Global Updates

Event trends to watch in 2020

Festivalisation, meaningful design and immersive tech dominate.

With the global business events industry worth an estimated US$1.5 trillion – and growing steadily – what can industry players do to stay relevant and meet the needs of clients in the future?

According to CWT Meetings & Events’ 2020 future trends report, here are five key trends to help event professionals navigate the coming year effortlessly:

1: Prioritise safety and security

Safety is a big concern, but won’t deter meeting planners from exploring remote destinations, the report claims. As a precautionary measure, though, medical and security risk firms are engaged to assess risks, while access to accurate and timely information is critical.

“Event organisers want to ensure attendees are protected at meetings. If they are bringing a large group of people to a destination, they want to know what their exposure to safety and security risks are,” says Sam Lay, Asia Pacific senior director at CWT Meetings & Events . 

“Clients are more attuned to these risks than before. They are making sure they have contingency plans in place.”

2: Get tech-savvy

When it comes to technology, rapid innovations are creating new ways to plan and execute events. Smartphone applications, augmented reality, virtual reality and radio-frequency identification (RFID) will be increasingly adopted to engage attendees and create intuitive, personalised experiences.

“The main trend we will continue to pursue is personalisation, using the countless data points we have to allow attendees to create their own experiences within events. It is a question of leaving an indelible mark on the attendee,” says Jean-Philippe Dumas, senior creative director of global sales at CWT Meetings & Events.

With the workforce soon to be populated by Generation Z (those born in 1996 onwards), technology will play an even more integral role in meeting these digital natives’ expectations and needs, the report says.

3: Create meaningful experiences

There’s also greater demand for experiential and immersive events, the report observes, and technology can drive deeper engagement with event attendees. 

The festivalisation trend — key examples being Coachella and SXSW — can be adapted to the meetings and events space to create immersive experiences that help to achieve business objectives. Even room set-up and stage configuration can take inspiration from concerts and festivals to encourage greater participation.

The report includes a number of creative ideas to help event professionals boost audience engagement.

4: Escape the norm

Addressing the flourishing incentive market, the report makes a point about the growing demand for genuine life-changing experiences and off-the-beaten track destinations. 

“Second and third-tier destinations will be attractive in 2020 as incentive qualifiers seek authenticity over luxury,” says Pádraic Gilligan, chief marketing officer for Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE).

Incentive attendees will want to experience a destination like locals and also give back to the community through social and community work that leaves a lasting legacy in the destination.

5: Evolve with the industry

Another observation the report makes is that industry developments in automotive and life sciences are expected to impact the business of events.

In the automotive sector, the move towards electric vehicles will mean more training, product launches and sales events. Meanwhile, operational budget cutbacks in companies in the life sciences field will affect how their meeting and events are rolled out. 

“We are not necessarily seeing a reduction in the number of meetings, but we’re seeing different sizes and types of meetings,” says Brenda Miller, senior director, Global SMM Life Sciences, CWT Meetings & Events.

“This is not about the number of meetings, but the total spend. They may cut the number of attendees, reduce the duration of an event, or change the destination to smarter and more cost-effective locations.”