2011 Preview: 100 Predictions From Industry Minds on Event Style Trends, Budgets, Technology, Social Media, Catering, and More


As part of our look ahead at the new year, we asked event professionals across our nine markets to give us their best guess as to what 2011 will bring for the event industry. What will the food and decor trends be? How will hosts market their events? How will they use social media and new gadgets? How will planners, vendors, and subvendors work together? And how much money will everyone spend?

In the 100 predictions below, you'll find a wide variety of answers to those questions. But some trends are already starting to take shape. As event pros continue to experiment with social media, they’ll look for real results. Events need to appeal to guests with proven value—which ultimately might mean letting attendees run the show. Caterers and planners will continue to play to guests’ expanding food knowledge and introduce unexpected ingredients and cooking styles. And the continuing return of event business will bring changes in how the industry works.

We asked everyone to limit their predictions to Twitter-friendly 140-character bites (some went over), and we’re including the Twitter names of those who provided them, so you can read more from those who interest you. We’ll also be tweeting some predictions, and asking for more from readers. You can follow the conversation—and follow us—at @BizBash_News.

1. “In 2011 we will start to think extravagantly again. Not to create a sensory overload, but a complete sensory experience.”
—Rachel Clarke, events director, Rachel Clarke Events, Las Vegas

2. “People will request art over technology for their events. Technology is getting to be a very cluttered space, while art is timeless.”
—Bentley Meeker, owner, Bentley Meeker Lighting & Staging Inc., New York

3. “There’s a return to an arts-and-crafts influence. Inexpensive everyday objects used in repetition or in abundance create a modern art approach to event design.”
—Jeffrey Foster, director of sales, Event Creative, Chicago

4. “In terms of room setup, tables will stray from rounds only to X- and O-shaped tables. Round tables merged with high royal tables that form an X shape. This allows more guests per table and a unique design to the room.”
—Jennifer Schwartz and Andi Dyal, owners/partners, ANJE Soirees, Miami

5. “I think the trend for events is a mix of midcentury modern and classic furnishings with bronze and brasses making a comeback, warmer tones, natural materials, more homey and relaxed.”
—Jeffry Roick, director, McNabb Roick Events, Toronto

6. “The recession set off a theme revolution of handmade chic: creative props, paper signs, and unique themes reflecting the hosts’ personality.”
—Laura Ritchie and Megan Pollard, founders & designers, Events in the City, Virginia

7. “In events/design/fashion, what is old is new again. Think Boardwalk Empire and Warhol's Factory. We’ll be looking back to move forward in fresh ways for 2011.”
—Christine Faulhaber, principal, Faulhaber Public Relations, Toronto

8. “Events go beyond green and become naturalistic. Natural fibers, textures, and colors will replace shiny glitz. Plastic is out, wood grain is in.”
—Andre Shahrdar, vice president, business development, Barkley Kalpak Associates, New York

9. “With the opening of many nontraditional-size venues, I see more clients using backless seating options to save space.”
—Greg Zalkin, general manager Southeast Region, Room Service an AFR Company, Miami

10. “As far as event decor is concerned, chocolate brown and natural woods will be the stars of the show. Accent with some orange, gold, and cream and you will have a modern, sophisticated palette for your event, reminiscent of the New York City luxe of the ’70s.”
—Francine Socket, principal, Francine Socket and Associates, Event Architects, Toronto

11. “Luxury is back in fashion—clients have been requesting our new gold bars to add a touch of glam to their parties.”
—Bobby Taylor, principal, Taylor Creative Inc., New York

12. “2011 is all about immersing guests in video and content, always pushing the limits and creating new experiential stylish environments with uplifting guest interaction!”
—Tricia Costello, C.E.O., Fresh Wata, Las Vegas

13. “Colors for spring and summer of 2011 are energizing in a slightly muted fuchsia, aqua to teal, an apple green, loganberry (magenta and wine together), and a light citrus yellow with light avocado tones as a neutral. Black and white are still popular, and chocolate and gray are perfect paired with the new palette for 2011.”
—Leslee Bell, president, Decor & More Inc., Toronto

14. “Aesthetically, events will be inspired by residential charm. Look for domestic vignettes: hearths, bookshelves, eclectic table settings, etc.”
—Marina Birch, owner, Birch Design Studio Ltd., Chicago

15. “Truss is back. Lighting designers are using multifunctional structures again, utilizing unique curved designs coupled with decor and LEDs.”
—Jared Golberg, community marketing and event logistics manager, 5th Element Events, Toronto

