One size no longer fits all events: research

Biodegradable meeting spaces, artificial intelligence and serendipity will all play a significant role in the future of meetings and business events, a new study by research firm Fahrenheit 212 reveals.

These trends, along with others, were discussed by leaders from a wide range of industries for a recent study supported by the PCMA Foundation and Marriott International.

The "Future of Meetings & Events" identified five trends with the potential in the next five years to dramatically disrupt the business events industry:

Emotional intelligence: Events need to be designed with the end user in mind. Consumers across industries want to feel understood, and to be given experiences that are tailored to their individual needs. At meetings and events, participants can no longer be treated as a homogeneous crowd or a series of behavioural data points, but instead must be recognised as an individual, understood on a deeper emotional level, and treated accordingly. As companies get smarter with predictive analytics, consumer expectations for personalised, seamless experiences will continue to rise. Meetings and events will need to move past reactive adjustments to adopt a proactive approach to personalised experiences, understanding the needs of participants even before they arrive.

Orchestrated serendipity: Engineering unexpected, but meaningful moments. Consumers’ lives are more programmed than ever before, and with a constant stream of data and information at their fingertips, scheduling, curation, and prediction are prolific parts of the everyday. As such, the unexpected, unplanned moments now surprise consumers, creating lasting memories and driving meaningful impact. These memorable moments transcend surface-level surprise or delight – they are serendipitous, magical experiences. Participant attention is at an all-time premium, as technology amplifies distraction and enables remote attendance. Experiences will embrace freedom and surprise, freeing consumers from the constant constraint of schedules or agendas. By embracing the unexpected, we can engage participants and leave a lasting impression.

Multi-modal design: Creating adaptive spaces such as one that is a biodegradable, and 3D-printed. Environment is a key element of user experience, and expectations of spaces are changing in consumers’ info-rich, connected lives. People want spaces to be as nimble and fluid as their digital experiences, and design should adapt to support quick change. As such, spaces are being designed to flex and accommodate the different ways that people prefer to interact with the space and with one another. And as brands continue to recognize that every experience and every individual are different, they are increasingly employing iterative design to support these different use-cases. Every event has a unique objective and audience and a space must reflect each event’s specific personality and needs. From technological infrastructure, to architecture, to furniture and fixtures, space is critical to any event, and should be designed to adapt to the ways that participants will engage with one another, with the content of the event, and with the space itself.

Bigger than oneself: Think social impact, sustainability and meaningful. Now–more than ever–consumers don’t just expect companies to voice their values, but to actually embody their point of view. Consumers recognise that the dollars they spend are a reflection of their values, politics, or choices, and are looking for brands that clearly demonstrate where they stand on certain issues. You can’t just provide content anymore. Every event must have a message. Participants want to understand what’s important to a business, and experience events that deliver that message down to the smallest detail – allowing them to meaningfully connect with the experience and bringing purpose to their engagement.

Clear sense of place: Leveraging the surroundings where business events are held. Sterile spaces or generic locations no longer make the cut – consumers are looking for exploration and adventure, and unique locales and authentic experiences are a draw in and of themselves. Consumerised experiences are being traded in for authentic, location-true destinations, where enrichment comes in unexpected forms and through exposure to local cultures. The thriving experience economy presents a ripe opportunity for events in off-the-beaten-path destinations, encouraging exploration of new environments. The most memorable events celebrate local surroundings.