The Top 5 Trends Event Planners Need to Pay Attention To

Planners need to be aware of and prepared for these issues affecting events the most today.

I’m a devotee of trends reports. They are prime clickbait for me. I collect whatever articles I can find and with 2020 being such a milestone year, there was a plethora to choose from. From megatrends to MIT to Mary Meeker, here are the themes that I think will impact events the most in the next few years.

The WeWork-ification of Events

Coworking spaces have upped the game for office esthetics. Natural light, comfortable and practical seating, access to power outlets, free snacks, these are all becoming have-to-haves in our day-to-day lives. If you are lucky enough to work in an office that offers these, then it’s a noticeable deficit when it isn’t present. If you are reading this from a standard grey cube, then an event that offers this really ups your experience. The standard banquet set is going to make events feel dated and tired, and planners will need to find ways to up the amenities to deliver the expected experience.

The New GDPR

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that went into effect on January 1 is only the beginning. 14 states have pending or active legislation about privacy and there are nuances in each, which could impact how you market on a state-by-state basis. Privacy management will be a new role needed on the events team and/or marketing team. We are entering an age of new marketing where the value for opting-in for information is going to be super high. The incoming generations have higher expectations for the currency of data, and what they receive for sharing their information.

A Focus on Gender Nonconformity

This is something that planners need to take very seriously, and it’s not something that many people know a lot about. The expectation is that our events are safe and inclusive spaces, and small steps mean a lot. We can ensure that registration and survey forms have the appropriate options to select (Identify as Male, Identify as Female, Genderqueer/Gender Non-Confirming, Something Else, Decline to Answer). We can provide the option to list preferred pronouns on name tags. And we can make sure that we provide the access needed for everyone to use the bathroom they are most comfortable in.


We’ve been talking about Green Meetings for years, but there is a new and heightened awareness of this issue. Sustainability will become a measure of success that equals importance with revenue and attendance. Planners will be expected to understand their diversion rates and carbon footprints, and meetings will have to meet a certain threshold in order for attendees to be approved to participate. Food will need to be not just healthy but fair trade, free of plastic, and presented in sustainable packaging. All conference consumables will be evaluated for sustainability, from the name badges, to the swag, to the program guides and signs.

Health and Wellness

Health and wellness will become a priority and expectation for events, just as much as tables and chairs are. It will go beyond the token 6am yoga session or the 5k run. Attendees will expect downtime, proper hours for sleeping (and naps), standing desks, and nutrition that meets their needs. We are entering the age of personal menus at events, crafted for our individual health needs. Venues and planners will struggle to deliver the individual needs in a mass way, as the buffet will no longer serve the purpose of feeding a large group of people at the same time Along with this, open bars will begin to be seen as irresponsible and attendees will expect limits on serving and also a variety of interesting non-alcohol options.

Interested in more? Subscribe to“Otter Talk,” a bi-monthly newsletter that highlights trends, ideas, and actionable takeaways for your association events, written by an experienced member of the planning community who has lived the “planning life.”

Beth Surmont, the Director of Experience Design for 360 Live Media, has more than 20 years of professional planning experience. A Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) since 2008 and Certified Association Executive (CAE) since 2016, Beth has worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors and has a wide range of knowledge, with experience in almost every aspect of meeting planning, from registration, to logistics, to program management and production.

(Brodie Vissers/Burst)