What Will Have the Biggest Impact on Events in 2020?

From politics and climate change to virtual events and emerging technology, here's what 11 top industry professionals think will have the biggest effect on events this year.

(From left:) Adele Durham, Sean Pedeflous, Tonisha Landry
(From left:) Adele Durham, Sean Pedeflous, Tonisha Landry
Photos: Courtesy of Readers

"2020 is all about the eco/green event. Everything is moving in the direction of being more sustainable—we're going paperless for invitations, stocking bars with biodynamic wines, designing with local flowers that don’t need to be flown in from overseas, and swapping material favors for more charitable gifts that 'give back' to the environment, like planting a tree or adopting an animal in your guest/host’s honor.”
Melissa Andre, owner and creative director, Melissa Andre Events, Los Angeles

“In 2020, KPIs are king. Emerging technologies are allowing agencies to track the consumer’s path through an event, proving success (or lack thereof) through spatial analytics: real-time data on engagement, dwell time, frequency, and overall impact. Build and burn is being rethought as concerns about sustainability grow. More brands will ask for multi-use modularity of scenic and fabricated pieces, a ‘kit of parts’ that can scale across client’s programs. Experiential isn’t a layer, it’s a channel. As experiential marketing impacts ever-younger audiences, it will grow as a mainstay of the marketing mix, with integration into 360 campaigns from their inception.”
Brian Mullin, co-founder and partner, Manifold, San Francisco

“Virtual participation. I’m starting to see more organizations offer online attendance in a way that’s actually interesting and engaging for the audience at home—and not just passive viewing like a webinar. For example, Rodan & Fields recently had a live stream of its conference for its reps. My local contact hosted a watch party in Alexandria with a bunch of her clients so they could learn about the new products directly from the creators. I think more companies will start to adopt this in order to engage more people who may not be able to make it in person but still need (or want) the content offered.”
Amaia Stecker, owner and lead designer, Pilar & Co, Washington

“Politics will be huge in 2020, not to mention carbon neutrality and green events. Everything we do has to have a socioeconomic benefit that lasts longer than just the event.”
Sara Roberts, member engagement and programs manager, Greater Houston Partnership, Houston

“The events industry is going to be held accountable for two big items in 2020. 1) Making sure that our experiences are as inclusive as they can be, regardless of the target audience. We need to consider the facilities of our venues—gender-neutral bathrooms, mother rooms, meditation or prayer rooms. Also, how we address audiences—maybe switch from ‘Welcome, ladies and gentleman’ to, ‘Welcome, everyone.’ And take things a step further by considering people’s life choices as well ... every event prof loves a specialty cocktail, but we should consider specialty mocktails and the fact that a happy hour or cocktail reception doesn’t need to focus on alcohol. The moment we consider our audience as individuals, our events will become more innovative and the experience will be more personal. 2) Events will need to have a strong and sticky giving-back component that lives on beyond the event. It needs to be authentic, organic, and purposeful. Event professionals need to choose their partners wisely, and find synergies that result in genuine value for both. The audience will seek out purpose washing in an instant and call it out for what it is.”
Adele Durham, vice president of events, Haymarket Media, New York

“The evolution from experiential marketing to engagement marketing—[and the] recognition that events are not just a point in time but part of an independent relationship between a brand and a person, and how to foster that over time.”
Ian McGonnigal, founder, Experiential Executive, Boston

“Sustainability. It's changed from simply being a trendy buzzword to a real requirement demanded by consumers who continue to seek brands that align with their core values. Concerns about climate change have encouraged everyone to re-think their lifestyle and evaluate methods to lessen their carbon footprint. In 2020 (and beyond), this eco-friendly mentality will continue to transcend into the events these consumers are attending. … The single most impactful choice brands can make for their event is where it's hosted. Choosing a venue with an environmental policy already in place is a great start for a sustainable event. For hotel-based events, make sure they have a Green Tourism certification. For larger events, with hundreds of thousands of attendees, brands should look at reducing their carbon footprint by choosing a venue near a public transit center or encouraging eco-friendly ways to travel there.”
Sean Pedeflous, director of experiential creative services, Grandesign, San Diego

“I'd like to see white space and data evaluation as trends. Often we want to program every element of an event to maximize attendee attention, and that may not always be what they want. [It's about] understanding our audiences better by making decisions based on qualitative and quantitative analysis.”
Tonisha Landry, senior director of events, Points of Light, Atlanta

“Social awareness will be impactful in 2020. Showcasing events that drive education and inspire change will not only be trending, but important for the event community to support and take to the next level. We must all ‘be the change we want to see in the world.’”
Alyse Pask, president, Pask Productions, Miami

“Face-to-face meetings will be more important than ever. People are tired of the lack of human connections in business. Event planners need to plan for lots of opportunities for small, intimate meetings. Build in more time for networking—and of course, make your spaces Insta-perfect."
Kerry Comstack, independent event producer, Boston

“Environmental factors like accessibility, homelessness, pedestrian safety, more attendees going meatless/animal-free, and hotel recycling and/or sustainability practices will affect site selection more and more.”
Manda Herzing, meetings and events project manager, Meritas Law Firms Worldwide, Minneapolis

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