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17 Event Trends Poised to Shake Up Hospitality & Group Business in 2018

8 Jun 2018

In the events world, you don’t have the luxury of living in yesteryear. You need to see into the future and stay ahead of the event trends that will inevitably make or break your business.

But don’t worry, you don’t need to rush out and buy a crystal ball to be on top of it. Using a combination of research and survey data, we’ve rounded up the 18 most important trends set to hit planners, hotels and venues in 2018.

Better buckle up!

1. The hospitality boom isn’t going anywhere.


Last year’s boom knows no bust. In fact, the CBRE is predicting a 2.4% increase in hotel RevPAR for the coming year. But that rise in demand will inevitably create a rise in cost. By how much you ask? According to CWT Meetings & Events, you can expect a spike in booking prices of about 3.7%.


You know prices are the lowest right now, and that’s exactly what you need to convince your clients. Luckily, when higher numbers are on the horizon, it’s usually a powerful catalyst for closing deals.

On the other side of the puzzle, you can get a leg up by working with properties on longer lead cycles. That way, you lock in those lower prices and keep clients happy.

And remember, when clients and properties are looking for unique experiences, it’s always going to cost more. Seeking out those opportunities can mean more earnings for you.

In 2018, expect a spike in booking prices of about 3.7%.

2. Attendees expect things to get easier. That means you’ll work harder


Digital connectivity has created a world where everything is always at a consumer’s fingertips. It’s a big reason why Euromonitor has named consumer connectivity one of its eight megatrends to keep an eye on through 2030.

That speed and ease has led us to a state of modern ecommerce that has consumers growingly impatient with drawn out registration and booking processes.


To keep clients and attendees happy, it’s more important than ever to speed things up this year. That means taking steps like making pre-loaded flight plans and other options readily available in registration material, or even adding a concierge for attendees. While it might be a tough cost to swallow resource-wise, the impact on consumer satisfaction makes it a no-brainer.

Growing consumer impatience also means you need to pay attention more to potential timesucks like check-in. To expedite the process, we recommend considering blockchain for easy registration & pre-event check-in. You can also distribute Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) materials for quick and seamless event-wide access that doesn’t slow things down.

3. The competition is stacking up for schedules AND eyeballs.


Every year, there’s a significant increase in events across every category, and this year is no different. Event competition is going to be fierce.

It’s not just the fact that there are more events, it’s also the reality that competition for consumer attention is coming from all angles angle. Add to that the fact that the average persons attention span is eight seconds, and you’ve got a situation where you need to make your mark quickly. (Hint: Making that mark is easier with pictures than words!)



More competing events means you have more to pay attention to. So when planning your date, keep a close eye on event calendars to avoid overlap in content or geography.

The competition also inevitably means more demand for primetime dates and top properties. The more you can prepare your clients for the higher prices on the horizon, the less friction you’ll encounter when it comes time to close the deal.

Day Of

On the day of the event, you need to be ready to make your mark and engage your audience if you expect them to come back. Luckily, there are plenty of audience interaction tools popping up that can help you captivate attendees and get them involved. Make sure you’re using those tools to incorporate more polls and Q&A during talks. You should also play with seating plans plans to boost engagement — theatre-style seating is “so 2017.”

Keep in mind that attendees have a screen in their pockets that’s competing for their attention with your screens. Instead of fighting it, take advantage! Use slide-sharing apps that bring the presentation to pockets and create custom filters that are event and location specific. Filters aren’t just a great way to take advantage of mobile devices, they’re also a fantastic way to increase your reach.

4. Diversity & inclusion aren’t just buzzwords.


Nor should they be. The rise in diversity & inclusivity isn’t just a long-time coming, it’s also making a huge splash in business initiatives and the events world as a whole. Consumers are voting with their pounds  and making purchases in accordance with their social values. That’s leading businesses to ask themselves, “What exactly do we stand for?”


Does your event include a speaking panel? Make sure you’re working with your clients to host diverse panels that include a multitude of voices and perspectives at the speaker’s podium.

When planning events, weave in themes of inclusion and serve up lectures that put significant social issues at the forefront. Just make sure you’re keeping yourself out of controversy. All publicity isn’t good publicity — no matter what anyone says.

Remember: It’s more important than ever to pay attention to the language you’re using, all the way down to pronoun usage. Make sure to keep an eye on not only what’s being said during the event, but also what’s communicated on your surveys and event materials.

Remember: It’s more important than ever to pay attention to the language you’re using.

