benefit from an end-to-end service, which includes core technologies from registration and mobile, content and exhibitor management, audience engagement, onsite services and data insights. It has some major benefits such as not having to do integration which can take a long time or mean further investment in budget and the data that comes out at the event of an event is much cleaner and easier to understand.”

17. Plastic disposables will disappear

Selina Donald, CEO, The Bulb 

“Most of the country is tuning into David Attenborough’s Blue Planet, the breathtaking exploration of our planet’s oceans. Whilst we are glued to our televisions watching the incredible sea life, we’re also seeing the negative and heartbreaking impacts of plastics on our planet’s oceans. Removing unnecessary plastic from events has to be the biggest trend for 2018. There is quite simply no longer a need for any events to have hundreds of plastic straws and cups, cutlery and other unnecessary single-use items. A current campaign that The Bulb is supporting states that these are quite simply #PointlessPlastics. Both clients and consumers are now more likely to expect and demand that sustainability is core to the brands they buy from and from their employees. How an organisation produces an event highlights what matters to them and what they value.”

18. More activity-based festivals will launch

Joanna Hedges, Freelance Event Producer 

“I think we are going to see a lot of new experiential, adventure and activity festivals popping up which focus on providing programmes of outdoor arts activities, games, extreme sports, workshops and other outdoor hobby pursuits around their music programmes. Some festivals are developing way beyond their music programme, like Camp Wildfire, and then there are smaller, more speciality events like Swordpunk, which focuses on activities like sword fighting, archery and knife throwing. In 2018, I also expect and hope for a revolution in biodegradable glitter!”

19. Event tech usage will get increasingly strategic

Michael Buckley, CEO, Cadence 

“As event planners are shifting their focus towards experiential events that drive home the purpose and mission of the event, they are more often utilising technology that helps connect their attendees on a deeper level to the event. While the importance of the attendees’ experience increases, so does the planning aspect that enables rich experiences to be had. This is an often overlooked but hugely important aspect of an event planner’s role – they are increasingly spending time planning a high-level strategy for the next two, three, four, or ten events ahead. The stakes are high when trusting technology to bring your event together, yet it’s more important than ever. The right tech can make the event experience contextual, personalised, immersive, social, and memorable.”

20. Data will enable more personalised experiences

Chris Goundrill, Commercial Director, CWT Meetings and Events 

“Next year is a big opportunity for event organisers to use data about their audience and fuse it with technologies such as AR and VR to engage delegates with a truly tailored message that connects with them on an emotional level. This is driven by attendees wanting to engage with content rather than simply viewing it, giving you the chance to immerse your audiences in your story. Mixed Reality technologies are finding their position in events as more content is produced and event planners can use this to interact with guests and also push their own technology offerings.”

21. Event branding and design will be simpler

Keir DuBois, Designer, Tight Ship Design 

“In terms of event design trends, when hand-lettered type has saturated event collateral, we expect to see basic, accessible fonts used well (like Open Sans for body copy, say), as well as niche fonts used ironically for headlines, like blackletter or ’70s style with clashing colour/effects. Colour-wise, we might see an oncoming vibrant palette like cornflower, aquamarine, and magenta, contrasted by somber gradients. Meanwhile, we predict effective restraint in all aspects of branding/messaging, for brevity, convenience, and maximum comprehension in minimal time. One hashtag at a time. Simpler identity will leave plenty of space for interactive, crowd-sourced content that’s more top-up than top-down (like Twitter walls).”

22. Venues must provide more bang for the buck

Fiona Churchill, Regional Conference & Events Manager, The Jockey Club Venues

“Due to the economic uncertainty in 2017, we’ve noticed clients want to get more for their money than ever before. As a result, venues need to ensure that the packages offered present added value and present exceptional client experiences. Those venues that go above the ‘norm’ to provide exciting new experiences will see the most success and ROI next year. We are continuously looking for ways in which we can innovate. One example, where we have already adapted to this growing trend, is to introduce Business Adventures at Sandown Park, where clients can team build whilst go-karting and playing Footgolf.”

Conclusion

Advancements in technology are presenting new frontiers for event experiences, but it’s not all about futuristic novelties like AR and AI. Next year will also be about enhancing the human elements of your events with more engaging formats, networking and activities. Tell us what you’re up to in 2018 over on our industry discussion forum EventTribe.

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belbooker@gmail.com'

Bel Booker

Bel is an experienced journalist specialising in events. Formerly deputy editor at leading trade magazine Meetings & Incentive Travel and its website meetpie.com, she now writes for a range of publications on a freelance basis.

Interested in contributing to a future article on the Eventbrite blog? Connect with Bel on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/belinda-booker-a6a697a or Twitter: @BelBooker