Event trends are very much influenced by several external factors, such as technological advances, economic conditions, and social trends. The needs, preferences, and expectations of event-goers are constantly evolving. Of course, this can make it difficult to stay relevant and competitive. With so many events available – and new ones entering the market at an incredible rate – event organizers are feeling the pressure. They must continue to surprise and delight their repeat attendees in an effort to convince them to part with their hard-earned dollars, year after year.
Yes, it can be tough to keep up with changing event trends. But we haven’t known our event customers to shy away from a challenge. In fact, the fast pace of this industry and the demand for creativity are some of the things event professionals love most about their jobs. Trying to stay ahead of your competitors and on top of the latest trends can be downright exciting.
Last year, we shared some key event trends for 2019, as predicted by Canadian event and festival organizers. That was one of our most popular blog posts of the year. Clearly, trends are a hot topic for event industry professionals. So there was no question that we would have to produce a 2020 edition.
Once again, we asked some of our favourite events customers and partners to share their predictions. From virtual event planning to networking for fresh ideas, here is what they had to say about event trends for 2020:
“Researching some of the anticipated festival trends for 2020, I decided to take a step back and delve into a possible reason why these trends exist in the first place. This had me thinking about an unlikely origin for event trends: networking groups.
Approximately seven years ago, colleagues in surrounding municipalities started a local networking group geared specifically to festival and event planners working in a municipal environment.
It occurred to me from the very onset that there was very little differentiation between the festivals and events being offered, besides which municipality was hosting and their varying budgets. Much of what was organized tended to be very similar, each introducing the latest “trends” at their respective festivals and events. It dawned on me that there was a simple explanation – we all read the same industry news, subscribe to the same industry publications or blogs, and for the most part, collaborate with the same types of contractors and suppliers.
What kept me engaged with this networking group was that there was great information being shared, and discussions around best practices and lead generation. This led me to believe that networking and festival trends go hand in hand to some degree.
Fast-forward to present day, I now serve as the Executive Team Lead for a group called Networking for Municipal Event Planners. In a short period, our group has grown exponentially and now spans across the Province of Ontario. Each year, we organize networking meetings to discuss topics that impact our professional lives as planners from the municipal sector. I am confident in saying that in addition to influencing policies and procedures, this networking group strongly influences the programming offered at municipal festivals and events, and to me, that’s what defines trend setting.
Trends in this industry represent a general direction in which something is developing or changing. This shift is largely impacted by those organizing the festival and event, as they are the drivers who seek and implement new and exciting programming elements, technologies, or experiences to engage their audiences. Much of this, in my opinion, is influenced by what we see and hear through interactions with our colleagues. Networking provides a forum for sharing new ideas and learning from those who took risks to try something new or change something they have done for years.
Whether you decide to spend your time implementing the latest trends or, better yet, you become the pioneer who initiates a trend, be supportive when others follow suit. It is likely that they did so because of what they learned while networking with you. Networking should be a priority, and I encourage everyone to either join a group or start their own. It is highly possible that what is discussed in those meetings will start a trend that will have your festival and event patrons thanking you.”
Dan Di Ruscio
Events Coordinator, City of Richmond Hill
“Besides Barbara-Walters-Everything and ‘This is… 2020!’? Where do I begin!?
I think that the biggest trend in festivals and events has less to do with an item or theme, but a feeling. Guests want to not only attend events, but participate! They want hands-on experiences and interactive activities. DIY food stations are a huge hit (maple syrup rolling on ice, make-your-own-poutine stations, games, etc.).
We are seeing more and more unique venues being selected for both private and corporate events. Convention centers and traditional venues are out…funky museums, barns, distilleries and greenspace events are quite popular.
A trend I am really excited about seeing in 2020 is events that defy gravity. A few industry leading planners have really colored outside the lines and are turning your everyday events into visually spectacular art installations by suspending components of the event from the ceiling (dining tables, décor, etc.). It is really amazing to see and I cannot wait to see what they want to hang next!”