16. “Pantone Color Honeysuckle. I love the fact that Pantone comes out with the color for the year, but don’t overdo it. Mix the color with soft creamy yellows and pair it with robin’s egg blue, and then you will be doing the right thing. The last thing we want to see is a room that looks like Pantone threw up in it.”
—Erin McDonald, owner and president, Erin Patrick: Events Fashioned, Chicago

17. “2011 will be a year of ups and downs, as the economy still looks for its footing, some clients dare to be bold and do extraordinary events, and others are more conservative.”
—Peter Callahan, owner, Peter Callahan Catering, New York

18. “2011 is about YOU: Attendees will be able to customize programs based upon their needs/wants. BarCamp’s a great example of this service.”
—Brett Petersel, audience manager, Mashable, New York

19. “Healthy breakouts. Rather than traditional breaks, attendees will have exercise, wellness experiences, and more built into itineraries.”
—Courtney Mills, business development associate, GET U.S. Destination Event Management, Orlando

20. “Whether it’s a food truck pulling up to a private party, an undisclosed location, or an underground dinner, the element of surprise will pop in 2011.”
—Marley Bellwood, creative consultant, the Revel Group, Chicago

21. “The event trend in 2011 will be the ‘events’ or ‘moments’ that are organically created by the consumer. The best events are always the ones that the brand has no control over.”
—Tony Cornelious, account director, Jack Morton Worldwide, New York

22. “Smaller, intimate audiences and crowds. The mega-grand and huge events are done for a while. People want quality, not quantity, and a really good show and/or event.”
—Alex Burley, director, Art of the Deal/Paint It Black Entertainment, Los Angeles

23. “Even more highly targeted events designed to create a heightened relationship between brands and their clients. Even large event platforms will be modeled on smaller, more intimate, and more exclusive experiences. The companies that will succeed will understand how to make big feel intimate and exclusive.”
—Bronson van Wyck, Van Wyck & Van Wyck, New York

24. “Games, both on and offline, will be used more often at events to increase attendee interaction and for their educational and social benefits.”
—Jenise Fryatt, community manager, Engage365, Palm Springs

25. “After several years of frugality, a desire for over-the-top glamour and glitz, à la the new hotspot Beauty & Essex. Key elements include surprise (e.g., entry through a faux pawn shop) and excess (e.g., bartenders serving champagne in the ladies’ room).”
—Irma Zandl, president, the Zandl Group, New York

26. “Hosting brunches instead of dinner parties, where a light and casual atmosphere comes naturally to the space.”
—Lee Brian Schrager, vice president, corporate communications and national events, Southern Wine & Spirits of America Inc., Miami

27. “‘Stealth wealth,’ event hashtags, more entertainment, less decor, lots of passed tasting plates, and planners? Of course—MORE!”
—Marcy Blum, independent event planner, New York

28. “In 2011 the event and marketing industry will be focused on five trends: humor, honesty, transparency, cachet, and CSR.”
—Karran Finlay, owner, Karran Finlay Marketing, Vancouver

29. “Smaller, albeit more targeted, approach to events. What’s happening is, companies are spending less money on square footage and investing more in quality experiences that motivate audiences to act on brand objectives.”
—Ian McGonnigal, senior vice president of client strategy and brand performance, Jack Morton Worldwide, New York

Social Media and Guest Engagement
30. “Planners will stop using social media because they're ‘supposed’ to and begin using it because it supports their goals. Strategy first.”
—Liz King, owner, Liz King Events, New York

31. “When attending a big meeting or conference, the attendees will be able to learn what is happening live via social media.”
—Courtney Mills, business development associate, GET U.S. Destination Event Management, Orlando

32. “There will be more and more ‘digital events’ taking place on the Web. Costs are minimal, and brands can reach target audiences in a larger way. Plus, if your content is good—you can count on it going viral!”
—Danielle Spitzer, director of special events, Keep a Child Alive, New York

33. “Social media interaction will begin to be recognized as a boon to the event industry, as it continues to create a need for more F2F events.”
—Jenise Fryatt, community manager, Engage365, Palm Springs, California

34. “Biggest prediction is that events will continue the evolution into becoming more like media platforms, which gives opportunities for deep engagement across media, content, and social.”
—Chad Issaq, executive vice president of partnerships, Superfly Marketing Group, New York

35. “Hopefully, we will see social media used less as a promotional vehicle and more as a tool for content planning and micro-community building.”
—Jill Taub Drury, C.E.O., Drury Design Dynamics, New York

