Event Industry Expert Trend Predictions

Meetings and Events

The event industry is dynamic, diverse and ever evolving. With years of experience and also possibly part hope, industry leaders share their ideas on how you can make the best of this year. And make sure you read the very interesting expert comments on “Bleisure Events” at the end.

Commercial Photos in Sydney CBD

The future of meetings and events

What does 2021 hold for the event industry?

Here’s a few points that we picked up on during Andrew Hiebl, (CEO of AACB) Christmas video message. Well worth noting.

  • Entrepreneurial spirit has driven new innovations to help people meet online and in person during the pandemic. Our diverse sectors also combined to speak with one voice to engage constructively with Government.
  • $50 million dollar business events grant program expected to distribute much-needed funds throughout 2021 to restart the industry, build confidence in demand, and support the supply chain.
  • New Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment will build on a solid foundation as an advocate within Cabinet, positioning business events on the platform to drive international capital and grow our economy.
  • 2021 will be a year of continued collaboration and consolidation.

Andrew Hiebl youtube video here https://youtu.be/-MOh0OJsvqc

All that is very welcome. Part of the last point we particularly like is the ‘collaboration’. One thing we’ve seen over a few decades is that when there’s consolidation the people and businesses that stay connected to their favourite association, chamber or professional body, and engage with their peers are typically the ones who will make it through a downturn and spring board into great success. Stay connected !

Change is not new

The department store dominance ended in 2020, some Instagram brands turned insta bland, Skype zoomed out of the vocabulary and so much more changed.

The events sector has had time to reset and sharpen or validate its offering. Very few industries (besides education) have a greater one on one impact on millions of people than the event industry.

Open question. Have we as an industry changed enough?

Turning up matters

When you go to an in person conference with 100 people for an hour you are in effect connecting with 100 people. That’s even if you chat with just a few people.

Just by being there sends non verbal messages.

  • It says I support this idea
  • This cause is important
  • Being part of this tribe matters

The one hour of time is multiplied by 100 in human benefit. Getting this from online only events is a big ask? To better our chances we need the assistance of behavioural science and philosophy experts. More on this towards the end of the article.

From Seth Godin book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.
“The Web can do amazing things, but it can’t provide leadership. That still has to come from individuals. People just like you who have passion about something.

Tribes will make you think (really think) about the opportunities in leading your fellow employees, customers, investors, believers, hobbyists, or readers”

Turning up to in-person tradeshows, seminars, meetings and awards ceremonies matter. Just ask the graduating University students.

“Face to face requests are 34 times more successful than by email”

Event industry professionals share their thoughts on 2021 and the future of meetings and events in Australia

“2021 will be a year of continued collaboration and consolidation to restart the industry, build confidence in demand, and support the supply chain.”

Andrew Hiebl

Entrepreneurial spirit has driven new innovations to help people meet online and in-person during the pandemic and our successful collaboration across all sectors has enabled the business events industry to speak with one voice and engage constructively with Government.

Andrew Hiebl, CEO. The Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) is the peak Australian business events network driving economic prosperity for Australia. The Association brings together Australia’s most influential city and regional bureaux, dedicated to marketing their specific region as premier business events destinations to domestic and international markets.

Association of Australian Convention Bureaux

“As Agencies, our role is to create a customer experience in and around these events.”

Alicia Beachley

After a year like no other, there is an exciting emerging opportunity in the events space. With so much fatigue around Zoom style calls, event participants are looking for experiences and interactivity especially as virtual and hybrid events are here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future.

As Agencies, our role is to create a customer experience in and around these events. This might be using a clever platform that can create real life visual sets, everything from main stages, to outdoor bars and coffee rooms, to virtual gin tastings and pre-sent swag bags.

The tech around virtual events is ever evolving, keeping up is the key to delivering the best event experience for all.

Alicia Beachley is founder and CEO of April5, a leading marketing services agency specialising in brand activation, experiential marketing and events.

“For anyone starting in the event industry this is a great time to learn new skills, be adaptable and see opportunities to engage your audience beyond the physical event.”


