Meetings in 2020 and beyond: what to expect

As 2019 draws to a close, it's the perfect time to focus on the new year and new opportunities.

Posted on Dec 23, 2019 By Jana Hofer

With the meetings and events industry growing eight percent a year, change is happening at a dizzying rate. And since 25 to 30 percent of overall marketing budgets are being spent on live events, it's imperative your event is on the forefront of the latest trends to make it stand out from a cluttered space.

So, what will trend in 2020?

More Intimate Events

The average group size of events in 2019 was under 100 attendees, highlighting a move away from big, flashy corporate events. Simpler, smaller events with authentic opportunities for interaction lean into attendees' desires for personalization, interest in new and different event spaces and more networking opportunities. 

Successful event planners are changing their mindset. Instead of seeing events as a marketing opportunity, the shift is to consider them an engagement tool. Use smaller events to build trust through personal interaction, growing a sense of authenticity and connection with your audience.

Non-traditional Venues

From warehouses to barns, gardens to art galleries, more than 90 percent of planners agree they are more likely to book a non-traditional venue than five years ago. The growth of ridesharing apps has made it more practical to host events outside of the typical downtown venues. And the shift to smaller events makes it even more possible to be innovative with location.

A non-traditional event space has unique advantages. An interesting venue is more engaging to attendees, driving attendance. A visually appealing venue encourages photos and social media posts, driving awareness.

Hotels are even jumping on the trend, making non-traditional spaces event-friendly. Rooftops and pool decks are getting makeovers to ensure they can fulfill event needs and even traditional spaces are getting design and style makeovers to ensure they are more appealing.

Enhanced Personalization and Interactivity Through Technology

While one-to-one engagement is the gold standard of personalization and interactivity, advancements in technology are now delivering the ability to meet these needs on a larger scale. Mobile apps are used at more than 80 percent of all events, and three-quarters of attendees will download those apps. And with technological developments from artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) to faster WiFi and emerging 5G networks the capabilities of those apps will continue to develop.

Unique event schedules for each attendee, maps of location venues with personal attendee points of interest, games or reward systems that drive engagement and AI chatbot help desks are just a few of the ways these apps can personalize an attendee's event experience.

Apps are also making the change from large group lectures to active engagement presentations easier. Speakers and presenters can engage their audience by asking a question and getting real-time answers, use AR in interactive product demonstrations, poll or quiz their audience, and even offer prizes or rewards for engagement. And while sessions with real-time interactivity can put more demand on presenters, attendees often retain more of what they learn.

For event organizers, apps provide them access to real-time feedback, creating opportunities to troubleshoot issues instead of learning about attendee dissatisfaction through post-event surveys. Event organizers can also use data collected about event attendee behavior to create personalized follow-ups and highly targeted communication long after the event has ended.

Wellness and Sustainability

While wellness and sustainability have been trending for a few years now, they aren't going away anytime soon. Long gone are the days of packed schedules and plastic water bottles, attendees now want an experience that's good for mind, body and planet.

In 2020, expect to see events incorporating wellness activities into their schedule. Brain breaks, tech-free zones, yoga classes and massage stations allow attendees to disconnect from the event grind and center themselves. Using mindfulness techniques can unlock creativity, strengthen problem solving and reduce stress, all benefits that can enhance an attendees' experience.

To address attendee desire for sustainable events, planners will want to look at how they do business and find small ways to make big changes. Steps such as going paperless, avoiding gifts and giveaways that will end up in landfills and opting for items such as reusable water bottles and stainless steel straws instead, recycling, donating leftover food and using lower power efficiency systems can all make a more sustainable event.