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What the Industry Got Right and Wrong About 2014

From Pantone’s Radiant Orchid and vegan menus to sit-down dinners and tech-connected photo booths, here’s which of the trends predicted for events in 2014 actually stuck—and which ones vanished.

By Alesandra Dubin December 17, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

Planners predicted that nontraditional and tech-connected photo booths would continue to dominate events in 2014—and they did.

Photo: Nadia Chaudhury/BizBash

As the calendar edged closer to the end of last year, industry professionals responding to a BizBash survey shared what trends they expected to have the biggest influence in 2014. Now that 2014 is almost over, it’s clear which of those trends materialized, which ones never came to pass, and which ones took a somewhat unexpected turn.

What We Got Right
C.S.R. and Giving Back: Event professionals expected to see more of a trend toward sincere corporate social responsibility, and using events as a means—or at least an opportunity—to give back or support causes. Indeed, industry insiders say that trend continues to play out as expected.

“Giving back is taking center stage—and hopefully will be for a long long time,” says Jes Gordon of Jes Gordon/Proper Fun.

Photo Booths: Planners predicted that the photo booth would maintain its dominance as a crowd-pleasing event staple, and the photo opportunity in its various forms showed no sign of slowing down. In particular, the focus has been on interactivity and social sharing.

“Whether a booth, stage, or other interactive environment, the photo booth has become as essential to most events as furniture and decor, and did not phase out in 2014,” says the Visionary Group’s Brian Diamond. “Events by their nature are all about sharing experiences and moments in time with other people. The photo booth naturally lends itself to commemorating a special affair. It's just an added bonus that people will share those images online organically with others.”

Samantha Sackler of Samantha Sackler Productions adds, “The number-one most used trend [that] will continue to be used is the prop photo booth [tied in] with social media. Every [vendor planner] loves that as it exposes their work, and every [brand] loves it for branding. It won't be going away any time soon.”

Increased Focus on Experiential: For 2014, event professionals expected to see experiential programming evolving from an occasional event approach to a central piece of the marketing puzzle. And many say it worked exactly that way this year.

“The prediction that experiential would evolve beyond being a small part of a larger marketing campaign to now being the forefront of how brands are talking to consumers came true in 2014,” says the Visionary Group’s Diamond. ”We are seeing much larger budgets and integrated programs that include events, social media, content capture, and pop-up retail experiences. It is an exciting time for the industry, as we are touching way more than the large-scale cocktail party.”

What We Got Wrong
Pantone’s Radiant Orchid: The Pantone color of the year for 2014, a purple hue known as Radiant Orchid, was expected to pop up everywhere from fashion runways to home decor and certainly events. But beyond an initial flurry of excitement about the color, the prediction it would take root in event decor didn’t really pan out.

“Radiant Orchid as the Pantone color was fabulous for fashion but it sure did not show up at events for 2014,” Sackler says.

Vegan and Vegetarian Cuisine: Emphases on healthier fare and specialty diets have steadily increased over the years—and vegan fare is certainly having a moment at new venues around the country, such as Los Angeles’ Gracias Madre. But the prediction that vegan and vegetarian fare would take over event menus in 2014 didn’t exactly come to pass.

“Although there is more of a demand for vegetarian and vegan [menu items], it always seems to be what's leftover. We now try to scale it to what we feel the actual demand will be at the event for that item,” says TIL PR’s Heather Hope Allison.

Sackler agreed, saying the observation surprised her. “[We] did not see too much vegan and gluten-free additions to our menus, which I found strange since everyone seems to be one or the other in 2014,” she says.

Less Formal Events: Planners thought that the trend of structured corporate events, such as sit-down dinners, was overrated amid a climate of professionals eager for more fluid networking opportunities. But this year, some said the needle didn’t move enough as it should have away from such rigid structure.

“There is still pressure to keep corporate events traditional, formal, and highly structured, even though guest feedback often reflects a desire to have more casual events with more opportunity to mingle with other guests in a relaxed atmosphere,” Diamond says.

Integration of Evolving Technologies: Technology plays an increasing and evolving role in events every year. But planners didn’t necessarily guess right about which new technologies would take hold, and which would fade away.

“The trend of the virtual presenter did not take off in 2014. People still appreciate the human touch of interacting with brand ambassadors and on-the-ground staff,” Diamond notes.

An accurate and still-underrated technology prediction, Diamond says, is gesture based. “More gesture-based technology is being incorporated into consumer events, but some brands are still reluctant to spend the budget to execute in a powerful way. Experiential agencies are doing their best to educate clients on the value of this engagement asset,” he says.

Avidex rental sales account manager Bonnie Lackey says that overall, the budget is in place for planners to incorporate new innovations in tech. “Predictions were budgets would improve slightly. We are finding budgets have grown by 6 percent, allowing many to be able to embrace more technology,” she says.

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