Last year was a very challenging one for the events industry. Personally, it was probably the most difficult of my 22 years in the industry but through it we found new ways to communicate and run successful events. I think that experience will shape the way we look at event management in the future with events this year likely to be run in a hybrid format.

For anyone starting in the event industry this is a great time to learn new skills, be adaptable and see opportunities to engage your audience beyond the physical event. Understanding platforms for streaming, virtual exhibitions and ways to communicate remotely are all things the event industry needs to have as part of its offering to delegates, sponsors and exhibitors now and into the future.

Veronica Kennedy-Good is MD of Mindshare Events, they specialise in the planning and management of professional events throughout Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. With clients across the telco sector that include the Satellite industry, CommsDay series and AusNOG’s annual conference while also servicing other telecommunications companies.

Mindshare Events

“Use consistency in digital services to reduce your clients cognitive load”

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“The event industry is particularly important in times like now. We bring people together, we connect brands to their customers and we educate & inspire.”

Libbie Ray

Remembering our core purpose in the event industry is particularly important in times like now. We bring people together, we connect brands to their customers and we educate & inspire. 2020 gave us the resilience we need to push forward into the unknown, the old will never be the current again.

2021 will show us exactly how creative and innovative we are, shaping the future of our industry. Our clients need us now more than ever, and our skills will be pushed further than we have been pushed before, this truly is the ultimate disruption of our industry and you are the change it desires. If we remember our purpose, and move on from the past, our future is bright and exciting.

Libbie Ray Co-Director with 20 years experience from running AV 24/7 in the face-to-face events world – and now with a deep understanding of virtual and hybrid challenges – we have brought all our expertise, people and services together in Connected Event Group.

Connected Event Group

“Hybrid events will provide new experiences that extend the purely in-person or online-only experience.”

Gihan Perera

As the pandemic recedes and restrictions ease, we’ll see a rush back to in-person events. But now that the mainstream business community has experienced the benefits of online events, they will continue as well. In fact, there’s a huge potential for hybrid events, which have two live audiences: one in person at physical venues, and another participating online from anywhere in the world.

In 2020, event organisers have wrestled with the challenge of providing the same experience for both audiences, but in 2021 and beyond, savvy event planners will find ways to create different experiences for these two audiences – with different access, learning, networking, sponsors and exhibitors, engagement, demographics, and reach.

In the same way the experience for live spectators at a sporting event is totally different from the experience for live viewers watching from home. Hybrid events will provide new experiences that extend the purely in-person or online-only experience.

Gihan Perera is a business futurist, speaker, and author who works with business leaders to help them lead and succeed in an uncertain but exciting future. He is the author of “The Future of Leadership” and “Disruption By Design”

Gihan Perera

“Event planners now need to deliver a customised experience that resonates at both the individual and collective levels.”

Liz Clark

The event industry has had a tumultuous 12 months.
For capitalising on 2021 opportunities we will need to re-focus on domestic tourism for “Bleisure Events”, the blend of business and leisure with personalisation come together to support Sydney’s local economy.

Event planners now need to deliver a customised experience that resonates at both the individual and collective levels when attending a covid safe in-person or hybrid event. Afterall, in 2019 domestic tourism in Sydney accounted for 12.7 million people – that’s a “bleisure” of client events to capitalise on!

As an experienced event manager, one can’t just specialise in managing an event anymore. It is now expected that you have the solution solving skills to proactively react and fill any gaps using your contact network, adding the recent grad or new staff techie resource to the team, creating strong business relationships in the events, hospitality and other industry sectors for a covid safe response.

As important, supporting local ethical and environmentally sustainable businesses is a must.

Liz Clark is a passionate boutique event curator and project manager, who with 15 years’ experience, carefully crafts ideas into unique event experiences.

Liz Clark has worked for international Fortune 500 firms building her event expertise to the best in services one-stop-shop for event planning with personalisation and enthusiasm. She curates events of all altitudes; corporate events, community-driven events, creative start-up functions, non-profit and philanthropic galas, international conferences, holiday parties, investment forums, kick-off meetings, corporate retreats, among many others.

Whether it’s a 100+ person start-up celebration or a 10 person team-building function, Liz excels at building client visions into a customised successful event.

