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Key Event Trends in 2020

Updated: Mar 12, 2020

The start of every New Year means it is the beginning of something new in the event industry. Though 2020 is a bit different, as it is the start of a whole new decade signalling the birth of a new era in events and technology. What comes with this are new challenges, to keep up with the ever-moving pace of the events landscape as competition increases whilst budgets decline, and attendees expect experiences from events more than ever before.

With this shift in gears, we must prepare for the technologies and trends that are still in full force and innovations, which are progressively demanding more attention. Here are our top trends for 2020:

1. Virtually Sustainable

Last year we wrote a blog post on all the different ways event planners and agencies can focus on creating sustainable events, click here to view the full post and be inspired. One area we want to focus on in 2020 is taking events and experiences further with virtual technology.

This includes everything from reducing unnecessary travel costs and emissions to having more virtual meetings and positively contributing to greener policies and methods of coordinating and managing events. Cut your travel in favour of more online methods, and you’ll find you can achieve the same results whilst focusing on sustainable aspects!

Skype meetings will save you both time and money, whilst reducing emission costs!

Virtual reality can also be incorporated into your main event agenda, through using virtual networking rooms with enhanced collaborative abilities or virtual keynote speakers. Another example you could consider is selling tickets for online sessions of your event, for which you create a digital version of the event highlights allowing it to live longer and increase reach to a wider audience. Having a digital master copy available for an online following may be useful for your business, so evaluate how this could work for you.

2. Event Experiences

If event planners learnt anything from the last decade, it is that attendees have a growing hunger to do more, see more and feel more at events making them more experiential in all aspects. In 2019 we saw a transformation, which defined the rise of event experiences, from the simplest conference events to exhibitions to multidimensional live activations and unforgettable experiences.

Music events, such as large, outdoor weekend festivals have largely inspired a lot of these changes in traditional meetings, through innovative experience packages. Many events have altered their typical format to appeal as experiences, leaving lasting brand impressions and heightened value and relevance. Boring business trips are now being fused with music, food, live performances and wellness retreats to complement conference talks in a lecture theatre. Other examples, in which you can immerse your audience and boost the delivery of your event and introduce high-involvement experiences include audio-visual capabilities, augmented reality and virtual reality.

Though this is a new and evolving trend in the event industry, there are many ways in the attendee journey where experiences can be implemented and where different touch-points can be creatively changed to become more memorable. Understanding your consumer’s lives, behaviours and psyches will help you to know what they will enjoy, appreciate and remember the most. Stand out from regular events and revitalise your performance and impressions by transforming events into experiences!

3. More doing, less watching

Tying in nicely event experiences, attendees are more interested in becoming more interactive with the events they attend. Events, though often work-related, are also an escape from the office. This does not say it needs to be boring, there’s a lot of room left to be fun, remain educational and stay on-brand!

Bring your event to life by asking for more involvement from your attendees rather than just simply turning up, watching the show and then leaving. Take some time to work on facilitating interaction in the design on your event room, so that guests are easily prompted to engage. Use technology to connect the audience and perpetuate real-life collaborations, conversations and engagement. That is what attendees will remember.

In a vastly digital and technological world, the opportunities are endless! We can no longer rely on simple necessities such as music, a speaker, a presentation, lighting and a screen, as a way to make events seem more interesting than they are. Event organisers must go beyond this to really engage with the audience. 2020 is the beginning of a new era, pushing the event technology frontier further, allowing online to meet offline experiences.

4. Embracing new technologies

Did you know that roughly 40% of B2B marketing budgets are spent on events? This represents millions of pounds on investment! But with such a staggering amount spent, are you certain you are delivering a high-impact and high-value event experience? Increasing this return on investment and justifying it will require an event planner to stay ahead of the game, and up to date by utilising technologies to the best of their advantage.

Embracing artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality to provide highly engaging experiences for attendees is increasing to support impact goals.

Marketing combined with technology has the power to deliver rich data on your desired customers and attendees, which will be integral in informing many of your decisions before the event, as well as delivering proof of impact post-event.

5. Above and beyond recycling

Even though we have touched on sustainability on the first point, it is worth mentioning again. The last year pushed sustainability to the front and centre of all industries, especially the event industry. It is no longer a trend; it is a crisis we must pay greater attention to.

