As the New Year starts, so does a wave of new conference trends. From kimchi and chatbots to delegate wellness and themed events, 2019 is set to be an exciting year for the conference industry.
Creating memorable experiences and promoting attendee interaction will be at the top of planners’ wish lists. Due the advance of event technology, real-time data and wearable technology will soon become the norm. Delegates have high expectations and it’s now up to meeting planners and venues to provide innovative meeting experiences to wow their guests and streamline events.
Showcasing standout imagery and transparent pricing is only the beginning. As bookings continue to shift from telephone and email to interactive online platforms, keeping on top of ever-changing conference trends has never been more important.
The hottest event trends shaping the conference world
In partnership with our industry professionals, we bring you some of latest conference trends set to shape 2019.
From chatbots to 5G, guests expect the latest technology at conferences.
The rise of the chatbots
The star of the Meeting Professionals International (MPI) 2018 World Education Congress Tech Showcase was EventBots, Sciensio’s meeting-and-event-specific chatbot system. A chatbot is software programmed to provide answers to human questions in a conversational manner (primarily over SMS). The goal here is for chatbots to answer attendees’ key questions about their event’s logistics.
Planners also benefit...
“Having an automated way to get those questions answered for attendees makes you more efficient.”
- Elizabeth Glau, Sciensio’s Client Success Manager (formerly a meeting planner)
Having good WiFi at an event is essential. Gone are the days when a patchy connection didn’t equal uproar. 2019 will see the continued partial roll-out of 5G. Meeting venues are now expected to provide superior WiFi as standard – even in remote or unusual locations.
Jeff Loether, President & Founder of Electro-Media Design, Ltd highlights how “previously WiFi requirements were calculated at one device for every three users. Now it is calculated at 3.5 devices per attendee.”
Not sure how much speed you’ll need for your next meeting?
“Check-in” with Facial Recognition (FR)
Facial recognition for meeting check-in may be the next big thing. (Image courtesy of Corbin Ball)
Meeting planning and event technology speaker Corbin Ball notes that “FR is rapidly becoming part of our everyday lives.”
Ball explains how iPhone X users now open their phones using FR as their passwords. More airlines will use this technology to increase check-in security and big players such as Apple, Facebook and Google have recently made significant investments in their FR capabilities.
How will this affect the conference industry in 2019? Ball explains: “Onsite registration providers are starting to use FR to reduce event check-in times, with many additional options for future event improvement.”
AV equipment used to be expensive, unreliable and require technical assistance. Fast forward to 2019 and it’s all about integrated AV systems. They’re affordable, efficient and far more superior to the portable versions.
“Planners and venues are providing built-in AV equipment that is both aesthetically appeal-ing and that reduces or eliminates set-up time. This is due to reducing costs and increased expectations from attendees."
- Jeff Loether, Electro-Media Design, Ltd.
Enhancing Guest Experience
Unsurprisingly, increasing attendee engagement remains meeting planners’ number one priority in 2019.
Wearable technology for conference use will continue to evolve.
Wearable technology for conference attendees (such as Smart watches, wristbands and badges) will continue to evolve and aid interaction. These real-time devices provide planners with sophisticated data collection capabilities and can offer the attendee an improved event experience.
Read the crowd: Bibi Rydbacken, Director of Marketing at Svenska Möten (the Swedish meetings expert) highlights the example of the device used by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. During Clinton’s acceptance speech, audience reactions and emotions were monitored and measured via their bracelets.
Real-time data can also be used for live audience polling and making any mid-course corrections. With its ability to help inform and improve future events, this valuable data will prove to be a vital tool for planners.
“A key 2019 trend will be significant advances in data integration and analytics from event technology providers. We’ll witness more examples of attendees' likes/interests before, during and after events being precisely quantified to create an individual’s personal profile.”
- Corbin Ball
Creative Meeting Room Design
2019 will see the bar being raised even higher when designing inspiring meeting room layouts.
Comfortable multipurpose sitting areas at etc.venues London Bridge - Prospero House
We’ll witness increasing attention being paid to the style and decor of meeting spaces. Design trends usually reserved for one’s home will increasingly find their way into meeting room design. Multi-functional furniture and additions of lush greenery are examples of this.
Meeting room designers are being tasked with ensuring that however elaborate or creative the design is, guests’ comfort must always be a top priority.
Flexible seating options suitable for both indoor and outdoor use will become standard. Demand for informal lounge-style seating will increase, as planners strive to create a relaxed ambience during breakout sessions.
Here’s some inspiration for Unique Meeting Room Layouts.
Creating Conference Experiences
Making memorable conference experiences often tops planners’ wish lists.
IACC’s Meeting Room of the Future 2018 report found that “77% of venues now offer creative meetings spaces to assist with experience creation.”
