December 18, 2019

9 Event Trends to Know in 2020

Karen Gould

One thing that rang loud and clear in 2019: Every event should be an experience.

Regular event goers have come to expect thoughtful messaging, meaningful face time, versatile work spaces, sustainability and so much more.

How will your events and experience design team deliver in 2020?

Message strategically and thoughtfully

The right messaging for the right audience can make or break an event’s impact.

On a marketing panel hosted by The DrumMoritz von der Linden, vice president for Asia Pacific at Mars Petcare, explained that brands and marketers “cannot just produce a good product and then basically talk to people about the attributes of the product. It is about creating that experience that consumers are willing to actually spend time with us and interact,” he said. “And then, potentially, honor us with a purchase. But at the end of the day, we need to earn that.”

Bring back in-person experiences

With technology taking over every interaction, companies are rapidly replacing live meetings and events with virtual ones in an effort to save money. But since Americans spend 42% of their waking hours in front of a screen, in-person time is becoming an increasingly rare commodity.

At the same time, in-person experiences are proven to be more impactful.

A survey by the Event Marketing Institute revealed that 65% of attendees said live events helped them have a better understanding of a product or service, and 70% of users become regular customers after an experiential marketing event. What’s more, 84% of event attendees say that they have a more positive opinion about the company, brand, product or service being promoted after the event.

So, losing face-to-face time might save dollars on a venue, but it could cost a lot more in the long run.

Think outside the box when setting your meeting scene

2020 is the time to let go of the expected set-up and start thinking about your audience and how they work best.

Are attendees still sitting at crescent rounds with a notebook and pen in front of them? Or can you set the room with an array of seating options such as soft couches, standing tables and traditional rounds?

Do your presenters really need to be on a big stage with a slideshow playing? Or can they be moving around the room and engaging with others?

How are you delivering content? Whether it’s digital, such as AR and VR, or in-person, like a subject matter expert hosting a relevant session, think about different ways to deliver content and make it more impactful.

AMp up the Entertainment

As millennials dominate the workforce, participants’ expectations are changing. And entertainment is at the top of their list when it comes to events.

Gone are the days that a “dance band” and “after glow party” will do for a corporate event.

Instead, think of securing VIP access for your group to an already-established desirable event, such as a music festival like Coachella or event like New York Fashion Week.

Or you can bring in a headliner and create an intimate private concert for your audience. Creating these once-in-a-lifetime experiences will stick with them forever.

use the venue to create a narrative

People mix their professional and personal lives now more now than ever. That means a work event or conference has the potential for so much more than being confined to a hotel ballroom snacking on buffet food.

Think about venue and destination not just in terms of cost or name recognition, but also what the experience will hold for your audience outside of the meeting.

Hosting your event in a desirable destination and/or non-traditional venue can create buzz and excitement all on its own.

Keep in mind, it’s also important to schedule time for people to experience the destination on their own so they can explore all the places they have researched or were told to go to while being there.

How can you help create a narrative that attendees will take back to their offices and homes?

Highlight sustainability

Trends in culture are also trending at events. You might have eliminated individually wrapped snacks and set out recycling bins at events, but it’s time to think beyond those simple measures.

One study found that 63% of Americans are hopeful businesses will take the lead to drive social and environmental change moving forward.

What’s more, 87% of those surveyed said they “will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about and 76% will refuse to purchase a company’s products or services upon learning it supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.”

How can you reduce your carbon footprint when it comes to transportation, food waste, sourcing, swag, accommodations and even the brands you partner with?

For example, to reduce transportation emissions (and costs), stay at a hotel near off-site event options so guests can walk.

Partner with a sustainable vendor for swag and giveaway items to keep attendees thinking about sustainability after the event, such as reusable water bottles.

Don’t forget to share messaging on how your event is lessening its carbon footprint by eliminating straws, water bottles, printed agendas, etc. Any facts and stats you can share in real time are beneficial to show your audience that sustainability is important to the company.

Prioritize wellness

When your audience is healthy and happy, they are more likely to remain engaged. A top complaint from those who regularly attend events is that it throws off their typical routine—they eat too much, drink too much and skip their workout.

It’s important to help support attendees’ wellness to ensure they can stay focused and engaged.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Menu: Balance healthy with indulgent. Plant-based meals are increasingly in demand, so bring on the veggies
  • Activities: Offer group activities that exercise the mind, body and soul such as yoga, mindfulness session, a 5K or a bootcamp challenge
  • Tech-free zones: Offer massages or nap pods to give attendees a chance to unplug and unwind between sessions

capitalize on your app for even better RFID technology

Apps in general provide a way for your audience to engage and for you to deliver a customized digital experience.

It’s expected for every event to have a custom app, but the technology behind it can help stakeholders gather more information about the audience than ever before with the improvement of RFID technology.  

plan for Safety and security

This needs to be top of mind now more than ever. Making attendees feel safe and secure during your event will help them fully focus on the content and experience.

Creating this environment requires a lot of prep and forward thinking. If you don’t already, consider partnering with internal and external SMEs to create an event-specific safety and security manual for your company. And ensure key stakeholders referenced and review it throughout the planning process to ensure everyone is prepared.


There’s no special project like a special event. And behind every special event, there must live a compelling objective and a purposeful plan to make a lasting impact. From marketing tactics that reach the right audiences to activities and enhancements that make interactions more meaningful, we bring brand stories and strategies to life by designing creative event experiences.

  • Event ROI assessment
  • Event strategy
  • Concepting and creative tactics
  • Marketing, communication and activation plans
  • Experiential elements and activities
  • Vendor research and recommendations
  • Implementation guides and event playbooks

Reach out  to make your event an experience.