36. “It’s all about geolocation in 2011. Create a Foursquare badge for an event that can serve as a pass to an exclusive after-party.”
—William Lanier, communications manager, Shiraz Events, New York and Miami
@shirazevents, @williamlanier

37. “Small- and medium-size companies/brands signing endorsement deals with socially responsible, social-media-savvy artists to help them target new markets.”
—Olivia Gottlieb, outreach promotions and events specialist, Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada, Toronto

38. “We based an entire campaign off of Twitter and Facebook and raised $1 million for Keep a Child Alive. Twitter won’t be going anywhere in 2011! People will be using it more to promote their events in ever more creative ways. Never underestimate the power of a tweet or friend request.”
—Danielle Spitzer, director of special events, Keep a Child Alive, New York

39. “Use social media for pop-up events and last-minute venue reveals. Provoke viral chatter. Try a digital event—webinar/tweetup/streaming.”
—Christine Faulhaber, principal, Faulhaber Public Relations, Toronto

40. “2011 meetings are reformatting from the standard talking-head to no formal speakers, no panels—just open discussion among colleagues.”
—Marcy Manley, C.E.O and managing partner, WPI Event Partners Inc., Chicago

41. “Forever advancing, in 2011, smart apps and devices will allow face-to-face events to be more significant and substantial.”
—Rachel Clarke, Events Director, Rachel Clarke Events, Las Vegas

42. “Over-touch-pointing—the relentless span of pre-event emails—is cumbersome to the fact that people have less time, and the amount of over-touch-pointing can be a detriment when it begins to be viewed as spam.”
—Marshall Bice, vice president, creative practice leader, Jack Morton Worldwide, New York

ROI and Measurement
43. “Companies will be rewarding their best employees with motivational incentives. This increases workplace productivity and happiness.”
—Maddie Czerwinski, general manager, GET U.S. Destination Event Management, Orlando

44. “The days of attending events for face time are over. There must be a quantifiable ROI today to justify event participation.”
—Bob Gilbert, president and C.E.O., HSMAI, Washington

45. “Corporations will lean toward sponsoring events that provide multiple tiers of exposure and brand activation. Gone are the days of providing logo exposure only.”
—Joel Hock, president, Solutions With Impact, Toronto

46. “Brands are going to press nightlife groups to see better returns on their dollars. Drink menus with logos aren’t going to cut it.”
—Keith White, entertainment director/brand activation, WENDOH Media, Vegas Seven magazine

Budgets and Spending
47. “Budgets will remain constant, but event content will be expected to increase.”
—Craig Corwin, manager of events, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Orlando

48. “I think 2011 is going to be the year of the bounce-back. Boston is already starting to see more and more events coming back. The events are getting bigger and bigger, as they were four years ago. I think the event industry is at the edge of coming back stronger than ever.”
—Jamison LaGuardia, director of marketing and events, Royale, Boston

49. “We’re going to continue to see budgets slightly increasing. We’ve noticed clients are spending a bit more on each event. We also have noted that event elements that were removed in the past to save money, such as hosted parking, premium liquor, buffet versus tray-pass, etc., are making a comeback.”
—Chad Hudson, owner, Chad Hudson Events, Los Angeles

50. “My clients are shifting advertising budgets to event marketing. They are getting a bigger return on their investment by getting their products into the hands of consumers at experiential events.”
—Leah Shepherd, vice president of event marketing, Thompson Wesley Wolfe, Orlando

51. “More high-end and low-end partnerships and joint sponsorships to try to create a familiar and widespread platform for more exclusive luxury brands.”
—Bronson van Wyck, Van Wyck & Van Wyck, New York

52. “With many cities strapped for money, expect new or increased fees for outdoor events, permits, police overtime, and other unexpected costs.”
—Robin Hall, senior vice president, Macy's Parade & Entertainment Group, New York

53. “Clients are returning to creating events again and are using them as marketing tools, thus justifying the spending. Imprinting an event, so it hits on all the senses, far outweighs branding an event on a visual-only platform.”
—Leslee Bell, president, Decor & More Inc., Toronto

54. “Marketing budgets will continue shifting to online/mobile channels. It’s quick, quantifiable, direct communication with an audience.”
—Jason Hancock, director, sales and marketing, WENDOH Media Companies, Vegas Seven magazine

55. “I’m still seeing parties cancel for ‘financial reasons.’ So my prediction is that 2011 is going to be unpredictable.”
—Diane Gordon, owner, Diane Gordon Catering, New York

56. “There will be an app for everything. Successful event companies will have staff members solely dedicated to figuring out technology.”
—Jeff Kalpak, president, Barkley Kalpak Associates, New York