Mark Cooper, IACC’s CEO notes: “With the importance of creating memories through experiences and inspiring delegates gaining more traction, we encourage venue teams to put in place a range of experiences that are unique and help meeting planners touch as many of the 5 senses; sight, sound, touch, taste and smell as possible.”
An ever-evolving conference trend, as highlighted in a recent Meeting Professionals International (MPI) survey, is the increasing demand for experiential meetings involving “interactivity, touch and personal engagement.”
In 2019, themed events won’t just rely on eye-catching physical design elements. The focus is now on creating immersive and participatory guest experiences. Themes are being implemented from initial registration right through to the feedback stage. Lighting, music and food all play a part in creating a memorable experience.
Delphine Boisard from Châteauform' UK comments “being different is fast becoming the norm in terms of meeting and events. We’ve recently created the atmosphere of a cowboy ranch at La Arena near Madrid for a famous jeans brand!”
Châteauform' predicts that 2019 will see planners increasingly looking to create experiences which result in “memories that guests can take away with them. Our recent popular requests include treasure hunts in castles, cook-offs and Austin Mini rallies.”
Mixing business with leisure
Mixing business with leisure is a growing trend.
The “bleisure” concept continues on its meteoric rise. 2019 will see planners arranging more events in exciting and unusual locations (even in far-flung destinations) to entice their most valuable attendees and loyal customers. Planners are securing special rates for guests (and in many cases their families) wishing to extend their trips.
“In creating memorable meeting experiences, venues, suppliers and planners alike see a desire by participants to ‘act like a local’ and, in turn are including a taste of the destination/location of the venue in their meeting elements, especially in the food beverage offerings.”
- Ellen Sinclair, Benchmark, a global hospitality company.
Nutrition and wellness
Healthy options for meals and snacks are increasingly demanded by meeting delegates. (Image courtesy of Châteauform’)
The ‘self-care’ concept abounds in 2019. As a result, planners must consider delegates’ wellness at all stages of the event. A guest feeling their wellbeing is being overlooked, won’t help your profit margin.
A recent report by Svenska Möten highlighted: “The days when delegates were happy with fatty foods, red meats and booze ups for dinner, will soon be a distant memory. Tomorrow's customers will want an even larger variety of healthy and green food choices for breakfast, lunch, dinner and breaks.
2019 will see increased demand for organic, seasonal or locally sourced menus and for venues to demonstrate their commitment to local and quality suppliers.
Special dietary requests are the new norm. The focus will firmly remain on ensuring all guests’ dietary requests are well catered for. Specially prepared meals are now (or should be) just as nourishing and appealing as all other menu options. In fact, many venues offer vegan, gluten and dairy free menu choices as standard. At Chateauform, “all our food is homemade and chefs are trained to keep up with the trends” comments Boisard.
Specially prepared meals must also be appealing as well as nourishing.
It’s now vital that all manner of dietary requests are well-catered for. (Photo from etc.venues).
“The days when delegates were happy with fatty foods, red meats and booze ups for dinner, will soon be a distant memory. Tomorrow's customers will want an even larger variety of healthy and green food choices for breakfast, lunch, dinner and breaks."
Planners are fulfilling requests for diets such as ketogenic, plant-based protein, low sugar and low GI as standard.
Requests for functional and “brain friendly” superfoods such as berries, nuts and leafy greens will increase further in 2019. The Whole 30 diet (the avoidance of inflammatory foods and beverages) continues to gain traction and gut friendly foods such as probiotics and kim-chi are proving popular additions to menus.
Planners are seeking innovative ways to ensure their guests’ wellbeing. It’s now not uncommon to see yoga, tai-chi or mindfulness sessions as optional activities on conference agendas.
2019 will see a rising demand in outdoor meeting spaces and breakout areas. Studies abound highlighting the positive effects of the great outdoors on one’s physical and mental health. When delegates actively get involved with their environment, they increase their ability to obtain and understand new knowledge.
Meeting room spaces incorporating greenery and natural light to mimic nature and bring the “outside in” will become commonplace.
An outside meeting space at Park Villa Scotti, Milan. (Chateauform’)
Susanne Simonsen at Rungstedgaard in Denmark highlights: “Outdoor meetings unify the best of two worlds; the meeting market and the experience industry. Through outdoor meetings and team building, you ensure an anchored meeting with energy and learning. Fresh air brings new energy and focused activities increase ownership from the participants and create a solid foundation for results. When both the right and left brain is activated, we create learning that is remembered."
An outdoor team building activity at Rungstedgaard Hotel, Denmark.
As conference industry trends continue to evolve, it’s vital that planners and venues flex accordingly. Attendees will expect more in 2019 and it’s up to the organizers to deliver.
Gone are the days when simply meeting customer expectations was acceptable. This year, exceeding expectations is critical.
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