8 Business Event and Conference Trends for 2020
It’s that time of year again where everyone clammers to predict the next big thing in events. While speculating on the latest tech crazes and fads can be fun, the fact is that planning for 2020 events is already well under way for many. With that in mind, let’s focus on what is trending in the business event and conference space that we can put in place now.
1. Eco-friendly event practices
“Going green” is hardly new, but 2019 was the year climate change moved to the forefront of our priorities. Waste minimisation solutions can be complicated and even costly, but businesses are facing backlash for creating waste and events are not immune.
As a starting point, look for a few high-impact changes that you can make at your 2020 event and establish a green policy for vendors and sponsors to abide by. There’s no point investing in waste reduction if your attendees are going to walk away with plastic bags full of throwaway swag items.
2. Meaningful and mindful breaks
You know the drill: you call break time between sessions and your delegates find themselves in a race to down a coffee, get to the bathroom, then respond to as many emails as possible. In 2020, offer more meaningful ways for attendees to take a break, giving them a chance to recharge rather than cramming in more work.
Happy attendees are energised and ready to take in everything your event has to offer. Host activities that restore some work-life balance and refresh your guests. Examples include a yoga or meditation session, painting or creating, or even a walk in the fresh air. Anything that keeps your attendees busy enough not to scroll through their phone, but relaxed enough to reboot.
3. Immersive experiences at business events
In the past few years, conferences and business events have been shifting tone to be more like consumer events. The buzzword is “festivalisation”, but morphing your conference into a multi-day party is not an option for every event. In 2020, harness this energy without losing sight of your purpose, by introducing immersive experiences.
‘Immersive experiences’ are multi-sensory experiences that engage attendees in different ways. Essentially, you want people to be able to interact at your event in a way they never have before.
Brainstorm with vendors and sponsors about how you can create breakout experiences that engage attendees on a different level.
4. Balanced and diverse agendas
If your speaker lineup is looking unbalanced, it’s time to dig deeper. In 2020, it’s not acceptable to have an agenda that lacks diversity. Widen your search for keynote speakers and don’t be afraid to hire someone who is less known – they could be the next breakout star of your industry. If the person you want isn’t available, ask them if they can recommend someone who is to help discover new talent of a similar background.
5. Choice and personalisation of agendas
On the topic of agendas, personalisation is continuing to trend in conferences and business events. That’s not to say that you need to run multiple sessions at every time slot, but attendees appreciate the opportunity to opt out of sessions that don’t hold their interest and invest more time in what they want to learn.
6. Virtual summits and live streaming
In today’s hyper-connected world, you don’t always need a physical location to host a successful event. Virtual summits and live streaming options cut unnecessary travel and provide flexibility for time-poor attendees.
Whatever virtual event idea you want to pursue, there are a few fundamentals to keep in mind at all times. First, don’t forget the things that make a successful in-person event. Securing a great host, booking inspiring speakers, and finding ways to add value for attendees are just as important online as they are in a physical environment. And don’t forget to record your event and use it in your future marketing activities and follow-up communications with attendees.
7. Alternatives to networking booze-ups
As tastes evolve, event directors need to respond with the right catering. The past five years has seen demand increase for healthy and plant-based food options, with more people choosing a vegetarian lifestyle and ditching processed food.
Now a rising trend is that millennial Australians are drinking less. For event creators, that means that the promise of free beer and wine is not always enough to motivate attendees to stay and mingle at your event. Providing interesting activities and/or non-alcoholic options not only helps your event stand out, it’s also more inclusive to those that choose not to drink and who feel excluded at open bar mixers.
8. Taking networking to new heights
There’s a new trend beginning to emerge for larger conferences and summits: In-flight events. The logic is simple — a two hour flight to your conference destination is two hours of opportunity for your travelling attendees. Longer for international travel. It’s an emerging trend, but events partnering with airlines has been gaining traction overseas for the past few years.
In 2018, WestJet flew over 100 event professionals to an event in Canada that started on board the plane. Delta runs “festival shuttles” for executives to events like SXSW and Sundance Film Festival. And both United Airlines and JetBlue have partnered with Marie Claire for their Power Trip events. If you have an airline sponsor in sight, 2020 might be the year to lock them in.