16 January 2020

Kicking off the new decade: Event trends 2020

Staying up to date with the event industry’s future topics will be as important in 2020 as it was last year. In this context, the use of new technologies alone does not guarantee success. Instead, an integrated approach that involves using tech to support the overall attendee experience in a meaningful way is key. Among the trend topics, sustainability will continue to gain in importance. Read on for current trends in meetings and conferences to be best prepared for the new year and decade.

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Sustainability as a key success factor

Sustainability is by now about much more than regional or seasonal catering or environmentally friendly transport and logistics solutions: Adhering to sustainable standards with regard to social aspects is as important as conducting your business in a sustainable way.

To implement sustainable events, consider the following:

  • Set an example and work with venues and suppliers with sustainability certificates. Choose a venue that is run based on sustainability principles and primarily cooperate with “green” suppliers.
  • Use as many local partners and local products as possible.
  • The catering should be regional and seasonal, using reusable or recyclable tableware.
  • Offer the option for recycling and composting.
  • Don’t use paper. Project and attendee management can be handled online and conference material can be provided for download.
  • Save energy and resources and use energy-efficient alternatives such as LED and others.
  •  “Move” in climate-neutral ways: No matter if attendees or companies you work with, there are many options such as using transport that is low on emissions.

Use innovative event formats

One person standing at the front and talking to an audience is a thing of the past. The trend for more attendee interaction and participation in meetings and conferences will continue in 2020. Various new formats actively engage and integrate attendees, which supports knowledge transfer and creates more excitement for individual topics as well as for the overall event.

Combining analogue and digital elements in smart ways will also be central. It is not just about integrating digital components such as interactive apps or VR applications but most of all about how you use them. Joining analogue and digital tools in meaningful, efficient and user-friendly ways is key to optimise the visitor experience for different target groups as a whole.

Try integrating simple interactive elements in your event agenda:

  • Business speed dating enables attendees to engage in short conversations.
  • The set-up of table sessions facilitates increased interaction as attendees sit around round tables and discuss different themes.
  • Digital tools can also be used to integrate attendees, e.g., live voting tools for surveys and Q&As.

Fishbowl, world café, BarCamp or Pecha Kucha are further interactive event formats.

  • The fishbowl method is very suitable for organising discussions in big groups: While a small group of attendees is engaged in a discussion in the centre of a circle, the others sit around them, watching their conversation “in the fishbowl”. Everyone can take part in the discussion. If someone from the outer circle wants to move in the inner circle, they can simply take a seat behind one of the chairs in the inner circle. The participant sitting on this chair is thereby asked to give up their place once they finished their sentence. This set-up results in higher engagement of all attendees as everyone is actively involved instead of simply listening to a panel.
  • The world café format lends itself to direct conversations. Attendees discuss their topic sitting round table and guided by a host. Notes are made on tablecloth made of paper. Once finished, each group moves to the next table to add to the ideas of the others who had been seated there. This method is very suitable if you want to gather ideas and let many people have their say. At the end, every group evaluates the results per table, summarises them and presents them to the others.
  • A BarCamp is the right kind of format if you want to put your attendees centre stage as they decide themselves who contributes what when, where and how. There is no agenda, only a planning session at the start. Everyone can contribute something to make the event successful. This method is suitable if you want to generate new ideas.
  • Pecha Kucha is a fast presentation format. The person presenting has six minutes and 40 seconds to talk about a topic while projecting images on a wall that each stay there for 20 seconds. This type of presenting encourages focussing on the essential.

Multisite conference as a future meeting scenario

A multisite conference taking place in different locations at the same time is a very special event format that the GCB German Convention Bureau will for the first time put into practice with partners in 2020: The idea for the Borderless Communication Conference (BOCOM) was born out of the “Future Meeting Space” (FMS) innovation network, which was founded in 2015 by, among others, the GCB and Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO. The multisite conference is one of six future meeting scenarios that were developed through the FMS research.

BOCOM has been initiated by the GCB, TRIAD Berlin, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO and visitBerlin as not just a digital conference but an experimental lab for people to communicate and collaborate beyond cultural, linguistic or spatial boundaries. The conference’s core venue in Berlin will be connected with off-site hubs in different parts of the world. Participants can try new technologies in test labs, get insights in keynote sessions or network face-to-face. They are not just passive recipients but create their own individual user journey and experience.


Artificial Intelligence will increase automation

An increasing amount of technologies will work with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and more and more services will be enabled by AI, which will impact events considerably and automate standardised and repetitive tasks. This automation enables analysing large amounts of event data to get new insights about, e.g., the more efficient organisation of processes. When is the best moment to market an event? How can the set-up of exhibition stands by theme make routing for visitors easier? AI can help answer such questions. Plus, AI-enabled chatbots acting as virtual advisors are becoming increasingly important for customer and attendee communication and might be the customer service of the future.

The human factor remains key in the digital transformation

Connecting people and promoting knowledge exchange will remain at the core of meetings and conferences in 2020. However, suppliers will have to focus more on their customers’ demands while planners will have to hone in on the individual requirements of different types of event attendees. Engaging events don’t happen by chance. The “Future Meeting Space” innovation network has identified six key success factors that influence each other, i.e., networking, disruption, digital tools, knowledge transfer, interaction and satisfaction. For more information on each of them, please click here:

Success factors that make all the difference - Part 1

Success factors that make all the difference - Part 2

Ultimately, the attendee experience is key for successful events. Alongside new formats for knowledge transfer, networking and matchmaking solutions will therefore take centre stage. Virtual and augmented reality also provide great potential, not just to enhance attendee experiences but also to improve collaboration between planners and event venues. Digital twins can, e.g., enable virtual viewings and virtual reality technology can facilitate the joint planning of event seating independent of location.