12 Event Trends and Shifts for 2021

Event Trends

January 21, 2021

Guest Writer

12 Event Trends and Shifts for 2021

A trend is a passing fancy, like the Pantone Color of the Year. In the last five years Pantone has made this interesting, including ‘ultraviolet’ and ‘greenery’ and for the complexities of 2021 they have addressed it with two colors. Ultimate Grey with Illuminating (yellow) Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, the union of PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating is one of strength and positivity. It is a story of color that encapsulates deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the promise of something sunny and friendly.” 

 

This eloquently sums up what 2021 will need as we return to live events. When we emerge from our government-imposed cocoons, we are less likely to find participants content with trends that meet pop culture standards but rather will shift and seek those that tie into the deeper values they have put to the test over this past year. How will we need to respond?

 

Shift: Personal Safety, Pandemic Style 

 

To consider attending a live event in 2021, we will need to understand how we will remain safe across the entire journey, whether a 3-hour or a 3-day event. Communication from the first touchpoint must answer the questions every experienced traveler will have. From the website to the app, emails to clear signage pathways on-site, clarity is key for all participants. 

 

Our Duty of Care may well require an on-site health screening, arriving with results showing a negative Covid test, proof of vaccination or showing our digital health passport as step one, with many airlines, countries and counties having these requirements in place. Next is the Social Contract, the new Code of Conduct with the event where we agree to maintain safe distancing, wear masks and to not participate if we are feeling unwell. There are a number of resources including the CDC who offer guidance – understand this is critical and will require time to plan and communicate.

 

Shift: Touchless

 

In 2021 the only thing we are touching is our own device. From airport and hotel check-in, security lines and event registration will be enabled with automatic doors, mobile ticket scans and facial recognition and on-site services will continue in this fashion, from collecting information and exchanging e-business cards while networking. As we enter public event spaces, we will be temperature scanned, logged in for both our learning CEUs and contact tracing, reminded to wear our masks. From here we follow the directional information to our socially distanced seating, meeting and eating spaces. Food and beverage service will evolve from lines and buffets to service in individual containers or plates and offered with minimal contact points. 

 

Passing Trend: Hugless

 

We will greet friends without hugs and colleagues without handshakes. This is the one touch we will crave and celebrate the return to. As we gain herd immunity through a global vaccination program and decrease physical distancing among humans, we will have set up the systems to ease our way through many hospitality and travel functions. Technology will remove friction points and forge touchless access everywhere we go.

 

Shift: Revolution of Recognition and Rewards

 

One of the greatest challenges leaders face is managing and inspiring individuals when the rug has been pulled out from under the organizational structures we all knew. Traditional reward and recognition systems have changed. Every layer, every role, every individual has been affected in some way. Those who remain employed are working harder than ever, often with less constraints (ie. I am able to work from home) and more challenges in the multiple roles that we face at home.

 

We are also without the rewards we typically receive from work that are beyond a salary. This ranges from treats shared in a kitchen, the opportunity to glance across the meeting table when someone offers up a particularly fabulous idea that gets you siting up straighter or someone walking past your desk and giving you a high five or a verbal ‘well done’ continuing through more formal celebrations, merchandise or the ultimate reward, a travel incentive. Whether your meetings now take place in a boardroom or a zoom room, finding ways to show appreciation to individuals and our teams visibly remains critical. 

 

Expert Viewpoint:

Being authentic in appreciation goes a long way with internal teams. These events are planned to not only reward, but to also educate the team in an effort to strengthen the individuals and company to move forward. A strong culture means a strong company – this could not be more apparent as we move forward. 

Communication isn’t only for professional organization or product management. When arranging events for your internal team, be sure to communicate what will be happening, what expectations may be had, and what they should be looking for. Just like any program, it’s important to ensure you answer all questions and that no stone is unturned as you move forward.

