Devising new themes and content for events is exciting and radical, but it requires more time and a bigger budget to pull off successfully
It’s camel. If you haven’t yet quite reached the elasticated Blue Harbour slacks phase of your life in fashion but, like me, aren’t far off, then camel, you may like to know, is the colour to be seen dressed in this autumn.
If, on the other hand, you are interested to learn what’s new in the meetings market, then the latest trend to watch out for is “festivalisation”. Or so I was informed at a recent briefing by CWT Meetings & Events.
Festivalisation, apparently, means staging an event like, er, a festival. The setting is informal, participants wander between different sessions, serious business is mixed up with live music and comedy, and so on.
CWT took the idea one stage further for a pharma industry client by laying on an evening function that involved food served from trailers, DJs, folk music, hay bales to perch on and, to make everyone feel especially hip... wait for it... wristbands!
I asked CWT whether, in the interests of festival verisimilitude, it also located the event in a muddy ploughed field with just one chemical loo, no showers and tents from which valuables were carefully pick-pocketed in the small hours as the occupants lay comatose from over-indulgence. But no, apparently this option was not even proposed to the client.
My wearying facetiousness aside, I actually think this is a very exciting time in the meetings market. Whether it’s festivalisation or any number of other novel approaches, a tremendous amount of creativity and research is going into shaking up the format, content and even location of events to make them more effective and memorable.
A change of thinking
For those of you whose job it is to procure meetings rather than organise them, this trend requires a change of thinking. I have been privileged for many years to participate in a real festival, Glastonbury, as a musician, stage manager and compere. Seeing the event from back- and on-stage, I never cease to be humbled by the detailed preparation that goes into building and running what effectively becomes the West of England’s third largest city for a couple of weeks every summer.
So, put simply, if companies want to evolve their events beyond people in suits mumbling through PowerPoint presentations in a characterless hotel ballroom, they have to back it with more time and money. Think about just one of the latest trends in meetings. Instead of holding the entire proceedings in a hotel, organisers are increasingly looking for quirky locations to stage their daytime business, and another location for the evening entertainment. That means sourcing and contracting with three different venue suppliers instead of one. It’s a much more time-consuming undertaking.
Bigger, more varied productions require bigger budgets, which means buyers need to think about allocating more money per participant, or finding other costs to trim. Downgrading your accommodation choices is one option. But not so far, it would appear, as billeting people under canvas.