As the corporate world continues its journey back towards more traditional ways of gathering, an interesting trend has emerged in 2023 meetings and events …
After three years scrambling to leverage technology in the interest of sharing information and motivating employees while remaining safe in a pandemic era, one might assume hybrid meetings and far-flung online audiences would’ve become “the new norm”.
Not necessarily so.
According to a recent survey conducted by BizBash, an M&E industry news aggregator, there has been a greater emphasis on putting more backsides in seats in 2023 and a lesser leaning on accommodating a mixed audience – half of whom enjoy face-to-face and find it more beneficial versus those who would rather tune in from the comfort of their homes. Seventy-one percent of 2023 corporate gatherings have included in-person events [though admittedly some have included a hybrid element].
Further complicating the desire to return to 2019 levels of in-person events is the will-it-happen/won’t-it-happen question of an economic recession, tighter budgets, and rising expectation levels of attendees [in-person or remote] who’ve grown accustomed to immersive, engaging experiences versus the traditional speaker “talking at” an audience which was the norm for decades.
All this bodes well for those with a strong creative vibe because, it seems, minds have been opened as meeting and event planners [and those footing the bill] realize audiences expect more and deserve more in 2023 and beyond.
So what does this mean …?
The evolution of audience/attendee expectations means there’s a new emphasis on personal well-being, greater customization of meeting/event environments, infusions of creative/artistic touches, themes based on nostalgia, sustainability and, yes, new technology.
– Personal Wellness and Self-Care
More and more, planners and clients are tuning in to the physical and mental toll corporate meetings and events can take on presenters, audiences and organizers. As we all know, it’s a high-stress, fast-paced, fluid business that involves many weeks or months of program design and production, content reviews and approvals, often unreliable air travel, being away from home, and the pressure to leave an event somehow better equipped to produce greater results [a.k.a. greater profitability] for the company.
According to the American Express Global Travel Trends Report, 72% of travelers are more focused on self-care than they were just one year ago.
As a result, meetings and events are taking on dimensions that cater to the mind, body and spirit. In a recent workshop entitled Five Wellness Trends Meeting Planners Need to Follow, Justin Ball, CMP said planners need to integrate “organic exercise” and healthy options, including walkable food and beverage options [stroll and nosh offerings], rentable gym equipment beyond what’s typically available in a hotel or conference facility, movement-based coffee breaks, and hydration stations.
Also increasing are “wellness lounges” that attendees can pop into for a quick moment of Zen at different times during the day, yoga and stretching classes offered early in the day and during longer meeting breaks, guided meditations, and more “mocktails” as an alternative to alcoholic beverages.
– More engaging, immersive spaces
Seems nothing is off-limits these days when it comes to décor, lighting effects, audio flourishes, performance art, etc. From the moment attendees arrive at an event to when they leave, planners and organizers are working hard to create elements that surprise, impress and engage.
Costumed greeters/performers/servers make an immediate impact at arrival, LED curtains at entranceways, and décor on walls, floors and ceilings envelop the attendee. More and more, tents are being used as meeting spaces in temperate climates with surfaces used as projection screens and poles wrapped in fabric or powder coatings. “Statement” mats, rugs and other floor coverings are incorporated along with LED floor lighting that frame aisles, creating an illusion of having stepped into another world.
– The Good Ol’ Days
Perhaps the result of living in an era of rapidly evolving technology, diminishing civility, and an overall warp-speed approach to day-to-day life, nostalgia has become a truly alluring escape for meeting and event attendees, even if only for a few hours.
Decade-themed [‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s] social events or business sessions are gaining in popularity, as well as TV-inspired themes based on Yellowstone, Game of Thrones, even Breaking Bad. One meeting host agreed to a Past-Present-Future approach to a three-day corporate meeting where attendees could attend business sessions in themed attire that evolved from “Past” on Day 1 [Where we’ve been], “Present” on Day 2 [Where we are today] and “Future” on Day 3 [Where we’re going].
– Speaking of “Future”
Incorporating unique tech is becoming an increasingly popular way to “wow” audiences and create a higher level of engagement. Autonomous robots are popping up at social gatherings and coffee breaks, delivering drinks or snack options to attendees and, in some cases, engaging with attendees verbally.
AR and VR options are always in play and there’s a huge amount of curiosity around Artificial Intelligence [AI] and what role it will play in corporate meetings and events design, production and execution. Like larger social concerns around AI, planners are struggling to find that sweet spot where AI can be beneficial but not intrusive. Stay tuned on that front.
Bottom line: More and more, leaders within Corporate America want to, once again, see and engage in-person with their hard-working associates. Expect this trend to continue in 2024, as well as the challenge to meet attendee expectations of a memorable experience versus a traditional lecture-style presentation.
If you’ve got a meeting or event on the books for 2024 or beyond and would like to brainstorm unique and creative options available to you [and within your budget], please reach out. Our team at dynami would love to help!