We have reached that time of the year where it’s too awkward to say “happy new year” to people you haven’t seen in months, but where we’re not so far into it that our calendars are full for weeks on end. It won’t be long, though, until every weekend is jam-packed with social events and Mondays to Fridays are flooded with meetings, deadlines and work-related events.

Love it or hate it, no matter what industry you work in, there is bound to be at least one major conference, day of recognition or workshop that you have to attend as part of your job. So, what trends can you expect to see in 2020 that will make this year’s events different from every other year?

1. Diversity

Yep. In the year of 2-0-1-9, some event organisers still weren’t quite getting the point that representation not only matters to the audience but also that a lack of diversity amongst speakers can actually reflect poorly on the organisation holding the event and those who are sponsoring it. With more and more pressure mounting on businesses to think harder about who they invite to speak at their events, we might finally see the pendulum swing in the right direction and get to hear from some talent who isn’t white, straight and male.

Trend: For organisers who don’t seek out diverse and interesting panellists and speakers, expect to be called out for it.

2. Community outreach

Large corporates are fiercely competing with one another to prove that they are contributing as much, if not more, to the community than they get out of it. Corporate Social Responsibility is present in many forms, including charitable contributions, in-kind support, volunteering programs and the provision of pro bono services, and it works to benefit many marginalised groups in society as well as charities and social enterprises.

One emerging trend that has come about off the back of community outreach programs is including a charity partner/s in the running of events. The charity of choice may be closely aligned to the theme of the event or perhaps they are already a beneficiary of the corporate organising it. How does the charity, community group or Not-For-Profit benefit? They may be provided with the opportunity to present at the event (thereby increasing their reach), a representative may be invited to be part of a panel discussion alongside other corporates, they may facilitate a workshop or they could benefit financially from fundraising initiatives that take place during the event. There may also be the opportunity for their board, management or staff to attend the event for free.

Trend: Expect to see representatives from the third sector get a seat at the table to voice how big business can benefit from partnering with community organisations.

3. Mindfulness

It is easy to become jaded when you are attending multiple events per week. Even if they have a fun element to them, sometimes the idea of having to put on a blazer at 7 am to chat to your peers over a tiny jar of muesli and yoghurt at a breakfast event can be absolutely exhausting. This year, it’s all about balance (and we’re not just talking about the kind you do on your go-to business stilettos).

At one-to-two-day-long events where mindfulness is practised, breaks will be less hurried and networking sessions will switch from being about eating and drinking to becoming about meeting and thinking.

Trend: Watch how two-day conferences become more enjoyable, mellow environments with fewer people using their phones during sessions.

4. Eco-friendly events

Similarly to the damage that too much work is causing to people’s health, the amount of waste that is generated with the hosting of events has become a major concern for attendees and organisers alike. Single-use coffee cups, lanyards and branded USBs full of info that will never be looked at again? Waste, waste and more waste. Moving forward it’s all about reducing the environmental impact event hosting can have and this means thinking about more sustainable options like booking venues that are committed to eco-practices (including those that are Green Star certified), doing away with gift bags full of useless plastic items, and scheduling events with a similar attendee list in close proximity to one another so those who travel aren’t adding to their carbon footprint.

Trend: Environmental sustainability will be added to the agenda of many event programmes this year. Every industry has a part to play and more businesses will be keen to discuss how they can be on the right side of history.

5. Online conferences

One simple but meaningful way businesses are becoming more sustainable is by cutting down on the amount of travel they allow their employees to do. In place of travel, companies are introducing software such as Zoom, which allows participants to easily organise a video conference without the need to book a meeting room and separate equipment. In essence, Zoom and its counterparts have all but done away with the need to travel for meetings (despite the fact that it is nice to chat face-to-face) and the success of programs like this means that businesses have scaled up to incorporate the technology into their conferences and seminars.

It is now easier than ever to join a conference or watch it being live-streamed without having to fly interstate, be away from the office for days and be unable to respond to phone calls and emails as needed.

Trend: Don’t expect whole events to go online. While more will be live-streamed, nothing beats having a large, engaged audience listening to a dynamic speaker in person. Expect to see more input from online audiences and wider reach in 2020.

As sustainability, community, diversity and mindfulness continue to dominate HR and business strategies, it is no wonder that they are infiltrating the events and marketing world, too.

Hopefully, with a little more thought and a lot less ‘stuff’, what is seen as event trends for 2020 can become the norm over the next few years.

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