What will the Events Industry look like in 2018?... And what do experts hope it will look like?

We asked leading events experts for their predictions and hopes for where the events industry is going as we head into 2018. Wellbeing, the impact of new technology and the GDPR legislation were all major talking points at EventLAB 2017 and it's clear they'll be a bigger part of the conversation in the new year. With so much in motion in the events industry, let's see what the experts had to say.

How will the events industry of 2018 be different to that of 2017?

From the experts’ responses, two clear themes emerged. Big shifts in the role of Tech in the events industry thanks to advances in AI and its integration into events and booking systems as well as the use of VR and NFC tech to enhance guest experiences. Secondly, the GDPR will need to be examined carefully by companies that handle a lot of customer data to ensure they’re compliant in the way they handle it.

“Innovation with new apps and A.R./A.I. getting good traction. Sobering factors for the industry to face up to will be GDPR rules, sourcing of labour as Brexit looms nearer (especially in hospitality), and some belt-tightening on budgets as well as a wait and see attitude to investment due to political instability.” - Paul Colston, Managing Editor, Conference News

“New immersive technologies designed to enhance brand experience and deliver the company narrative. There has also been a seismic shift from a cascading strategy to a more participative, collaborative approach, where delegates at live events hack strategy in real time. This trend will continue at a pace but become an ever more personalized experience through the application of monitoring technologies, AI, and behavioural science. The integration of these disciplines will customize content delivery and energize collaboration.” - Andrew Reid, Director, Shelton Fleming

“Millennial mindsets are geared towards personalisation in meaning, technology, storytelling and community which are also the pillars of events. AR will come heavily into 2018” - Jason Allan Scott, Speaker & Author

“I'm expecting 2018 to be the year that we start to see a stronger merging of physical and digital spaces. We expect a wave of NFC-enabled apps to appear next year, in all sectors. Users will become increasingly reliant on their phones as personal assistants and will expect environments to provide opportunities for them to connect.” - Clemi Hardie, MD, Noodle Live

Clemie Hardie, Noodle Live

“The surge of digital technologies in the virtual world will begin to become just as meaningful as the ‘real world’ and brands should not take this for granted. VR within smart-phones is giving consumers more personalization to engage with a brand and will be a game changer for years to come. Watch this space.” - Hamish Jenkinson, Executive Creative Director, The Department

"We will see an increase in the use of technology again within the industry – from booking events to entertainment, to data capture and even food design. I believe clients will become even more experimental within their events and looking to push their events and suppliers to the next level to show their guests something unique and new. Event professionals, be prepared for a challenge!" - Chloe Goreham, Head of Sales & Business Development, Bovingdons

"I think 2017 had some excellent events, especially those coming from smaller creative agencies. Innovative popups are always a winner, and VR has been a massive trend. In 2018 I would like to see more large-scale immersive dining experiences, such as the awesome 'Juniper Manor'. Having said that I am yet to go to one of my favourite events of the year, Winter Wonderland, which always amazes.” - Henry Hutton, Director, Garnish Communications

“Greater focus on best practice in business; the introduction of GDPR could act as an opportunity for the events industry to enhance its capabilities and overall business processes. The very act of adapting the way we do things in one area can create the space to change”* - Felicity Cator, Producer, EventLAB

“Influencer marketing will be a major trend in 2018 and will change the way how planners source their venues and destination. Furthermore, the rise of micro-influencers in the events industry will offer venues and destination new channels to reach their target audience.” - Irina Trofimovskaya, The MICE Blog

"In 2018 the global exhibitions industry will continue to face the two very different challenges of geopolitical uncertainty (Trump, Brexit, Saudi Arabia/Qatar, Russia, North Korea etc.,) and the ongoing process of digitisation that all companies and industries are having to face. Whatever political challenges or regulations are put in place however one thing is certain: exhibitions, predicted to grow by up to 4% this year globally, consistently outperform global GDP growth." - Nick Dugdale-Moore, Business Development Director, UFI

General Data Protection Regulation

"Our clients are more interested, not only in the glamorous and service delivery element of the night but also the story of the food being prepared and the team being serving. Provenance of the product is essential and authenticity of the dish is now on the agenda. As is making sure that with corporate clients that their CSER goals are met with regard to suppliers, wastage, and a fair salary for the team" - Wendy Bartlett MBE, Executive Chairman, Bartlett Mitchell