5. Warehouses are going to be big — and we’re not just talking space.


It’s not just about what you’re saying, it’s also about where you’re saying it. Because in 2018, consumers will want to experience the venue as much as the event itself. So you can expect non-traditional venues to pick up in popularity. In fact, demand for non-traditional venues already rose 4% in 2017.


Keep one step ahead of the trend by pitching a warehouse concept to your clients. It’s an opportunity for them to break out of a more formal business setting for a one-of-a-kind experience.

When you’re looking for warehouse venues, keep in mind that it never hurts to have a helping hand in sourcing one. Make your life easier by partnering with a CVB who can find warehouse spaces that are appropriate for events of any size. You can also use a venue search engine to narrow down options and compare them.

6. CVBs: Local partners to global brands?


You better believe it. Event planners are emphasizing local elements more than ever and they’re local convention offices to make it happen. It’s all part of the push for “local” that’s taking industries, including event trends, by storm — from food to goods and even tourism.


Seek out a Convention Bureau and ask for their help doing any of the following:

Hosting events at notable city museums
Catering through local restaurants and microbreweries
Partnering with local food trucks
Bringing in local speakers or musicians
Hosting off-site excursions like agritours, snowshoeing or scenic 5k routes

7. Meet property branding’s new best friends: Niche & Neutral


Clients want to set the mood for their meeting or event, and they’re willing to pay more for the right experience. That all begins with branding.


Expand your search criteria to be sure you’re including properties whose brands are consistent with a client’s. In essence, if you’re planning for a prestigious law firm, you’ll want an equally prestigious and storied venue. If you’re planning for an edgy tech startup, you might want to work with hip emerging brands.

In every single case, companies have a perception of themselves and know the persona they want to convey. Keying in on that can go a long way in keeping them happy.

Bonus Tip: Cultivate relationships with niche properties whose branding brings a unique element to events. It gives you a wildcard option in your back pocket that not every local planner can provide.

8. Security is at the top of everybody’s minds.


It’s terrible we have to say it, but it’s true: The current climate has consumers looking for transparent event security solutions that bring them peace of mind. As a result, properties and planners are adding security measures to their planning and making logistics a big part of their budgets.


For bigger events that have the budget, go the extra mile to implement registration biosecurity such as thumbprint and facial recognition technologies.

It’s also a good idea to consider more visible and reassuring security where you may not have before. That could be everything from ID checks to security guards.

9. Intelligent planners will make friends with machines.


In, 2017 most major mobile apps incorporated some form of AI. Even popular concierge apps now have a machine learning component. Of all event trends for 2018, this might take the most investment on the behalf of properties.


Keep your brand image on the cutting edge by searching for properties with AI-powered concierge apps. You’ll wow attendees with personalized experiences and chatbots, all the while elevating their perception of you as an innovative planner who has their finger on the pulse of new tech.

For post-event purposes, kiss the post-event survey goodbye. By opting for an AI-powered feedback collector like Facebook Messenger, you’ll be more likely to get feedback you can use to optimize future events.

10. Don’t take it personal — make it personal.


From Google search algorithms to Netflix homepages, the world is moving towards personalized experiences. In fact, users are coming to expect it. That’s why you need to make sure you’re bringing in an element of personalization at the attendee level. Luckily, AI and machine learning are making it easier for event organizers to offer custom experiences.


You can get to personalizing events long before the big day. Start by sending out a digital survey for pre-event polling on the activities you plan on offering.

If you plan on sending out an explainer email, make sure you’re segmenting your marketing lists. That way, you’re not hitting repeat attendees with the same info you’re sending newbies. They’ll appreciate getting tailored content that acknowledges your appreciation for them as a repeat attendee.

Leading up to the big day, and even the day of, use chat AI to answer attendee questions in real time. Many large-scale events like Sound Fest use Facebook Messenger to make it happen.

Segment your email list so you don’t hit repeat attendees with the same info as newbies.

11. Bitmania: Cryptocurrency & blockchain will change the face of events


Believe it or not, the value of Bitcoin has risen 5x in 2017 alone! It’s also becoming increasingly accepted as valid currency in a variety of industries. And the same blockchain technology that’s behind bitcoin is poised to make a big push toward seamless attendee experiences.


A growing number of hotels, venues, & travel booking sites are accepting Bitcoin — from Expedia and Holiday Inn Brooklyn to One Shot Hotels. You should be seeking out clients in the cryptocurrency industry and teaming up with these types of properties to make sure you can accommodate things like blockchain ticketing and ID. It’ll go a long way in wowing savvy attendees.