Michelle Nicol, CERP
Festival Specialist, Higgins Event Rentals
“1. UNIQUE VENUE EXPERIENCE
Choosing a unique venue allows you to push your creativity and talents to the extremes. You can think outside the box and truly create a one-of-a-kind event experience.
I believe the industry will continue to move forward with planning events virtually and cutting down on in-person site visits. The technology is already there to plan remotely.
Immersive experiences will become a focus and one of the biggest 2020 event trends. People crave human connection and this is exactly why your event needs to have immersive experiences. Immersive experiences can take many forms, from social media moments to escape rooms and puppy playpens. The more creative you can, get the better.
Photo Mosaic Walls, also known as a hashtag wall, will be a key trend this year with parties, weddings and conferences alike. They take images from your chosen hashtag and recreate a mosaic wall to display a chosen image or text.
Photo mosaic walls are also great for private parties, such as special birthdays or anniversaries, as well as weddings.
Getting the audience involved is key this year, with an increase in live opinion polls along with Virtual Reality gaming/experiences and photo mosaic walls (after all, you can’t create a photo mosaic without photos provided by the attendees).
Shimmer walls are a wall of beautiful large metallic discs, similar to a sequin. They are available in a multitude of colours. They can even include a company logo and provide a beautiful backdrop to any event entrance photo with a professional photographer.
A video flip is a new product to the market in 2019 and is an absolute must for 2020!
It is set to be the next big thing at any event that would previously have had a photo booth.
The video flip allows you to make a short, fun video and then turns it into a physical photo flipbook for your attendees to keep.
A video flip is great to keep your attendees entertained, while still offering a chance to increase brand awareness by having the front cover of the flipbook branded.
This is something that they are then likely to take home, show people, and keep.
Diversity and inclusion will stay top of mind when planning events in 2020. When planning events, there is not a cookie-cutter attendee; you will need to plan with diversity in mind. Diversity and inclusion go way beyond race and ethnicity. It spans age, genders, physical ability, religion, language, allergies, and more. Let’s push to do better by celebrating diversity and being inclusive.
If there was a crisis before, during or after the event, how do you plan to communicate with your attendees and stakeholders? If you handle a crisis the wrong way, you might not have a job or event again, so you need a plan. Everyone at events has a role to play when it comes to crisis communications.
As event profs, we have the responsibility to protect our attendees’ personal data. We’ve got first and last names of executives, titles, personal email addresses, phone numbers, personal cell phone numbers, travel itineraries, and hotel reservations. All of this information is a gold mine for hackers because all they need is a couple of legitimate pieces of information.”
Founder & CEO, EG Event Productions
“Memorable experiences are high on the list of new trends for the year. The festival and major event landscape has become increasingly competitive; attracting and sustaining sponsors is more important than ever before. Dwindling government grant funding has seen more events vying for less available funds. Building your event activations is a powerful way to create memories, generate buzz, and grow the profile of your event. Corporate sponsors are seeking innovative ways to bring their brand to life, connect with their audience and win new fans. Product sampling and interactive displays are two ways to accomplish this, while strengthening a brand and carving a lasting memory in the minds of the audience.
At the Sound of Music, we’re impressing upon our team the need to transition from static displays to immersive opportunities for the festival goer. New beverage products, touch screen technology, video games and other pop up style activations are emerging more among major consumer brands and a desire to reach the large audiences that festivals and events provide is an increasingly attractive option.
Activities that can appeal to not only the primary target segment, but broader demographics in terms of age, gender and other factors are ideal for large scale events who see families and friends among their highest traffic may benefit the most. Our blending of live music with other attractions at Sound of Music appeals to the family dynamic and tends to keep attendees longer, experiencing more and making more memories.
Sensory experiences will win fans and keep them coming back year after year.”
Director of Operations, Sound of Music Festival
We’re here to answer any questions you may have.