“Our industry has to look at itself as a 'creative industry' in 2018. For too long, we have regarded ourselves as an addition to the advertising, marketing, and tourism industries, but the professionalism, standards of creativity and what we achieve makes us stand out. We need to shout about that and establish our own strong identity.” - James Morgan, Founder, Event Tech Lab

I'm not sure it will be different enough to notice or measure. We will continue to do great work and find better and more effective ways to meet and exceed client expectations. - Kevin Jackson, Editor-in-Chief, Live Magazine

"GDPR. The way delegate data is handled is going to be crucial in 2018. What's more, the ominous threat to those that aren't compliant suggests that the consequences of getting it wrong could be devastating." - Calum Di Lieto, Editor, C&IT Magazine

Calum Di Lieto, C&IT Magazine

Consolidation of businesses, *acquisitions, mergers, and for us, more b2b and b2c communication; hopefully more business.Consolidation of the industry’s 'product', we’re seeing more and more events people follow the trend on more intelligent, experiential meetings and events. Consolidation of event tech; both industries have taken a long hard look at themselves and are better equipped to understand, and therefore trust, each other. Phew, it took a while but we're getting there.“ - Alistair Turner, Managing Director, EIGHT PR & Marketing

" More fun in our events. We have gone through a phase of austerity in our events where budgets were tight and clients couldn't be seen to spending money frivolously. That hasn't necessarily changed but what we are seeing is that we can be even more creative with budgets and experiences to make them more snippets of light-hearted entertainment whilst really focusing on the deeper messages. This is storytelling at another level." - Laura Capell-Abra, Career and Business Coach, No More Ifs And Buts

"As we continue to face the uncertainties and challenges caused by leaving the European Union, organisations in the sector will come under increasing pressure to retain and look after their talented staff.*

"From our own research examining the mental wellbeing in the sector, we are extremely aware that the industry both needs and requires more compassionate workplaces to make it a more desirable and rewarding place to work. As part of our continued efforts to attract and retain talent, a key part of the mia’s work for 2018 will be supporting the sector with a number of dedicated workshops to create environments to foster improved wellbeing.” - Jane Longhurst, Chief Executive, MIA

Jane Longhurst, MIA

Expansion of the incentive market. The kind of incentives are predominantly extensions to existing business; conferences followed by team building; training followed by incentive activity. It shows a holistic approach to meeting planning and, for us, greater usage of the venue.” - Nils Braude, Catering & Conference Events Director, Twickenham Experience Ltd

"We are seeing increasing demand for the edgier venues that provide something a bit different. Clients used to play it safe when booking events but now and most certainly going into 2018 the quirkier venues are no longer the ‘wild card’ and are taking precedence over typically corporate spaces. People are looking for something that their guests aren’t expecting." - Emma Howe, Sales & Events Director, Street Feast

" Stability seems to have become the new normal. For 2018, I believe this trend will continue. The businesses with stamina, agility, and resources will continue to work exceptionally hard, but will also be rewarded."

"We’ll start to see the ‘individualist’ come into focus. On a local level, we’re seeing businesses looking to show close ties to their local communities and not just their national ones."

"Businesses are looking to make their events work harder by combining incentive with conference or training and creating more of an experience for delegates and employees. *" - Jo Austin, Sales Director, Lime Venue Portfolio

"More international clients. Due to the drop in the pound, we have seen an increase in overseas clients."

"Clients will continue to look for venues that innovate and differentiate; tech, food and theme. However, financial pressures and uncertainty may hold back budgets." - Olivia Firth, Sales Manager, 8 Northumberland Avenue

"Not only will we see more online bookings of meeting rooms in 2018 as a record number of venues enable customers to book online, but we will start seeing destinations curate all aspects of an event for planners to organize entire conferences online." - Caleb Parker

"Economic uncertainty has and will continue to mean value for money is a greater driver than before. This will mean those venues with a previous advantage i.e. UVL’s being able to command greater prices, will need to be more competitive. Those venues occupying this ‘space’ will face a greater challenge. Shortening lead-times to confirmation has been a key trend of this year, it appears as though the larger event caterers or those with multiple brands, are likely to better placed to take advantage with economies of scale/resources being able to provide reassurances. Exclusivity may also something viewed as a more commercially safe route for venues." - Sean Ritson, Operations Director, CH&Co Group

“Expect to see much more of the multi-faceted event organiser in 2018 as the needs of audiences become more complex.”