If you’re questioning whether it’s worth the effort, remember that cryptocurrency is a cash cow for event planners too. With demand being so high, ticket prices for these types of events can escalate up to $2,000 for a single seat!

12. Give your clients a voice (assistant).


Voice-activated assistants like Alexa or Google Home took 2017 by storm. In 2018, they’re poised to become the norm. That level of comfort with voice-activated technology means it’s only a matter of time before consumers come to expect it at events.


Be on the lookout for properties that already have these technologies built in. Then, work with your venue to program their available VA technologies to deliver on-site directions and accept attendee feedback. By Inputting key attendee data, you’ll allow exhibitors to ask relevant questions hands-free on the floor.

13. Live translation might change where you meet.


Event trends often follow suit with business trends, and international business is on the rise more than ever thanks to the advent of live voice, sign and text translation applications. As these tools improve, there’s potential for planners and venues to begin hosting language-neutral events.


Look into live translation applications like Interactio or Google Translate, and familiarize yourself with their potential. Then use that knowledge to pitch a unique experience to clients who conduct international business.

To make that experience come to life, you’ll need to partner with properties who have the necessary AV equipment for large-scale live translation.

14. Social media influencers are the new celebrity.


With a profound reach on the web, social media influencers make great partners for promoting events. Their credibility with followers gives any recommendation they make the feeling that it’s coming from a friend. People are more likely to take a friend’s advice than yours!

The best part? You can land social media influencers for far less money than you’d find yourself paying a traditional celebrity — and in many cases, you’ll get the same type of reach.


The first step is finding the right influencer. Use an influencer search engine like Upfluence or Sprout Social to find accounts that are consistent with your client’s brand.

Once you’ve locked down the right influencer, it’s time to think outside of the podium. That means giving influencers an immersive experience that translates well to social media, so that they can then take it and spread it to the masses.

15. Rideables are on their way to (and from!) an event near you.


Rideable technologies like hoverboards are less expensive and more practical than traditional forms of transportation, plus they’re cutting-edge. Planners are poised to use them in two ways:
To get attendees from one end of a large property to another
To give attendees a cool experience that they won’t soon forget


Partner with tech-savvy properties that own and deploy their own rideables, and you’ll make the lives of attendees easier — especially in large venues. You’ll cater to attendees of all ages because millennials love to ride them and older attendees have a need for them. They can also be a great way to enhance experiences like agritours or tours of other large spaces.

16. Drone video is on the up.


With drone and high quality video technologies getting cheaper, savvy properties and planners are adding drone video to the experiences. You might say it’s an event trend that’s really taking off.


Wow attendees by streaming live feeds of outdoor events on the screens they’re watching. Nothing excites a crowd more than seeing itself! Plus, after the event, you’ll have the perfect footage to create an amazing post-event video or sizzle reel you can use as an engaging marketing asset.

17. Some attendees want to turn off & tune out.


While the recent rise of virtual reality and augmented reality has been a hit with many consumers, there are many for whom it’s had the opposite effect. Thanks to that backlash, retro tech is in.


Even at tech-heavy events, installing technology-free zones can give attendees a breather to network, host face-to-face meetings, or just relax away from their devices. You can even top it off by building longer breaks into the schedule where attendees can mingle and chat in these shared spaces.

Bonus Tip: A few key inclusions can go a long way in creating a sense of nostalgia. Differentiate your event by adding “analog” media like cassette players or vinyl players, old video game consoles or arcade games, and retro design aesthetics.

Three Downward Event Trends for 2018

What goes up… well, you know the drill. Here’s what you can expect to lose steam in the coming year.

Virtual Reality

Sure, virtual reality is immersive, but it’s not genuine — and most importantly, it’s cost-prohibitive. Look for VR to fall victim to the trend this book’s eighteenth trend: the need to unplug.

Playing With Your food

Let’s face it — food decor has gone a little too far. Not only is it incredibly decadent, it’s not sustainable and leads to potentially dangerous prep and display conditions.

Event Apps

Not all apps are on the up! Poor performance of event apps is creating a lot of friction. They’re largely unnecessary in many cases, only needed for a weekend, and take away from more engaging methods of engaging with attendees. Brands should instead focus on keeping consumers engaged through social media, interactive content, and experiential marketing.


It’s not just the world we live in, it’s a product of the industry we call home. The events world is constantly changing to meet the climate around it, and that means we need to as well. By doing the same things that worked in the past, we make ourselves obsolete and give the competition the advantage. You have to keep adapting no matter what, even if you’re completely happy with your current results.

Hopefully, these 17 trends give you just the leg up you need in a year that’s bound to be BIG for events.


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