Angie Ahrens, CMP

 

Trend: Shared Digital Experiences

 

There are still ways to connect now, replacing a live teambuilding day where you all go out in new matching shirts to a digital shared experience from a cooking class to an escape room as examples. We are gifting with items ranging from a new mug with a favorite beverage and snack to celebration boxes including everything from champagne to streamers and whatever else can be imagined. We have seen experiences from fabulous speakers to 24-hour extravaganzas bringing global teams to shared moments. 

 

Micro-Trend: Ultra Personalization

 

The ultimate reward of incentive travel has been mainly on hold through 2020 and stalled for much of 2021. Some organizations have hosted smaller groups or ‘bubble travel’ for individuals to benefit from an earned getaway. Reports including the Joint Industry Incentive Index indicates travel remains desired and will return through 2022 and beyond with can’t buy experiences rising again and delivering inspired, transformative moments for the individuals that travel with you will be the currency that delivers retention.

 

Shift: Thoughtful Inclusion

 

For several years we have seen a technology enabled shift to inclusive hiring, facing down unconscious bias and creating more diverse teams with a recognition this leads to more innovative design across any product or service offering. We recognize who we are is much more than what is seen, from how we look, our gender, mobility, orientation, the job we have or our age; we are linked by our values. With values alignment we become great contributors and are more engaged. As we all navigate from digital events to live events, we have much to consider, starting with inclusion at internal events. 

 

Expert viewpoint:

Be inclusive when designing internal events. A committee that brings different demographics of your audience can support crafting a program that drives ROO (Return on Objectives) for all participants. Now is the time to reimagine your internal programs. Start with the why and you will ensure it is not just another mediocre internal event.

Jennifer Glynn, CITP – Managing Director Meeting Encore and Intuitive Conferences & Events, Immediate Past President SITE global

 

On Trend: Events as Community Builders

 

Event professionals are the designers of the environments that support the social architecture created by organization’s leaders. We must design content and express it in a way that represents the culture of our organization and brings together divergent viewpoints. It is welcoming diverse voices that allows us to build stronger communities and this will be necessary for survival in a global marketplace. How we move forward is a responsibility we all share, and with a return to live events we must craft experiences and content to have maximum positive impact.

 

Shift: Hybrid is Here to Stay

 

Yes, it is like planning two events in one timeframe. It requires resources to do it well. It also leads to the next Shift, the Content Candy Store and becomes an where you need to plan how your organization will stand out. As we rebuild teams for the return to events, having specialists on your team who understand digital and hybrid integrations will become the new imperative. Hybrid is a tool that has been used to build FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in the past for the “cool” events and is now a way we can continue to grow audience share, educate your participants and build connects across borders. It requires the strength of the platform with the marvelous work of the event designer to deliver on its promises now and in the future.

 

Shift: Content Candy Store

 

We have a plethora of content available to us in a wide range of price points from free, to member-only to widely available, covering any specialty interest. To stand out you must be able to micro-target your content to the specific audience that will derive the most value from it. Time is a resource that even for those between roles, remains a commodity so be clear about the relevant take-aways available. 

 

Shift: Regeneration 

 

Sustainability is not a buzzword and climate change is real. Event professionals have an opportunity to lead the way in how we return to travel, manage our groups of any size in destinations anywhere and come out with a net-positive people-planet-profit result. Now is the time to dig into how you can do this and there are many great resources, including the Global Destination Sustainability Movement and the Sustainable Event Alliance. The reality – the organizations you work for and with likely all have a sustainability policy and baking good practices into your events is simply good business.

 

Shift: Creative Reinvention

 

From bringing side hustles to life, to starting new ventures and reinventing offerings, organizations from solopreneur to our largest event agencies, associations and corporations have been deeply impacted in a multitude of ways. This has caused us to dig deep, to ask for help, to find ways to connect when we cannot connect live, to prove our resilience, sometimes needed on a daily basis. Both organizations and individuals have responded with creativity because this is ultimately who we are, individuals that seek to serve, to collaborate, to create and to transform.  

Do we have a lot to think about going forward? We sure do, but back to being creative, resilient powerhouses – you got this!

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