57. “Registration company integration with virtual software vendor technology will become much more streamlined.”
—Scott Kellner, chief marketing officer, 6Connex, Los Angeles

58. “Cell phones are increasingly involved in immediacy for attendees—including Q&A, surveys, and even content direction for speakers”
—Marshall Bice, vice president, creative practice leader, Jack Morton Worldwide, New York

59. “Gone are the days of a clipboard. Tablets like the iPad are the new check-in device.”
—Shai Tertner, president, Shiraz Events, New York and Miami
@shirazevents, @shaitertner

60. “More and more collaboration between technology vendors, such as mobile, registration, audiovisual, and event management companies integrating their solutions to create a better final product for the event industry; the ones that don’t will be marginalized.”
—Bob Vaez, president, EventMobi, Toronto

61. “We are offering live Webcam feeds for our events, so that companies can show people who weren’t able to make it to Vegas what was going on and what they missed. They also have the option of having it taped to use for marketing purposes later.”
—Heather Coldwell, director of sales, Minus 5 Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas

62. “QR codes will enable tech-savvy event participants to engage with brands and sponsors on a deeper level.”
—Abby Trexler, senior PR manager, Jack Morton Worldwide, New York

Food & Drink
63. “Food trends will be continue go in the locally grown, comfort food direction.”
—Katie Nicholson, coordinator, events and volunteer relations, Rethink Breast Cancer, Toronto

64. “No more passing food on a boring tray. Time to see more unusual serving dishes, like the classic Weber grill that held food at MSNBC’s [White House Correspondents' Association dinner] fete.”
—KiKi Ryan, reporter, Politico, Arlington, Virginia

65. “The trend in food is dictated by a new sense of shared community, as exemplified by partnerships with boutique brands, artisanal purveyors, and local distilleries.”
—Michael Adasko, catering manager, Shiraz Events, New York and Miami

66. “Events are going to be staying on the culinary trend of fresh foods being prepared in front of your guests.”
—Ralph Rendsland, partner, Three2Oh, Orlando

67. “People want to learn about food! More groups want to have private chef events or to at least interact with chefs at specialty food stations.”
—Eddie Maddox, director of catering/convention services, the Peabody Orlando

68. “My predictions are less formal events, hors d’oeuvres or desserts served in martini glasses, and more comfort foods in an elegant way.”
—Shari Vander Wiede, director of development, Shepherd’s Hope, Orlando

69. “Hopefully, the end of ‘spoon food’ and shooters, as no one knows where to put those accoutrements down at a cocktail party.”
—Suzanne Tobak, senior director of events, Serino Coyne, New York

70. “I see a move toward more heirloom vegetables (beets, radishes), beans, and grains (quinoa, grits), all locally grown.”
—Rita Gutekanst, principal, Limelight – Food Illuminated, Chicago

71. “We will see a lot of Korean and Mexican foods. Both offer lots of flavor, have fresh and healthy ingredients, and can be presented in a novel way.”
—Francine Socket, principal, Francine Socket and Associates, Event Architects, Toronto

72. “The death of the cocktail, and a central focus on local wines and craft beers, particularly as the specific wineries/breweries relate to themed events.”
—Danielle Esposti, special event manager, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, Washington

73. “With the new BBQ craze that is hitting all the big cities, we’ll find more interesting and less messy takes on our charred favorites.”
—Justin Jacobson, president/C.E.O., Platinum Strategic Marketing & Events, Chicago

74. “Cold weather: spiked hot chocolate and teeny-weeny spiced doughnuts. Warm weather: white lychee sangria with lemon sorbet pops.”
—Stella Rankin, event director, Great Performances, New York

75. “Solid/liquid? The big switcheroo—edible cocktails: so much better than that old fraternity house Jell-O shot moment. Drinkable desserts.”
—William Homan, partner, Design Cuisine, Washington

76. “Gone are the days where events were held at hotels and conference centers. The search continues for unique venue locations. Topping the list are retail stores, old warehouses, and art galleries.”
—Andrew Bockner, owner, Andrew Richard Designs Events, Toronto

77. “Private bars and unique, private, hidden places in the city that offer exclusive handcrafted cocktails and secret back bars are becoming more popular for events.”
—Kathy Sidell, president, Met Club, Met Bar and Grill, and Met Back Bay, Boston

78. “Promotions will continue to seek out more adventurous venues, using untraditional places further and further off the beaten track.”
—J.J. Thompson, editor/founder, the Compendium Daily, Toronto

