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The meetings industry's top trends for 2020

Event communications agency Custard Communications has put together a list of the event industry’s top trends, speaking to a selection of their clients across the UK. Get ahead of the curve for 2020 with this guest blog.


Artificial intelligence and sustainability high on the agenda

Paul Martins, director of sales at Cavendish Venues and board member of Westminster Venue Collection

“Technology never stops evolving and there are stronger steps emerging towards Artificial Intelligence (AI) from a customer service perspective. Some large chain hotels have already incorporated self-service early check-ins, even with room keys being sent to clients’ phones in advance. This kind of interactive development will no doubt filter through to meetings and events further – with registrations handled through apps being just a start.

“Sustainability is also back high on the agenda with venues committing to future strategies by signing up to the Meetings Industry Association’s #20PercentLess single-use plastic campaigns for instance. This is just as well, so we humans can live as long as possible before the AI robots take over!

“A study in 12 developed countries by one of our clients, Accenture, revealed that AI could double economic growth rates by 2035 and will increase productivity by 40%. If Brexit has consequences that further exacerbates staff and skills shortages, investment in AI technology could well offer commonplace efficient solutions for some industry services.”


Mindful meetings

Dan Rose-Bristow, co-owner of The Torridon

“The wellness movement will finally trickle into the corporate market as employers take more responsibility than ever in looking after their teams and their wellbeing. Mindful retreats effortlessly blended with carved-out time for blue-sky thinking will become a sought-after choice as organisations seek to encourage taking care of oneself to consequently have a healthier company.

“In response to this cultural change, at The Torridon we have created our ‘Mindful Meetings’ package. From including ultra-fresh local produce on menus to taking the extra step with breakout activities including hiking and sea kayaking, the shift towards a more mindful meeting approach will help reinforce the ‘feel better, think better’ mentality, and curated speaker programmes centering on empowerment and happiness will both motivate and nurture delegates’ minds and bodies.”


Sustainability still a focus as food waste is put on the table

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association

“Sustainability will continue to be a key focus for the business meetings and events industry in 2020 as organisations explore further ways to lessen their impact on the environment. While 2019 saw the industry make headway in tackling single-use plastics consumption with many signing up to our #20PercentLess campaign, for example, the focus will be broadened in 2020 to consider other areas, such as food waste.

“According to WRAP, over one million tonnes of food is wasted in the hospitality and food service sector each year, so there is a pressing need to push forward with initiatives that can drastically reduce this amount. With many organisations keen to improve their CSR records, we foresee the introduction of innovative processes to reduce the amount of food wasted at conferences, meetings and events alongside other initiatives to lessen their carbon footprint. Our 30th anniversary year will see the mia continuing to support the sector implement sustainable initiatives while sharing guidance and best practice as the year progresses.”


Events industry to lead on CSR

Diane Waldron, sales & marketing director, QEII Centre

“After successfully championing sustainability and environmental initiatives, including campaigns like the mia’s #20PercentLess getting venues and events on the right track to become greener, the events industry is now ready to lead on the broader socio-economic issues of CSR.

“Although CSR is on everyone’s radar, I believe there is still a huge amount of education needed to ensure it’s not just done as part of a tick-box exercise but has real meaning and impact. It’s going to become not just about your CSR policy, but about your true corporate social reputation and how you really live your values every day.

“The events industry is perfectly placed to lead on this, with the unique position of being connected to every other industry, and regularly bringing industry leaders from other sectors together. We have the platform to educate and influence and in 2020, I think we are going to see a lot more of that.”


Increased investment in training and development

Kirsten Kruls, head of sales & events at Lincoln’s Inn

“Training and development should be considered integral to work culture, because it is proven to have benefits for both employees and the business.

“I believe that the need for driven young talent in our industry and their demand for personal growth will see more venues focus on training and developing both their new recruits and their current members of staff.

“Research has shown that development is the key to staff happiness and is often favoured over career progression. Unsurprisingly, it also helps with staff retention. Something we should all focus on as staff shortages across the industry become greater. Whether it is allocating budget to external training, inviting experts into your venue for a masterclass or scheduling time to mentor a member of your team, more time and money will be invested in training in 2020.”