10 Important Findings from the 2020 Future Event Trends Report

October 1, 2019

Tom Pick

Tom Pick is a digital marketing consultant who works with event management platform developer G2Planet to share the company's insights and knowledge with corporate event marketing professionals.

Though live events are among the oldest forms of marketing, the industry continues to evolve and change at a dizzying pace.

Generational differences are driving changing expectations. Technology vendors are striving to stay ahead of the curve. Event planners are challenged to produce consistent results while pushing the envelope with unique venues and new experiences.

The new 2020 Future Trends in Meetings & Events Report from CWT Meetings & Events quantifies and adds context to many of these developments.

CWT's eighth annual meetings and events trends report runs to 81 pages (!) and covers everything from global and local event trends to technology, experiential events, attendees, creativity, automation, and incentives. Here are 10 key findings from the report, with commentary.

1. The meetings & events industry is growing 8% annually.

The growth isn't surprising, given that live events are rated as the most effective tactic by B2B marketing professionals. Still, the 8% figure is impressive given the long expansion in the industry, which has been increasing in size and scope since bottoming out during the financial crisis of 2008-9.

2. On average, 25-30% of overall marketing budgets are being spent on live events.

Again, this isn't surprising, given that events are often the single biggest item in marketing budgets. But to fully capitalize on the investment made in live events, corporate marketers need to:

  • Start with strategic objectives, then make sure the venue, content, activities, and other elements of the event support those goals.
  • Measure everything possible.
  • Use the data collected to evaluate the value of each event, improve the attendee experience, and to supplement other customer and prospect data to optimize other sales and marketing initiatives.

3. The number of mobile apps created has more than doubled since 2017.

Glance around at virtually any large public gathering and you'll see the same situation: lots of people staring down at their devices. So it's not unreasonable to conclude that the most valuable real estate at a live event isn't the square footage in your booth, but the square inches of your prospects' phone screens.

Not only is the number of apps exploding, but technological developments from augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) to faster WiFi and emerging 5G networks are helping to dramatically expand the capabilities of those apps as well.

4. Mobile apps are now used at more than 80% of all events, and three-quarters of attendees will download the apps, on average.

Apps are no longer just for planning an itinerary; they now help accelerate the check-in process; guide attendees around the show floor or event space; answer simple questions, often using AI chatbots; and collect valuable data for show producers and corporate hosts.

Event apps are, consequently, moving from tactical to strategic technologies. Their design needs to be approached not just from the standpoints of usability and functionality, but also how those apps can be used to support event objectives, enhance the attendee experience, and collect data for marketing use beyond the immediate event.

5. Apps are quickly becoming a requirement.

Most events already incorporate mobile apps and mobile registration forms, but to the extent these are optional today, they won't be for long as Millennials and Gen Zers make up an increasing share of the workforce and event attendees. 75% of those in Generation Z do their travel booking on a mobile device.

Event organizers on the leading edge are exploring and expanding the range of what's possible with event app technology. Laggards, meanwhile, are realizing they need to get into the app game.

6. Event organizers are increasingly focused on safety and security.

48% of itineraries are revised due to security threats, and 39% of companies have implemented travel safety and security training.

Investments in event security create somewhat of a dilemma for event organizers, as safety is a basic expectation and the best security is largely invisible (it protects guests without impacting their experience).

But the increasing range of threats makes investments all the more imperative, even as increased demand for non-traditional venues and "in the field" experiences makes security more challenging.

7. Events are getting larger.

Per the report, average event size is increasing both organically and because many companies in the tech sector have moved to consolidate their smaller meetings into larger events.

This increases the importance of enterprise event management platforms designed for planning and executing very large (10,000 or more attendees), multi-day events relative to "off the shelf" software best suited to smaller, simpler gatherings.

8. The top event destination cities are shifting.

Regarding the top event destinations in the US:

  • It's not surprising that New York and San Francisco are among the top destinations: in fact, they are #1 and #2, respectively.
  • It's also not a shock that Orlando and Las Vegas are among top destinations, though it is a bit surprising that they are only #8 and #10, respectively.
  • Rounding out the top five cities are Chicago, Atlanta and Toronto.
  • Among the "destinations on the rise" in North America are Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Portland and Austin.

9. People no longer simply attend events, they expect to be active participants.

Lectures and passive observation are out; discussion and active engagement are in. And while surveys are still widely used today to measure attendee satisfaction and engagement, some events are now using cameras and facial recognition software to measure sentiment (is everybody having fun?) in real time.

Though interactive sessions put a bit more demand on presenters, they help attendees retain more of what they learn and raise the profile of the event by encouraging social media sharing of event experiences.

10. Content needs to extend beyond the event.

Per the CWT report, one emerging microtrend is "content that travels outside the conference room." Previous posts here have detailed how event marketing should be viewed as a unique channel for content marketing, with strategies developed for capitalizing on content before, during, and after the event.

Check out all 20 microtrends in this animated infographic.

There's much more as well. Check out the latest 2020 Future Trends in Meetings & Events Report from CWT Meetings & Events for additional findings about regional trends, event demographics, developments in event technology, and other findings.


Don't miss any event-related news: sign up for our weekly e-Newsletter HERE and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram!

Add new comment

Partner Voices

In Las Vegas, Caesars Entertainment continues to innovate with more celebrity chef options, must-see entertainment and continued refresh of its impressive selection of modern, luxurious rooms. Additionally, the premier brand just received national attention with the NFL Draft took place at the front steps of their largest conference space, CAESARS FORUM.