Meetings and Events Trends for 2019

By Beth Buehler

When a press release from ITBM World, part of Reed Travel Exhibitions, landed in my email inbox recently, the 2019 trend outlook commentary from four industry pros caught my attention and made me wonder what Coloradoans have to say on the topic. I reached out to three members of the Destination Colorado board of directors representing two destinations and a destination management company. In case you want to attend ITBM World 2018, it’s scheduled for Nov. 27-29 in Barcelona, Spain.

The Colorado Viewpoint

First, I’ll share a couple observations as the editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines. There continue to be a lot of lodging properties being built and renovated in the U.S. Mountain West and Colorado, with the Denver metropolitan area definitely being among the most active markets. Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, Colorado’s largest combined resort and convention center, is set to open in Aurora on Dec. 18, 2018. Kimpton Hotel Born also is a new player in the market with an ideal location next to Denver Union Station. A trend within this trend is that these properties have local art and local décor angles versus being a carbon copy of a hotel or resort in another city.

Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Aurora is set to open Dec. 18, 2018. Courtesy Gaylord Rockies.

If you haven’t noticed the change in food and beverage approaches at meetings and events, you either haven’t been to a gathering lately (especially one in Colorado) or you have been asleep or constantly on your smart phone while attending. Chefs have come out of the kitchen to grow their own gardens and interact with groups via food stations, team-building activities, chef’s tables and more. Make sure to incorporate food products produced in the area and feature local beer, wine and spirits when possible.

Kimpton Hotel Born has a light-filled bar and restaurant and a selection of Colorado spirits. Courtesy Kimpton Hotel Born.

Now, onto the real experts!  

Deana Mitchell, CMP DMCP CCSE, Owner-Operator, Realize Colorado, a Global DMC Partner

Clients are customizing meeting and event themes around the brand and mission of the company, and there are more and more interactive elements with food and beverage, as well as entertainment and décor. Also, planners are focusing on the experience of the attendee from start to finish.

Telluride’s Via Ferrata is an example of a unique Colorado experience for attendees. Courtesy Realize Colorado.

More clients are giving us budgets up front, so we can really customize proposals the first time, which saves everyone time! More third parties are looking to destination management companies for help with the planning side of an event or conference.

Kathy Reak,Senior Director of Convention Sales, Visit Colorado Springs Convention & Visitor Bureau

We are finding that reaching out to our clients with pretty pictures and videos provides us with a better response and more interest in our destination. Of course, Colorado Springs has some iconic locations and beautiful pictures to share, and it certainly does peak people’s interest and leads on to better conversations!

Pictures don’t get much prettier than this one of Dragonfly stand up paddle board Glowga at dusk. Courtesy Visit Colorado Springs CVB.

The other trend we are seeing is that planners are looking for an experience. We are painting the picture of what can be done. For example, you can hold a meeting at the Olympic Training Center and include team-building with floor volleyball or wheelchair basketball. Or maybe it is conducting a breakout on the bus while driving to the top of Pikes Peak. People learn better in a different atmosphere than that of a typical meeting room, and we are finding that creativity is huge in booking events. People are looking for a wow factor.

Justin Clark, Director of Sales, Visit Aurora

One trend I heard from a number of planners at IMEX 2018 in Las Vegas is the desire to find lesser-known destinations to host meetings and create new experiences for attendees. They have taken their groups to well-known destinations for a number of years but are really interested in looking at other destinations. As such, there is an opportunity for lesser-known and newer destinations, but planners and attendees still want the convenience and quality they have come to expect. How do these newer meeting destinations position themselves as unique and compelling options while also providing a comparable level of convenience and quality to those oftentimes larger and well-known destinations?

Similarly, I heard from a number of planners about the desire to explore nontraditional meeting and event options. They either had experienced or want to explore ways to do something different and unexpected for their attendees. For example, utilizing nontraditional meetings spaces outside of traditional venues or combining an experiential activity that lends itself to the goals and/or desired outcomes of the meeting and event are of particular interest.

Stanley Marketplace in Aurora converted the former Stanley Aviation into an ultra-unique venue and location for more than 50 shops, restaurants, bars and service businesses. Courtesy Visit Aurora.

Casting the Trend Net Wider

The following experts are presenters at ITBM 2018.

Andy Johnston, Business Development Director, Corporate & Events, PRG UK Ltd

Using live video mapping and drone and camera technology that feed directly into media servers for immersive presentations are set to become the next big things in event tech. These presentations can completely surround audiences or 270-degree presentations can also be used to achieve an impressive immersive effect.

This tech turns passive spectators into participants in a speaker’s presentation. No longer are they simply watching the presentation, instead they become part of it. So, it’s easy to see how the message being delivered becomes so much more powerful when immersive technology is in use. 

Ali Turner, Managing Director, EIGHT PR & Marketing

The theme for the IBTM World Trends Report 2018 is “everything changes, everything stays the same,” and I believe it is one that will continue into 2019. One of the most interesting areas of global business—and its interaction with the events industry—is the combination of major industries. A prime example of this is FinTech, the combination of financial services and technology. But 2019 could see the establishment of, for example, AutoTech, the move to digitized driving and transport, or PharmaTech, where the “Internet of Things” meets self-diagnosis and treatment.

As far as meetings and events are concerned, this is all good news. New industries create new events, be they association, convention or congress. New products lead to new product launches. And we continue to see our massive impact on the global Knowledge Economy that will support this convergence. In short, if business is good and dynamic, we’ll do well.

Danny Stevens, CEO, fielddrive

In 2019 the main change will be the way in which event organizers manage event check-in using facial recognition. Already this year we have noticed that event organizers are interested in this technology and eager to try it out at many events. Facial recognition for events is the fastest check-in method. It’s secure and it wows attendees from the very beginning of the event. It minimizes attendee actions in a queue (for example looking for printouts or e-receipts on a phone) and is the best way to speed up admission of attendees. No confirmation emails, tickets or barcode are needed. Attendees just smile at a camera. Facial recognition technology has great development potential, and fielddrive is now integrating facial recognition with HoloLens for further applications in security and access control.

Corbin Ball, Founder, Corbin Ball Associates

I think that the top event technology trend for 2019 will be significant advances in data integration and analytics from the event technology providers. Major player such as Cvent and Aventri are making substantial advances in integrating their wide range of products, while smaller, cloud-based companies are putting effort into interoperability and analytics with other event tech companies and with CRM systems such as Salesforce. The result will be that the attendee’s likes/interests before, during and after the event can be precisely quantified and then brought back into a customer/member record. On a global basis, this can be used to improve future events and make mid-course corrections during existing events. On an individual basis, this will lead to much better personalization for marketing to an attendee or for improving an association member’s event experiences.

Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.