“An increased focus on wellbeing as more of us start to challenge the status quo for the benefit of our mental and physical health." - Helen Moon, Co-Founder, EventWell

In what ways would you like the events industry of 2018 to be different to that of 2017?

Looking ahead there is a lot to be hopeful for even while concerns like event security must be addressed. As more people become of aware and invested in the state of mental wellbeing in the Events Industry we can hope to see proper solutions implemented.

"Continued championing of mental health and wellbeing in 2018. I hope that we see businesses across the industry creating cultures that are receptive to change and we see organisations developing awareness of the stress their teams are under." - Samme Allen, MD, Sequoia Partnership

" I think security issue will dominate in 2018 and I hope and pray that are venues are sufficiently alert and attuned to the new realities of the terror threat to keep all visitors safe. I think that the profession of meetings professional will be more fully recognised, with many more opportunities for apprentices to make their mark, as well as graduates coming through from event management courses. I think co-creating and co-responsibility will become more practised with 360 engagement and risk sharing permeating the whole business process for event stakeholders." - Paul Colston, Managing Editor, Conference News

" I want to see better health and wellbeing for everyone within our industry. It’s time to open up the channels of communication, to finally start to come together and start taking action on the issues that we face as the industry leaders that we are." - Helen Moon, Co-Founder, EventWell

Left to right: Colin Bullen, Laura Capell-Abra, Samme Allen, Mark Maher, Alistair Turner discuss How Can We Implement Better Wellbeing for Events Professionals? at EventLAB 2017

"I’d like to see event management teams given a more pervasive view of company strategy and more genuinely measurable objectives.

There’s often talk of doing more with less. That commercial objective, in the age of digital transformation, is eminently achievable. However, it requires a more longitudinal and holistic approach to live engagement; ie less ad hoc projects and more long-term integrated event programs. This would also enhance, dramatically, the quality of the customer or delegate experience, when interacting with a brand or company through today’s diverse live and social channels." - Andrew Reid, Director, Shelton Fleming

"Although 98% young exhibitors agree that exhibitions offer a unique marketing value that other media channels cannot offer, the challenge for exhibition organisers in 2018 will be to reinvent themselves and their shows to offer the wow factor for a new generation of visitors with different expectations and needs." - Nick Dugdale-Moore, Business Development Director, UFI

"The next generation of customers will very much be looking for added value and making sure there is authenticity in the story. "_ - Wendy Bartlett MBE, Executive Chairman, Bartlett Mitchell

"I'd like us to get paid for our amazing creativity instead of giving it away in order to be awarded the delivery. The production of which is becoming commoditised.

I'd like us to get to grips with technology and truly integrate it into the event journey, instead of it be a slight detour.

I'd also like to find an industry-wide system of measurement that demonstrates once and for all the true power of building experiences. " - Kevin Jackson, Editor-in-Chief, Live Magazine

“There is still a perception that internal events for companies are a taboo topic to talk about publicly. It would wonderful to see them shouting about events they organise more. as this can only help the industry as a whole, enforcing the multitude of positives effects events can bring to a business.” - Jackson Clark, MD, Patch

Paul Colston, Conference News

" Greater political stability with regards to Brexit. This would then allow for the events industry to really understand the impact it will have and react accordingly - currently, there is too much uncertainty" - Calum Di Lieto, Editor, C&IT Magazine

"2017 saw Event Co-ordinator voted 5th most stressful job... again. 2018 has to be different. I want the industry to put its team at the centre. We are a people based industry and our people are some of the most stressed out there, we need this to change. I want employers to take the wellbeing of their team seriously, not just look at it as a fad. I want employers to sign up to the Stress Matters pledge and to use the resources on Eventwell to be better informed. I want 2018 to be the year that our teams don't just deliver great work and generate great profits but have the greatest job and life satisfaction." - Laura Capell-Abra, Career and Business Coach, No More Ifs And Buts

"Making events more measurable on their success or the lack of it, and for the market to settle down and regain confidence." - Olivia Firth, Sales Manager, 8 Northumberland Avenue

Get ahead of the curve and join in on the industry conversation at EventLAB 2018

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