Looking at past and present industry trends is always a worthy exercise.
In submitting my thoughts on event trends over the last 25 years to the recently published TSEvents 2019 Guide my brain went into overdrive and I shot way over the allotted word count.
I ended up with enough observations to make up an entire blog! So here it is:
The last 25 years have brought about unbelievable change in how we work as industry professionals and how consumers choose to interact with the events we create. The proliferation of custom apps for mobile, WiFi everywhere, social-media amplification, customizable digital tools and attendee expectations for everything to be “experiential” has had a direct, far-reaching impact on all aspects of the event industry.
Social media has not only allowed event marketers to reach people outside of the “room” but has led to what I call the rise of the aesthetic. Everything must be beautiful, photogenic and shareworthy. I believe this is the number-one change influencer in our industry over the past 25 years. Digital marketing and online communication platforms are critical to not only how we promote and amplify events before, during and after, but also how we present content visually.
Over 40 billion photos have been shared to date on Instagram. Take that in for a moment. And, it is estimated that 10 percent of ALL photos ever taken have been snapped in the last 12 months? These stats* (*Source: Brandwatch) show the power of photography and the democratization of information-sharing, content and visual storytelling at live events. What an opportunity for our industry!
This impact is far reaching, regardless of whether our events are consumer-facing, for business purposes, incentive trips, internal or social occasions. Everything at a live event — from the food and décor to the content, activations, venue, entertainment, the event message and brand — have to be sharable, newsworthy and aesthetically pleasing.
It is hard to remember a time when a “hashtag” meant a “number sign” and you could measure your reach by how many attendees were actually there. What an exciting time to be in the business of creating experiences!
Best Food Trends:
We’ve come a long way from rubber-chicken luncheons. As much thought, care and presentation goes into event menus now as it does the décor and entertainment. And the three must herringbone together seamlessly.
- Bring On The Wellness: I love the evolution of the wellness and mindfulness movement that is making event food choices more inclusive (vegan, halal, gluten-free options), more adventurous (pho and poke bowls, noodle bars plus spice galore), and more wholesome with fresh ingredients and healthier portions.
- Break Time Bonus: Replacing traditional meeting-break pastries with herb-infused drinks, like protein smoothie shots, and nutritious fare, such as fresh fruit and seed mixes, is making the 3 p.m. “conference crash” a thing of the past!
- Green Thinking: Our industry is also much more aware of food waste and the environment. Things like bamboo plates, paper straws and leftover food donation programs have been a great addition to our industry.
- Healthy Eating: Smaller portions with more healthful ingredients is following the rise of “foodies” everywhere, which means attendees are demanding, and receiving, better food quality, variety and presentation at all events.
- Artful Plating: Thanks to social media platforms like Instagram, food created for consumption by both the eyes and our taste buds is a great advancement over the past 25 years. Today’s event attendees expect their food to be as aesthetically pleasing as it is tasty, forcing all of us to get creative with displays and plating that put food presentation at the forefront.
Worst Food Trends:
What once might have been an inventive food concept has either long overstayed its welcome, or now simply pales in comparison to other fresh, ingenious offerings. And then, of course, there are some items that never should have been part of event menus in the first place.
- Sticky Fingers: Every manicure’s enemy — those saucy, honeyed, sesame seed chicken wings that still appear on hotel hors d’oeuvre menus for cocktail functions. Rule of (sticky) thumb: If you wouldn’t eat it on a first date, don’t serve it at an event. People come to network and shake hand
- Skewer The Skewer: Similar to above, but for different reasons, those ubiquitous dry chicken or meat skewers that have relinquished all redeeming taste features to a heat lamp. Choking on dry chicken is a horrible way to die! Especially in public 😉
- Get Out Of The Comfort Zone: Comfort foods were “a thing” 20 years ago. And they were fun! But now we are moving away from the mini mac and cheeses and dry sliders. So overdone!
- Put a Cap on Cupcakes: Cupcakes at corporate events? How did they get there in the first place? How are you supposed to talk business or be taken seriously biting into an icing-laden cupcake? Keep them at baby showers and kids parties by all means, but let’s get more sophisticated in our dessert offerings please!
- Off The Wall: Donut walls. Loved them five years ago, but now it’s time to think outside of the circle.
- Remember The ABC Club: Offering only one white and one red wine at the bar, but making the white option Chardonnay is my personal pet peeve. In fact, 30% of white wine drinkers don’t like Chardonnay, whereas almost all of them will take a Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc. Today’s consumers expect choices, so offering only one option feels like laziness on the part of the planner or venue. Include a buttery Chardonnay by all means, but please, for the love of all 30% of us in the Anything But Chardonnay (ABC) Club, please offer another white option as well!
Wow, how far we’ve come from the days of pipe-and-drape backdrops and gobo lights! Planners now have an artillery of décor options, tools and technology at their fingertips to transform spaces, and events, into beautiful, immersive experiences.
- Opt For Live: Boxwood started as a lovely way to break up the overdone white plexi-plastic furnishings, but it’s turned into more plastic, only green! It’s time to put the plastic boxwood back in the box and bring in living plants that help us breathe again.
- Light It Up: LED lights rule! It’s hard for most of us to remember the pre-LED lights era, as they’ve been truly revolutionary in the way they allow us to cost-effectively transform a room at the touch of a button. That said, the problem is that all events are starting to share the same washed-in blue-pink-purple hue, especially in photography and on social media. At Yellow House Events, we are working hard to bring new lighting options and looks to our events to differentiate them from the visual and photographic “sea of sameness.”
Today’s guests expect all event elements to be thoughtful, interactive, unique, beautiful and shareable. Attending events takes time. And time is life’s currency. Let’s spend it wisely.
Here’s to the next 25 years of event trends.