Then and Now

Then and Now

Ever read an event industry trends predictions piece and felt a sense of déjà vu? Every January, event industry media, blogs and social channels are awash with crystal ball gazing articles forecasting what lies ahead for our sector over the next 12 months, and 2018 hasn’t been any different.

Yet, when reading many of these pieces, we can’t help but feel (and we’re sure we’re not alone in this) like we’ve heard much of it before. Budgets will be flat, lead times shorter, this will be the year that VR/AR/AI/drones take off at events, 2018 is going to be all about apps/data/security/experiences/authenticity/sustainability/personalisation etc. If we had a £1 for every time we read these predictions or similar, we’d be pretty rich by now, and its only February!

It’s not that we don’t think these predictions are true, it’s just that when you look back on the predictions for 2017, this year’s forecasts are largely variations on the same themes. So (to avoid you all reaching for the gin and well and truly breaking those dry January resolutions), we’ve tried to put forward a different view on some of the predicted 2018 trends we’ve read, and added a couple of our own..

Clients won’t choose their venues based on plastic usage

We’ve all seen the alarming footage from Blue Planet II of the plastic polluting our oceans and the impact it’s having on wildlife. And while there does seem to be a real momentum behind the plastic backlash, more so than ever before, it’s a little naïve to think that clients will suddenly start making decisions about the venues they’re booking based on plastic straw usage. That’s not to say we shouldn’t support and champion sustainability in events, but the reality is that that with tight budgets, sustainability continues to be quite far down the list of priorities for clients, and that’s not going to change overnight. But more optimistically – as an increasing number of restaurants, bars and venues get behind the plastic backlash and start introducing recyclable alternatives – it’ll become easier for clients to make sustainable choices.

Technology isn’t the answer to all our problems

There’s no denying event tech has made huge strides in the past few years, in the most part, to positive effect. And yes, while we agree that drones, AR, VR, robots, and other technologies we don’t yet know about, will become ever-more present at events in 2018, they can never replace genuine creativity. Also, we can’t help but feel like some of these new event-specific technologies, which promise so much and in theory sound amazing, are failing to take off because they are providing solutions to problems we never really knew we had in the first place. Technology used wisely can enhance event delivery and audience engagement, but we shouldn’t automatically look for technology solutions where they are not needed, or at the very least, we should question whether it is a case of real need or is it more about jumping on the tech bandwagon?  The next time a sales person gets all passionate about using an App on the event… ask them to explain what they mean, might make for interesting listening, do they even understand what they are asking for?

‘Experiential’ activities won’t make up for poor venue spaces and service

We’ve read a lot of predictions from hotels and venues about how clients are demanding a lot more than just space from them, and how they are responding by adding packaged ‘experiential’ activities such as sausage making (yes really!), go-karting and cocktail mixing. These are all great additions, but they will not make a venue with dull event space any more attractive. As the Grass Roots Meetings Industry Report 2018 points out, it’s a rare thing to see meeting spaces in hotels or venues that genuinely excite, and hotels could do well to focus on putting more imagination and thought into their meeting spaces, before they get too carried away with optional extras. Not to mention the fact that, rather than packaged solutions, venues would be better off creating more bespoke one-off experiences that help end-clients meet specific objectives – that would be worth shouting about!

Small agencies will continue to thrive as consolidation continues among the bigger agencies

We’re a small agency, so we would say this right? Well yes of course it’s a trend that goes in our favour, but as the big agencies continue to snap each other up in the race to become global powerhouses, we really do believe there is a genuine will on the part of some really large corporations to work with small boutique agencies – much more so than in the past. Contrary to the myth that bigger agencies are better because they have purchasing power, and everything under one roof – small agencies can offer a personal and dedicated service based on trust and genuine relationships. And the fact so many of us are thriving is testament to this. Long may it continue; we think that small and nimble, with the ability to adapt to ever-changing client needs is absolutely the way forward!

So, there’s a just few of our thoughts for 2018. Whatever happens over the next 12 months – we wish you all a successful and prosperous year.