Professionals often attend industry events to improve their craft, get updates on the latest event planning trends, and network with peers.
But for an event planner, it’s also an opportunity to “borrow” (read: steal) creative ideas for their next event.
After spending the past week at MPI WEC 2018 (one of the largest annual gatherings for meeting professionals), I experienced what it’s like for an organization to pull out all the stops to create a truly memorable experience for events planners (who have seen and done it all).
Here are some of the newest and coolest event planning trends and tech innovations I spotted—plus a few tips on how to make these work for your next event.
Event Planning Trend #1: Celebrating the Host City
MPI did a wonderful job blending the best of Indianapolis (this year’s conference location) into every aspect of this year’s WEC.
Indianapolis is known for sports—including the Indy 500 race—and the conference was held near several sports fields. As a result, this theme seamlessly ran throughout WEC.
For example, main keynotes were exchanged for twice-daily “pep rallies,” complete with cheering MPI members welcoming attendees to the main hall. Keynotes also held more inspirational messages for event planners vs. traditional “how-to” formats. Entertainment included Indiana Pacers cheerleaders, visits to Lucas Oil football stadium and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway racetrack, photos ops in race cars, and more.
These touches solidified the event theme and helped attendees experience the best of Indianapolis. This is becoming increasingly important for event attendees who hope to explore outside of conference halls when they attend events in new cities.
A few other ways MPI infused Indianapolis flavor into the event included:
- Local food trucks at lunch
- A local acapella cover band for opening night celebrations
- Events at local landmarks (including a block party in the main downtown square)
To pull this off at your event, seek out local speakers, vendors, artists, teams, and performers so attendees can experience local delights without having to leave the conference.
Pro Tip: Use PartySlate.com to source the best local vendors in large American cities for your events—a resource event planner extraordinaire Michael Cerbelli shared during his “Hot List” presentation (more on this later in the blog).
Event Planning Trend #2: Using VR and AR to Encourage Interaction
Vendors are continuing to come up with more and more practical use cases for event planners when it comes to tools like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
Consensus shared some interesting use cases for augmented reality during a presentation in the Innovation Village, including how:
- Displays that offer extra information or special content can be placed strategically around your venue to to drive foot traffic to specific areas
- AR can save on printing costs by offering attendees the options to view signage in other languages when they hover over displays with their smartphones
- Building games and networking opportunities can be made possible with AR content, dispersed AR displays and quizzes
Pro Tip: To get more ideas for using games to crush your event goals, download our newest pocket guide—which includes examples from real conferences and events! Read Now: 5 Surefire Gamification Strategies to Crush Your Event Goals
Virtual reality may soon have more applications than just a fun activity for event attendees. Companies like All Seated are making it possible for planners to use VR to preview event spaces and build out floor plans with more accuracy.
Event Planning Trend #3: Using Custom Art in Your Decor Design
Creating “Instagrammable” moments that inspire attendees to share images on social media is still a top priority for planners.
However, doing something that hasn’t been done before is tough.
Michael Cerbelli’s “Hot List” suggested custom art pieces as an alternative to step and repeats for inspiring attendees to share their snaps online.
Example 1: Custom crayon art created by artist Christian Faur.
Example 2: Cork art by Scott James Gundersen.
Pro Tip: To make sure attendees have smartphones charged and ready to share special moments, consider getting portable device chargers from Breakout Power. These power outlets can be placed on tables or in between seats so attendees aren’t fighting over outlets or charging stations. They can also be branded so you can use them as a sponsorship source.
Chefs can also count as artists with the potential to create special moments for attendees—which brings us to our next trend…
Event Planning Trend #4: Personalizing Food and Beverage
Food is getting more personalized thanks to new technology.
For those with more modest budgets, the other major food trend this year is “retro”. This includes classic treats (like cotton candy) and re-imaging home-made comfort foods (like meatloaves and cookie dough) to delight attendees.
Event Planning Trend #5: Using Content to Tap Into Attendees’ Emotions
Even if your event is focused on a for-profit industry, MPI showed that it’s important to appeal to your attendees’ emotional side as well.
A large number of speakers and sessions focused on social causes like diversity, ethics (ex: how to spot signs of human trafficking), sustainability and wellness. Event planners should consider inviting experts in these spaces to present at events.
There was also a multitude of ways for attendees to contribute to charities (beyond the typical fundraising dinner). This included dropping off swag and clothing as donations for charities on the show floor. These efforts not only show off your organization’s commitment to social responsibility, but they also improve the chances your event will deliver an emotional impact attendees will remember long after your event has ended.
One of my favorite examples that supported a social cause and engaged attendees was the Foundation for Hospital Art PaintFest. At this station, attendees could help paint beautiful murals that would be donated (at no cost) to hospitals. The bonus? It was a nice way for attendees to unwind and connect with others on the show floor.
Event Planning Trend #6: Using Design Thinking to Get Better Feedback
Several sessions at MPI WEC focused on the concept of using design thinking and crowdsourcing feedback to enhance event planning and execution.
MPI even held a few to involve planners in brainstorming ideas for the upcoming WEC ’22.
To help incorporate this growing area of learning into your event, consider:
- Sourcing speakers who can speak about design thinking and planning to help educate your audience
- Creating an interactive space for feedback and brainstorming that is visually appealing to attendees with writing supplies (markers and sticky notes) and jumping-off points for ideas and questions
- Making in-person sessions for feedback more interactive with whiteboards and structured brainstorming spaces
Some speakers also used live polling to dictate the direction of their presentations based on audience preferences and pain points. To create a more participant-driven style of presentation at your next event, you can:
- Prep speakers with tools for live polling via an event app; Share best practices on live polling with them as well—including keeping questions simple, and the number of responses to 5 or fewer options
- Find multiple ways and channels to promote live polling tools and processes to your attendees so they’re prepared to use it
- Use gamification to reward the users for contributing feedback via your event app to encourage adoption
Recommended Read: Want to help your speakers make their sessions more interactive? Check out 5 easy steps to prepare them here!
Event Planning Trend #7: Turning Participants into Artists
Giving attendees opportunities to create hand-crafted items they’ll cherish long past the event is also still a growing trend. At MPI, attendees could create custom bracelets, flower crowns, and their own custom essential oil blends. Take into consideration the theme of your event, potential sponsorship opportunities and the demographic makeup of your attendees when coming up with craft ideas.
Looking to save money and increase attendee engagement at your next event? Figure out if an event app if what you need, and whether you should build it yourself or partner with an expert!