Events 2020: Trends and predictions

Updated: Apr 20, 2020


We may be fed up of hearing it, but change is coming for our industry. You might expect less UK based businesses to host events in Europe after we leave the EU, due to everything from trucking/transport to the free movement of delegates.

Yet, several overseas event managers and DMC representatives I've spoken with are not seeing any significant difference in the number of events booking into Europe this year and beyond. However, as budgets have been squeezed from a lack of investment and uncertainty in brands' markets, fewer events are going long-haul.


Sustainability became a tick box exercise during and following the Great Recession during the late 2000s and early 2010s, but it's not the case now. People care about the climate crisis and are making changes in their personal lives. Brands recognise it and don't want to be associated with anything bad for the environment. Their event strategies reflect this approach.

Sustainable events will be an even bigger talking point for 2020 onwards. The focus on reducing single-use plastics in events (see my expert 'how to' tips here) has moved on to food waste and beyond, covering wastage in general, and issues such as carbon emissions. Demand from clients for venues and events to be more sustainable is rapidly increasing, with many aiming for zero food waste and carbon neutral status events in 2020.

I've witnessed the growth in demand for sustainability in events I've managed, and many of my fellow HBAA agents have seen the same. Procurement and senior contract managers are demanding it upfront and including it at RFP and proposal stages, although it hasn’t trickled down to every corporate booker yet - unless they are passionate about the subject themselves.

Some venues and suppliers are starting to change but are way behind in their sustainability journey. I predict that those which have already implemented strategies will see a substantial increase in enquires this year as event buyers increasingly include sustainable practices in RFP’s.

Even fireworks can evolve to meet demand - stunning drone displays are already being used to elevate traditional fireworks displays, and they’re far more sustainable. Here’s an example of them in practice in Shanghai. The company behind this New Year's Eve display confirmed to the BBC that "the footage broadcast around the world was actually from a practice run on 28 December". So, it seems there’s still a way to go before organisers are confident enough to run a show that’s broadcast live around the world…

Even if our economy doesn't fare well after we leave the EU, sustainable events will continue growing. Either way, be warned, because consumers will begin to call out brands that pay lip service to sustainability!


Driven by the popularity of health and wellbeing, alongside sustainability, meat alternatives and plant-based foods will influence what we eat at events this year. This creates new opportunities for event producers and delegates, and will present challenges for some event managers and caterers.

While Lime Venue Portfolio research has shown that event buyers are more inclined to offer plant-based menus to delegates than ever before, it also highlights that organisers believe that choice is paramount.

Just when you thought the world wasn’t ready for events that altogether drop meat options from their menus in 2020, along came January’s Golden Globe Awards. The event hosts, Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), served up a 100% vegan menu at The Beverly Hilton, to mixed reviews.

In the same week, Burger King launched a new plant-based burger. Although the burger giant’s new menu item is unsuitable for vegans because it’s grilled in the same place as the beef, the brand is appealing to a rise in ‘flexitarians’ – those who want to reduce their animal intake of animal products but still eat meat.


- Augmented reality

Virtual reality (VR) was hailed as the next big thing in events several years ago, but we haven't seen it take off as predicted. 2020 will see its cousin, Augmented reality (AR - computer-generated content overlaid on a real-world environment), grow. In fact, according to a report from, the UK was Europe’s largest market for virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) in 2019.

Do you remember when Pokemon Go created a huge buzz from everyday kids and consumers in AR in 2016? Well, in practical terms for conferences, AR will have greater use for special effects this year. Tech companies and innovative brands love the latest toys at events, but AR is more than that. From CEOs messaging or improving the look and theming of events, to extending an event’s reach through social media buzz influence.

There are some creative examples of AR events use on, including number 8 with Rekorderlig and its summer ‘Rekorderland’ – a mixed reality experiential marketing location in London’s Southbank. Scroll to number 13 to see the ‘Magnum Beauty Store’. This fabulous fusion between Magnum and Benefit created the ultimate immersive pop-up experience where visitors could engage in activities such as the personalisation of ice creams and eyebrow shaping.

- 3D

When it comes to showcasing physical products, 3D models have been around for a few years, and interest is intensifying. It’s easy to walk into a retail store, pick up a product and view it from every angle; this experience can be replicated remotely without the use of AR apps or headgear. Using 3D technology online to ‘lift’, rotate, and examine everything from a new pair of shoes to your next car, provides huge opportunities for brands with digital event strategies.


Use of data analytics, such as looking at how people are booking onto ticketed events, will continue to grow in its intelligence. A great example of recent enhancements includes smart tracking of conference sessions/parts of events that people have viewed but not booked.

It's a gold mine for organisers of paid-for events, or managers of sponsored events, where feedback is crucial. It includes behavioural retargeting - targeting of users/consumers based on their previous actions. It goes way beyond RFID technology, which tracks movement around an event to measure the effectiveness of event flow and enables effective post-event communications.

Evessio is making waves in the area of events data insights. They’re all about using technology to build users’ ‘personas’ and driving meaningful decisions about the people and processes involved in event success.


I'll share a blog with more detail on GDPR and TOMS (Tour Operators Margin Scheme) in the next few months. But the critical point for this blog is that GDPR will become UK law after Brexit. So day-to-day event agency operations for UK events won't change. But if you're managing events with delegates travelling into the UK from Europe, contracts will need to cover data protection differently after Brexit.

Prepare your business now - agencies of all sizes can still plan and educate themselves, despite uncertainty on the Brexit specifics. GDPR and TOMS aren't going anywhere! Contact me (07921 210729 / if you'd like an expert review of your booking activity to see if TOMS applies. Likewise, I can review your current GDPR status and provide recommendations or even create documents and compliance training for your team.

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