What do experts see on the business events horizon?
By Boardroom editors
The new year is less than a month away, and experts are already predicting an increased interest in Europe from the meetings industry. And, they say, event technology and the rise of “bleisure,” the blend of business and leisure travel, are among the top trends for the European events market in 2019.
According to CWT Meetings & Events’ 2019 Meetings & Events Future Trends report, demand for events in general will grow by 5 percent to 10 percent in 2019, with the average meeting size rising in almost every region. Western Europe is expected to experience the most growth and is likely to see the largest increase in hotel prices, with an increase of 5.6 percent. Airfare in the region is predicted to rise by 4.8 percent.
“There seems to be continued growth and confidence in the European market, despite some of the uncertainties of Brexit,” said Ken Kelling, executive coach and associate director at davies tanner PR and marketing. “There’s also enthusiasm for thinking about new, upcoming, or different destinations largely driven by younger delegates who are open to new experiences.”
Experts also anticipate that next year, technology will be integrated into everything from event security to check-in procedures. Social media, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR) are on the rise more than ever in the meetings realm.
“This was a big theme from IBTM’s Trends (Watch) Report this year,” Kelling said when Boardroom caught up with him at IBTM World in Barcelona in late November. “And although the focus is on rapidly changing technology, it’s the underlying message of personalisation and individualisation that’s behind it, whether it’s using technology for greater audience participation, more comprehensive personal data collection, or facial-recognition registration systems. You have to look at the human need that’s being met, not just what the technology can do.”
Technology is one way to boost audience experience, but many events are looking more into the “bleisure” element — attracting millennials by blurring the lines between business and leisure. Taking this into consideration, it’s no surprise that more traditional, and formal, meeting practices are falling out of fashion. “Traditional formats for large meetings with plenary sessions, keynote speakers, and formal dinners are becoming less popular,” Kelling said. “Delegates increasingly want more opportunities for networking and interaction, shorter sessions, and more mingling with other people during meal times.”
This explains the rise of the “festivalisation” of events, where meetings and creative sectors blend to offer integrated approaches that keep attendees engaged in the same way a festival like Coachella would, helping to give event-goers the experiential element they crave while offering organisers a platform for their ideas and philosophies.