Are you sifting through all the 2020 event trends articles and wondering which trends actually matter?

You may have noticed that many of the trends dominating these lists are not new to the event landscape – they’re longer-term industry shifts that continue to grow in importance. We’ve read through 10 of this year’s trends lists from event agencies and others in the experiential marketing industry and can offer our expert insight into what 2020 event trends to watch and why some should now be considered minimum expectations.

Cultural shifts have become new expectations

Brent Turner, Opus Agency’s SVP of Strategy, says, “looking across event types, attendee demographics, and client industries, we see 2020 as a year where former mega-trends become attendee expectations and industry changes become best practices. The big cultural trends of the past five-plus years have crystallized in the event space.”

We see clear patterns that identify these mega-trends:

  • Sustainability, which appeared in some form on all 10 lists. Conserving resources, reducing waste, avoiding single-use plastics, and offsetting carbon footprints are now a central focus, and attendees have grown to expect (and even demand) a visible sustainability initiative.
  • Wellness, encompassing physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, was mentioned in six trends lists.

We categorize these three top trends as society-wide priorities that we now see in our daily lives, including in events. And the bottom line is that sustainability and wellness initiatives are vital to attendee satisfaction. If you haven’t already adopted measures to address these items, let us help you get started.

Emphasize useful technology

You likely rely heavily on technology in events (and your daily life) and are already looking to the future and what tech is developing or becoming easier to implement. The following technologies appeared in nearly half of the trends lists we reviewed, and we see them being used in increasingly innovative ways:

  • Dedicated event apps, especially when they enable personalization of resources or schedules.
  • Wearable tech, such as RFID wristbands or badges, that will allow faster attendee movement through an event, promote seamless networking, gamify an experience, and grant immediate measurement of engagement and session attendance.
  • AR and VR may have lost their novelty factor by now, but there is still ample opportunity to harness this tech in exciting ways. Especially with 5G incoming in the next few years, we expect to see AR and VR better implemented.

These technologies aren’t exactly bleeding edge, but they remain common in the event landscape – look for novel implementations in 2020 and consider how you can combine these tech trends with other important focuses we identify here, including wellness and personalization.

Personalization is another top trend, mentioned in nine of the 10 publications we reviewed. Individualized agendas, breakout paths, marketing, and resources are ways to add value and increase engagement for attendees. Live polling can inform content in real time, AR allows individualized wayfinding, and AI chatbots could provide immediate answers for an attendee’s questions. Continued advancements in tech will integrate personalization within an attendee’s experience.

Focus on the strategy behind the trends

You may have seen buzzwords like “festivalization” and “Hollywoodification” on trends lists – but what does this mean for your event? Both these terms ultimately refer to creating an immersive experience, either by modeling an event after a festival (e.g., SXSW) or increasing design and production levels to movie-quality presentation. These words are an interesting way of reframing the enduring goal of giving attendees a memorable experience.

We see several other trends that reflect the need to create an experience as valuable, immersive, and interactive as possible. This can be difficult to attain, but seeing the following repeated items reveals what the industry is prioritizing as we move into 2020:

  • Creating an experience, especially by promoting more cohesion in content and branding and across multiple environments and days. (Hence the focus on festivalization.)
  • Nontraditional venues, such as farms, museums, and restaurants, or even on modes of transportation like trains and boats. Holding an event in a unique space helps create an immersive experience and can subvert expectations in a good way.
  • A face-to-face focus, which can be challenging to maintain as some events grow larger every year. The need to facilitate human-to-human interactions and promote networking appeared in nine trends lists. In fact, networking is consistently among the top reasons why people attend events. Events can shift sessions and spaces to become more participatory and work to keep the focus on individual conversations and human interactions.

Our expert’s take on what matters the most

The 2020 event trends lists share themes of cultural expectations, evolving technology, and the ever-important need to create an immersive experience. As we move into the new year and beyond, the goal behind events stays constant.

Turner adds that events continue to have a “notably simple focus. As marketing executives and event professionals, we must delight our attendees, create lasting memories, form deeper bonds, and change behaviors. To achieve this focus in 2020, the spotlight is on creating active, personal, and connected experiences for our attendees – all while capturing the next and the new.”

To read more about the latest in event trends, check out our recent thought leadership articles.

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