Putting a fresh spin on creative ideas is something the event industry does extremely well – it’s our raison d’être after all. Sure, there are tried-and-true themes and must-have logistics that are often prerequisites of many jobs. However, it’s all about having the skill and knowledge to break out of the box with inspiring new twists and elements.
Here are a few trends, observations and ideas set to help make event alchemy in 2018:
AUDIO-VISUAL & COMMUNICATIONS
Chatbot Ambassadors – Accelerating is the use of these artificial intelligence systems that lets guests use their smartphones to event-connect via messaging/chat interfaces. No app download is required. Basically a 24/7 virtual concierge, bots handle guest queries in real-time with interactive responses to a vast array of pre-programmed questions. They even collect feedback and send session alerts.
TIP: Design your event’s chatbot with personality. For escalated guest engagement, give it a name, a visual and persona that aligns with the event brand and theme.
#Hashtag Success — No event today can be without a social-media strategy. In addition to working with social-media influencers who have targeted groups of followers, many events are successfully employing marketing tactics that encourage guests to tweet, post or share in return for a giveaway or special offer.
TIP: Use short, creative hashtags to grab online traction. Large-screen projection walls are also key for live-streaming online conversations and ensuring guests look up for a more engaging and gratifying on-site option to following on their handhelds.
Video Revolution – Video is a rising star with on-point content marketing the key to the future. Stunningly powerful imagery and video messaging definitely strike a chord with guests. Let’s face it, watching a video promises a far more enjoyable, impactful experience and makes for greater detail retention than reading a page of text.
TIP: Livestreaming is an ideal channel for distributing video content across platforms and devices, drawing attendees into the shared action even if they aren’t present.
Mad For Patterns – As seen on the fashion runways and in interior design, flower prints and motifs, the larger the better, plus a frenzy of simple geometric patterns, are adding interest into wallcoverings, rugs, linens and seat covers.
TIP: Layer in patterns and textures for visual interest and to help break up bands of solid colour and expansive floor space. Call on fabrics with a bit of glitz and plushness – hello velvet – as well as geometrically shaped furnishings like vertical cube walls filled with trailing greenery.
Shades of Prince – Ultra Violet, Pantone’s Colour of the Year, pays fitting tribute to the Purple Rain artist, and will make for a riot of deep amethyst, eggplant and plums on 2018’s design scene. He’d also appreciate the ranges of bright orange, yellow, lime, fuchsia and blue that are pushing aside the pastels and soft, muted tints that have dominated recent colour palettes.
TIP: Lighting is a terrifically effective way to wash a room with mood-setting colours, especially a large one. Add bold interests with complementary hues popping out in cushions and other accent pieces.
Food As Décor – If you thought food was already a major component of events, think again as planners ask caterers to also step into the decorating ring with inventive presentations that elevate cuisine into interactive ornamentation. Think sharing tables laden with DIY ingredients and self-serve food walls adorned with donuts, macarons, appetizers and more.
TIP: Pass on traditional table centerpieces and opt for a beautiful arrangement of food, like a crudité tower, charcuterie board or dessert display that also serves as a ready-made dining course.
FOOD & DRINK
Flower Power – Edible petals and other botanicals are set to have a blooming heyday in the kitchen and behind the bar, serving as pretty food plate garnishes and exquisite cocktail-flavour infusions. Lavender, rose, hibiscus and elderflower are all making the culinary scene.
TIP: A brightly coloured, beautifully plated dish or inventive drink topped with photo-pleasing edible flowers will guarantee your event dining is shared on Instagram and other social-media channels.
Vegetarian Delight – Plant-based eating is so in that there’s already a stem-to-root effort underway, a veggie version of the nose-to-tail movement to reduce food waste. In addition to caterers’ ever-growing plethora of creative vegetarian dishes, watch for unique items like pickled watermelon rinds, broccoli-stem slaw and kale-stem pesto.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to offer an all-vegetarian menu. Not only are restaurants, caterers and venue kitchens upping their food game with deliciously satisfying non-meat dishes, but a little less steak and chicken can often be a good thing for an event’s bottom line.
Experiential Dining: It’s official: Guests of all generations are now foodaholics – obsessed with trying the latest and greatest, knowledgeable agents of culinary quality and tastes, and hyper-supportive of local and regional eating. This year, more than ever, your event menu cannot be an afterthought. What and how you serve cuisine is an all-important make-or-break priority.
TIP: Offer a culinary how-to as part of your event, whether it’s an immersive cooking class, a made-to-order chef station, local craft beer and wine stations, a dine-around tour of food markets and restos, or simply ensuring that wait staff narrate the origins and preparation of the ingredients on the plate.
Maximum Impact – Entertainment talent must be bold, awesome, colourful and interactive to draw guests into the action and your event message. Strolling entertainment, living tables, and unique activations, like 3D light artists, are all ways to create wow moments and deliver photo-worthy opportunities for sharing. Also add hands-on fun, like interactive digital art screens, glowing LED novelties and even giant beach balls passed among the crowd.
TIP: Just as furnishings serve to map out ideal traffic flow patterns for guests, strategic placement of talent and entertainment installations around the room will encourage them to explore and mingle.
Learning Through Play: The younger demographics are driving the push for teambuilding activities that go beyond the classic ropes courses, building challenges and scavenger hunts. We’re definitely seeing more companies book team-bonding events into venues with high-energy, interactive activities that deliver a level of competitive intensity along with the chance to socially connect.
TIP: Look to teambuilding options that spark interest by trying something completely different like an escape room adventure, a virtual reality experience or a state-of-the-art games arcade.
Wellness Activities – From on-site massage stations and yoga breaks to group outings that support corporate social goodwill like community tree plantings, we’re seeing more mindful event elements and activities that re-energize attendees and feed the soul.
TIP: Create a wellness lounge in a location that’s in an accessible but quiet area just off an event’s main traffic flow routes. Furnish it with comfy seating and healthy refreshments and staff it with pros offering holistic best practices, health and relaxation tips for better work-life balance.
Ultra-cool Places – Invites to the latest must-try locations pique guest curiosity with the chance to support not just the event but also for the great social-media value to see, and be seen, in a buzz-worthy setting. When sussing out venue options, take a cue from Toronto’s revitalized heritage buildings, new restaurants and unconventional places like lofts and galleries in up-and-coming neighbourhoods.
TIP: Include quality photos of the venue – the edgier the better — in guest invites and event materials as the amuse bouche to attending your event.
Sustainability Forever – Thinking event green is now an ingrained best practice. As more venues embrace it, and planners and attendees seek it out, we’re seeing the bar constantly being raised on forward-thinking initiatives like rooftop kitchen gardens, zero-waste practices and in-season buying support of local farmer’s markets and producers.
TIP: Get goodwill mileage out of sustainability by weaving your venue’s environmental stewardship efforts into your event narrative/marketing materials.