A wise person once said: “There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes and change. You can’t avoid change, it’s mandatory, progress, however, is optional.” Funny thing is, most people view change with a degree of scepticism, claiming the old ways were best. While this can be true in some cases (facebook we’re looking at you) change can bring about positive and constructive improvements in many business sectors.
The event industry has changed drastically over the last 20 years. Gone are the days of stuffing 100 people into a room while you bore them to death with a power point presentation or force them to make awkward conversation with people they have never met before. People cannot connect with that style of event and as such turned their backs on it.
Following a severe recession and changing attitudes, particularly amongst the millennial generation, people are looking for experiences rather than possessions. No longer is materialism an all-encompassing feeling among the younger generations, but a desire to experience rather than own has become the growing norm. This trend has transferred to the events industry.
For example, more and more people are choosing to not own cars, but rather take an Uber for their journeys. Consumer’s no longer go to HMV and buy CDs, they use Spotify or other streaming services. While many would argue that this trend has not permeated into the professional world, there has been a marked increase in those no longer having offices for their business but rather work remotely or have virtual workspaces.
This desire to experience rather than to own is not a new trend, but it has gained significant traction in the last few years. No longer do attendees want to just turn up to an event and participate, they want to be enveloped in the experience, to really dive right into it.
The Technology Take Over
Technology, of course, has played the biggest role in the changing face of immersion in events. Facial recognition, tickets on your phone, VR headsets have all turned what was once science fiction into an everyday reality.
Popular sci-fi-comedy tv show Red Dwarf had an episode called Better Than Life, where the crew entered a virtual reality world where they could see, hear and feel everything around them as clear as day via a headset connected to their brains. While this is a few years off at the minute, the invention of VR headsets such as Oculus Rift and Hive, have brought a whole new level to interaction. You can be transported from a conference venue to riding on the wings of an eagle or battling aliens in space in an instant and truly believe you are there.
Alongside VR, events have tapped into the technological advances to bring activities to clients that are becoming increasingly appealing. GPS treasure hunts, coding, robotics and Augmented Reality are all becoming commonplace activity options for clients looking to bring the next generation of team building events to their teams.
Of course, there are the polar opposite trends that challenge the status quo. in 2019, this is those who are looking for unplugged events – ones with zero technology involved.
This can be done in several ways, from the moment clients walk into a venue and asked to put phones to one side, or in some cases may be taken by the organisers (in named envelopes) and returned after the event finishes. Certain venues have been requested by clients to not give out the WiFi codes so that attendees cannot access it and be distracted.
Sometimes this is used by clients to enhance concentration, or create a ‘tech-free zone’ however, some people are so desperate to be connected to the outside world and not miss a thing going on that they will struggle to engage with an event. While this is not often the case, with the invention of smartwatches, the level of 24/7 connectivity has increased.
Sustainability, Eco & CSR Events
With climate change reduction becoming more and more prominent in the news, the events industry have embraced this changing attitude of clients towards sustainable and ecological activities. Team building activities such as sustainable cooking (plan and cook dishes with little to zero environmental impact) are increasing in availability.
Even venues themselves are embracing and promoting sustainability as their USP. The Crystal, a world-class sustainable venue based in Victoria Dock, East London were awarded the highest Environmental & Sustainability building accolades from two of the world’s leading green and sustainable building accreditation bodies, LEED and BREEAM, who gave the building Platinum and Outstanding respectively.
Even venues who are actively showcasing their efforts to reduce single-use plastic, green energy or general sustainability are on the rise. There has been a rise in the number of clients seeking venues with good eco-credentials for their events, even if it means travelling further or spending more. This is a trend that will only increase in strength as the year goes on as a greater emphasis on green events is placed by client and agency alike.
Alongside the increased sustainability awareness is also the emphasis on charity/corporate social responsibility focused events. Some clients actively choose events whereby others will benefit, such as bike builds and charity cookery events, and even overseas mission activities building schools, clinics etc.
One trend, that should not be a trend but a genuine movement is the growing significance of mental wellbeing in events and the industry as a whole.
Mental health is very high on the corporate agenda in terms of the wellbeing of staff. In terms of activities and events, this can manifest itself in physical activities through to the more contemplative and introspective mental wellbeing type activities.
Companies and organisations are very keen to look for solutions to improve the health of their staff. This has usually been things such as gym memberships and private health schemes, many businesses are also very interested to incorporate wellbeing days.
A 2018 study of mental health in business conducted by You Gov found that just ‘16% of employees felt able to disclose a mental health issue to their manager’ and worryingly 11% of respondents who disclosed a mental health issue subsequently faced disciplinary action, demotion or dismissal.
However, there has been a genuine change for the better in mental health awareness in business. 71% of employees say they have the confidence to recognise the signs of poor mental health and 60% of employees feel their line manager is genuinely concerned for their wellbeing.
Return on Investment
With more companies using team building as an effective tool for increasing team communication, cohesion and productivity, many companies are keen to have measurable outcomes in relation to activities they lay on for staff.
Return on investment is an important element of any business. Are these activities a want or a need? However, it is a difficult one to quantify, as there is no way to really tell. Rewarding staff can be so positive in terms of not only their productivity but also their sense of being valued by the business, but can you put a price on that? This does hark back to the topic of mental health in business. If you don’t feel valued or wanted by the company, why should put in 100% day after day?
More and more companies are looking for a specific measurement in terms of the outcomes of their team activities and away days. This could potentially put companies on a collision course with their employees if they perceive workers to not be increasing profit for companies after having been on a team building activity.
That said, the value of happy, engaged workers and team togetherness is difficult to place, and as such, businesses should look at team events as a staff investment, not a business one.
While the trends above are not exhaustive, they are certainly the most prevalent ones. 2019 could become the year of real change. Immersive technology-driven events will become more commonplace and offer clients a whole new avenue of team experience. On the flip side, a total detachment from technology coupled with a concerted effort to only use/work with sustainable and ecologically-centric events and venues will gain significant traction over the coming months. Finally, worker wellbeing both physically and mentally, will take centre stage and ensure businesses really take a look at their own policies and procedures and make positive changes for the good of staff. After all, happy staff means happy business.