79. “Themed parties in new locations. Always looking for the original setting. Not in design but the real thing. Planners must be very inventive to please clients. Soho House is great, but other rooms need to be found. Private houses are for book signings. Dinners need to be glamorous buffets surrounded by contemporary art.”
—Caroline Graham, founding partner, C4 Global Communications Inc., Santa Monica

80. “B2B clients will be more likely to choose venues that are user-friendly and technologically savvy, resulting in leaner out-of-pocket costs.”
—Marcy Manley, C.E.O and managing partner, WPI Event Partners Inc., Chicago

How the Industry Works
81. “Green is still important, but budgets rule.”
—Susan Dahle, manager of group sales, SeaWorld Orlando

82. “The event producer that can provide the largest multilevel value proposition will win the business at the end of the day.”
—Joel Hock, president, Solutions With Impact, Toronto

83. “As the economy remains challenging, everything is negotiable; even when venues have exclusive vendors, remember: They don’t want to lose your event over the cost of AV.”
—Suzanne Tobak, senior director of events, Serino Coyne, New York

84. “Trend I would like to see: Our industry developing social media innovatively to improve how we work, and not just as a marketing tool.”
—Marina Birch, owner, Birch Design Studio Ltd., Chicago

85. “Business is back. Long-range planning is back in vogue.”
—Kristin Conte, director of marketing, TAO and LAVO nightclubs, Las Vegas

86. “Professionals are going to start relying more heavily on partnerships and multi-organization-hosted events to reduce costs.”
—Valerie Wang, manager, community events and partnerships, KCET, Los Angeles

87. “There’s going to be a trend with audiovisual and production companies to show meeting and event planners how to use new technology and still stay within their budgets.”
—Patty Holland, vice president and executive producer, MFM Global, Orlando

88. “The days of getting three months of advance notice to plan an event are over. With people being more connected now, I think we’ll be lucky if we get three weeks’ warning.”
—Javier Velarde, executive producer, Triton Productions, Miami

89. “The big companies are going to get bigger. Many smaller companies were able to hang on initially during the beginning of the downturn, but business isn’t coming back for them as strong as it needs to. The bigger companies are getting more of the business, because clients need stability.”
 —Paul Creighton, executive vice president, T. Skorman Productions, Orlando

90. “Venues and vendors will need to work more closely to be creative in meeting the needs of clients with tighter budgets. The need to educate clients on the difference between cost and value is more important now than ever.”
—Michael Testagrossa, senior catering sales manager, J.W. Marriott Las Vegas Resort

91. “Protecting assets by hiring suppliers that support proper business practices. Enhanced training, certifications, and insurances are required.”
—James Nienhuis, president, The Butler Did It, Toronto

92. “Event space will not be as readily available during peak periods, forcing planners back into longer-term booking cycles.”
—Craig Corwin, manager of events, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Orlando

93. “Greener light design as LED technology becomes more sophisticated, helping to enable carbon-neutral events on a smaller scale.”
—Danielle Esposti, special event manager, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, Washington

94. “As green becomes mainstream, all events will have an ‘eco edge,’ whether or not it is obvious or of importance to the client/guest.”
 —Rachel Clarke, event director, Rachel Clarke Events, Las Vegas

95. “Some interactive agencies or traditional event organizers and associations will create interactive event divisions to support their corporate customers, to customize their virtual stands, to market their virtual events, etc.”
—Miguel Arias, chief technology officer and co-founder, IMASTE, Madrid, Spain

96. “Invitations are taking on new life, becoming much more creative in the electronic sense. Letterpress still stands out, but over-the-top electronic in the form of video is replacing it.”
—Julie Darling, principal, the Darling Company, Chicago

97. “We recently got an invite (basketball) for LeBron James’s birthday party hand-delivered to our office by models dressed in sexy referee costumes. No more paper invites sent via snail mail. It’ll all be sent via social media, email, or stunts.”
—Javier Velarde, executive producer, Triton Productions, Miami

98. “Death of the gift bag and birth of the customized gift. This less-fluff approach will make a stronger and more memorable impact with less waste.”
—Olivia Gottlieb, outreach promotions and event specialist, Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada, Toronto

99. “Thank you’s—whether in the form of a swag bag, charity donation, or something else. Thanking your guests will never go out of style.”
—Lee Brian Schrager, vice president, corporate communications and national events, Southern Wine & Spirits of America Inc., Miami

100. “With a decline in excess, there is an increase in giving back. Look for charity angles, donation cards, and gift bags with a cause. We love onexone.org.”
—Christina Krcevinac, communications manager, Diesel Canada, Montreal

More in Event Management & Tech Tools