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Top Trends for Meetings and Events 2017

Trends come and go.

Some fleeting, some stick around. Following on our popular 2016 post I wanted to update you on what we at To Plan Ahead think are the most important trends for the upcoming year. These trends will inform and enhance the meetings and conferences we plan in 2017. I tried not to pick fads, that will come and go, but choose those things that will make our industry stronger, and our events more memorable.


  1. Brain Friendly Meetings. Our number one trend for 2017. Businesses and organizations have a lot of options today when hosting meetings and conferences. Professional meeting planners add value to events by ensuring that the experience of attending the event could not be duplicated by a virtual conference. Meetings should activate the brain, engage participants using all senses, and provide physical and cognitive breaks, ensuring the experience is valuable and memorable for all participants. Incorporating the principles of Brain Friendly Meetings can ensure that there is excellent value in physically attending a meeting or conference.
  2. Collaborative Venues. Last year our top trend was Unique Venues. This year one type of venue stands out, and that is collaborative venues. Venues that bring together seemingly unlikely partners in order to inspire innovation. The Collider ,here in Asheville NC is an example of a collaborative venue. The Collider promotes itself as a place “where business and science meet." Part co-working, part event venue, “The Collider is the world's only nonprofit innovation center focused on catalyzing market driven solutions to climate problems." A beautiful venue, with space to host over 200 people and a focus on collaboration between business and science, The Collider inspires creativity and innovation for meeting or conference participants. Also here in Asheville, The Asheville Art Museum is undergoing major renovations to “increase its capacity to serve diverse audiences and generate economic impact". They recently meet with local meeting and event professionals to help them understand best practices in our industry in order to better create a collaborative venue.
  3. Emphasize Local. This continues to be a major theme in meeting and conference planning. Participants do not want a generic experience, that feels like they have not left the hotel or conference center. It's important to research what an area is known for. Contact the local convention or tourist bureau if you are unfamiliar with the area. Plan to serve local food, beverages and entertainment, and provide opportunities for participants to get out into the community. Some of the best connections happen when people are not sitting in the conference room.
  4. Use Technology to Encourage Interpersonal Communication. There is no denying it, technology is here to stay. The purpose of in person meetings is to get the personal interaction. The trend is shifting from everyone hunched over their smartphone or tablet, to utilizing our phones and devices as a way to encourage face to face interactions. There are some great apps that encourage real communication, Geniso Event Magazine did a great job reviewing them here.
  5. Personalization & Customization. We are not talking about using technology to {Insert Name Here}, we are focusing on creating events that treat each participant as an individual, which allows each person to customize the experience to their unique needs. Provide opportunities for people from similar geographical areas, or similar industries or who have similar job titles to experience a conference or meeting in a way that is unique to them and satisfies their specific reasons for attending the conference.
  6. Focus on Health and Wellness. Continues to be a strong trend in 2017. In 2014, the MGM Grand partnered with Dr. Depak Chopra and Delos to create Stay Well Meetings,the program offers healthy environments for high-performance meetings with meeting rooms and spaces designed to optimize the health and well-being of attendees while complementing the existing Stay Well room and suite experience." This trend continues with Marriott now offering Stay Well Guest Rooms. If your venue does not offer them consider how you can bring health and wellness principles into your event.
  7. Politics and Disruption. It may seem that our industry shies away from politics, but in North Carolina in 2016, we went straight fromthe frying pan into the fire. When the NC General Assembly passed HB2, known as the “bathroom bill", conference and meeting professionals were forced to decide if they wanted to do business in North Carolina. With many other states considering similar bills, and a change of leadership in the Washington, we can only expect more craziness in 2017. Our industry can expect politics to impact not only where and when events occur but most importantly why meetings are being held.
  8. Innovation and Experimentation. Focus on just one activity, or aspect of the event and make it extremely memorable. You do not have to reinvent your entire conference. Innovate or experiment with just one aspect to make it memorable, and give it the WOW factor. Consider having Pecha Kucha style presentations, to keep presentations fresh and exciting. A Pecha Kucha presentation is 20 pictures each presented for 20 seconds while giving a 6 -8 minute presentation.
  9. Price Will Continue to Drive Decision Making. Venues will continue to be expensive- uncertainty will cause people to focus more on budgets. More than ever we will need to be on top of our game and demonstrate how our services save our client's money and create greater value, focusing on the goal or the “why" of a conference or meeting.
  10. Think of the Participants First. Think of them as part of the process, not as a number, but as full participants in the entire process. Put the needs of the participants first, and ensure they have a full and rich experience. Not only will the value the experience they will want to come back year after year!

Linda Nelson is a certified meeting professional, who plans meetings in Asheville to Austria, from Florida to France, around the globe or in your backyard. We can create an experience for you and your participants that are personal, professional, and productive. To Plan Ahead will take care of every meeting detail so you don't have to.

CMP