Recycling food and waste from events is no longer seen as enough. Consider reducing the use of plastic, using alternative methods and materials to be more sustainable. We have a long list of different ways you can do this here

Your guests have higher expectations when it comes to sustainability, so there is no room for being half-committed to the cause and avoiding any areas of environmental impact. Be more vocal in your sustainability initiatives and policies on your website, and even make it part of the experience to show how devoted you are.

6. Make Networking Work

One of the main points of events is to network. But how much networking is really happening? This aspect is arguably one of the most neglected areas in many events, but this year aims to define the meaning of networking implementation specifically in business events.

We expect our guests to ‘get on with it’ and introduce themselves, but just how likely is that to actually happen? Step-up the networking opportunities within the event agenda, and allocate a proper time, strategy and detail to the networking battlefield. Avoid throwing your guests in a corner and assuming the networking will transpire. Use interactive tools such as badges or activities like speed networking to force conversations to take place and establish meaningful connections.

A big trend for 2020 is inclusivity within networking. This will mean being inclusive of the needs for younger, non-drinking, non-traditional and underrepresented audiences. Networking is such a crucial part of business, which means it’s a huge opportunity for guests to see this as a massive value of your event. This is a time for your event to be remembered as the spark of new relationships and new business contacts and prospects to bloom. Your network is your net-worth, after all.

Designating a portion of your event for networking will improve its success rate

7. Diversity and Inclusion

This is more than a ‘trend’ and is something that needs to happen to better reflect the world we live in.

Diversity and inclusion will be a top priority for event planners in 2020. It travels further and wider than racial inclusion and spans age, genders, physical ability, language, religion, allergies and much more. There is a desperate need for the events industry to do better at celebrating and championing diversity and actively being inclusive, and now is the time to do it.

8. Data-driven decisions

Already, the vast majority of event professionals use data to drive their decision-making when organising events. Using data to plan and guide event decisions will become more important, as it is a powerful tool to create successful and personalised events. There are many factors in which data can help to organise your event beforehand, manage it during and for collecting analytics after. We’ve broken this down for you here:

Personalised experiences

Personalised experiences lead to happier and engaged attendees, who are more likely to return to your event year after year. Making data-driven suggestions, on which areas of the event attendees should visit, will help them to navigate larger or longer events and feel more custom to the experience as their interests are being engaged. This will help you to learn more about them, but also predict trends for future events.

Avoid bad experiences

If you already have an event app, you’re heading for success. These are a great way to directly interact with your guests and allow them to give feedback in real-time. This makes it easier for event organisers to manage expectations and avoid any bad reviews by immediately resolving any situations. This is also great to find and boost any positive sentiments too!

Real-time event changes

Thanks to technology, we no longer have to wait days to find out the details of an event has changed. Data technologies have allowed event organisers to identify what is and isn’t working at an event in real-time, and what parts are popular or may need a boost. Address issues immediately, and let the attendees know through push notifications and alerts.

9. Out-of-the-box Event Locations

More event planners have started moving away from hotel venues, to more unique and unconventional locations. Push your creativity further, ditch the typical hotel conference rooms and think outside the box to create truly inimitable, innovative event experiences!

From farms to museums, industrial factories and studios, a new location is the perfect way to inject life and charisma into your event. Just ensure these exciting new locations are still on-brand and can achieve the event goals you desire.

We hosted a clients' event in the stunning Old Royal Naval College last year, and all of the guests were blown away by the history and beauty of the unique venue.

These unique, non-traditional venues may have their own challenges so be sure you leave yourself enough planning if you want to pursue something different. It can be a great time to carve out a name for yourself for a truly custom event design and experience, but if you put in the effort it will all be worth it!

We believe these 2020 event trends will show its true value in the industry this year. If you are planning any events, take a moment to consider which trend suits your event best and how you can implement it with great effect.

At Associate Events, we constantly review how to take our events to the next level and evaluate what trends, techniques and tools will assist us to achieve this goal. Our clients return to us for our ability to deliver, our flexible and professional approach, industry dominance and unquestionable quality of service. From concept to delivery – we’ve got it covered, if you’re interested in partnering with us, give us a call on 0116 464 5995 or send us an email

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