Responding to trends: When popular culture influences the events industry

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Responding to trends: When popular culture influences the events industryAt this time of the year, we have seen excellent trend reports and predictions for 2015 from media outlets, business leaders and event and technology organizations, all in easy-to-digest formats designed to move us to action.

We have learned about the fabulous new Pantone Colour of the Year, Marsala, and have thought about ways we may integrate this into event designs for the year. We have moved from kale to cauliflower and are seeking recipes to incorporate chia seeds. Craft beer and artisan vodka continue to lead the beverage scene, and vintage inspired cocktails continue to appear on menus across the nation. Forrester Research wrote The Mobile Mind Shift and predicted how mobile will be an everyday part of life – in business, as consumers, and as families with apps such as TeamSnap – so we integrate mobile apps into our meetings because our participants have an expectation that we will have one.

Staying on top

All this is to say – the meeting, event and hospitality industry does not create trends, we follow trends. We play walk-in music gleaned from the latest radio hits and seek entertainment from popular culture to incorporate into our events – seeking the cutting edge of extraordinary. We alter our menus to meet not only the reality of allergies and dietary requirements from gluten, lactose, dairy, nut and animal-based protein free inclusions to what is trending. Can we imagine having served Brussels sprouts on a group menu even a year ago? Now they are all the rage!

The colour palettes we include in our events are dictated by what we see in fashion, in a changing sensibility to our homes as we move from pristine to rustic chic, and from everything matching to unique and authentic components mixed in. We are changing the spaces in which we have conversations because society is shifting back to a time of being present and taking the time to have conversations.

When we offer experiences on our conference and incentive programs, we seek authentic and local, and we are offering lifestyle brand options in our hotel blocks. Culturally rich tours are again a shift we follow. As leisure travellers have demanded these experiences, the tour industry has responded, and new experience operators have sprung into action, and we follow.

Fear of missing out

Why do we follow trends? Because we have to. New events are created – from CL2 to PopTech and the World Domination Summit, while others who have responded to these cultural shifts – from Bonnaroo’s evolution to SXSW’s growth, Burning Man and the omnipresent TED as examples. They continue to enjoy growth, retention and a sense of notoriety that builds FOMO (fear of missing out) across generations. We are developing rich CSR (corporate social responsibility) programs that make a difference in the lives of local cultures we touch with our events, as we thoughtfully seek groups in need and offer support based on the experience and soul of our meeting participants.

As we develop programming, we are blending thought provoking keynotes with room for smaller Q & A periods with these speakers. We seek not only experts but those who can bring to life the ancient art of storytelling and engage audiences in a way that leads to further discussion and action. We follow the trends we are seeing in education, where greater involvement and interaction are demanded, and where the blurring of online and classroom are integrated across borders, and in the highest levels of learning institutions in the world. Age and experience are blended, and opinions all count. As destination marketers, we are using the intellectual capital in our cities and countries to lure events, to capitalize on the stature of the minds who are collaborating and innovating and truly shifting our world in positive directions as we learn from each other.

Is this idea that we follow trends, rather than create them, surprising, especially given how many of these articles on trends appear in our own industry publications? Is it our role as meeting and event professionals to be mindful of the shifts in the world and to use our power of bringing together collectives of knowledge to have the conversations that change our world? I think so, do you?

Please comment below – I would love to hear your ideas as well.

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