Liz Clark Events

Event planner opportunities

If you’re an event planner and looking for sectors to target I’d suggest looking at where the money is.

Our prediction of the winning sectors for conferences and expos are;

Health and medical sectors that have and will continue to change at a rapid pace. There will be a need for more formal meetings to exchange knowledge and implementation of new processes en masse.

Also the technology evolution will continue at a rapid pace so may benefit from offline gatherings when online fatigue bites.
Financial services also made it on the chart below so another good one to target.

Check out the chart below from the Visual Capitalist. The chart adds weight to our prediction and experience on what we’ve photographed the last few months.

If you are looking for more events to manage in 2021, direct your business development rep to scout out a plan to target all these industries. Follow the money trail.

Event sector planning opportunities

Event manager opportunities – Billionaire growth chart

“For greater success in 2021 companies will need to turn online service interactions into human interactions.”

Online, offer a one on one video or phone walk through your website highlighting case studies and services.
In person, use your website as a brochure at the meeting, take samples or invite the prospect to your next event with one of your sales team to point out the detail, care and expertise. Turn your services enquiries into a more human interaction.

Looking back to plan ahead

Looking at search engine keyword trend data can sometimes help us get a better sense of how or where the market is heading.

As we did for our events during covid article last year. We carried out some research how common event focussed keywords have tracked the last 12 months.

Notes, the searches for conference also included press conferences i.e. State Premier press conferences. That may explain the big peaks.

Exhibitions;- South Australia has led the way, and second is Northern Territory. Possibly because of their achievements in controlling the spread which give confidence to clients and event organisers.

If searching for wedding dresses is a good indicator, venues and suppliers will be next in demand.

Wedding dresses, conference and exhibition – chart

Trend in events article. Wedding dresses, conference and exhibition

The rise and fall of the search for the term “Hybrid event” world wide. Australia is fourth on the list. (chart below)

‘Event management’ as a topic is picking back up which is great to see.

Hybrid event, Event management – chart

Hybrid event, Event management chart

Opportunity to convert online only events to hybrid

Hybrid is the new cool kid. There’s still a way to go yet in maximising the potential of hybrid.

There’s opportunities for online only events to go hybrid when there are physical products or services many of which are best demonstrated with real live human interaction.

Product demos and tradeshow events are perfect for live audiences and beaming live online with both video and still photos. It’s interactive and has greater engagement, this means better value to your clients and audience.

Opportunity to convert 20% loss of airline business trips to online events

In this survey presented by Idea Works shows how the pandemic will affect total airline business trip activity.

“As a recovery occurs in 2021, approximately half of the former trip activity (the 49
percent slice) will return as the business environment normalizes. But beyond this, 19
percent of business trips at a minimum will not return”

Being the optimist we can see with the more upbeat expectations with vaccines being pumped out in the millions that this could fairly quickly change the outlook for the second half of 2021.

airline business trips forecast

American Express global business travel survey

Work in 2021 GLOBAL TRENDS Report

Meeting planners are looking forward to resuming in-person events over the coming year. In the meantime, they are adapting to the current environment by making the most of technology.

Asia Pacific Region includes;

  • 1. Tokyo, Japan
  • 2. Singapore
  • 3. Sydney, Australia
  • 4. Shanghai, China
  • 5. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Source: Meetings Insights, American Express Meetings & Events client destination report, October 2019 – September 2020.

Meetings Insights, American Express Meetings & Events client destination report

Home Work – A new event frame work needs new habits (re behavioural science and philosophy)

A year of change is a year of opportunity, invention is better than reinvention but we’ll have a go at either. So too have many in the Australian events industry.

Behavioural science and philosophy experts have been talking about the subject of change and adaptation for yonks.

Check out The Behavioural Design Podcast by Samuel Salzer, habitweekly.com.

Also check out the concept of digital nudges to improve your online customer experiences. Listen here The Intuitive Customer by Beyond Philosophy.

“Digital Nudges build on Nobel-prize winning economist Professor Richard Thaler and Professor Cass Sunstein’s concept of Nudging. Thaler and Sunstein’s 2008 book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness explained that a Nudge is a way you present your customers’ choices that tips the scales towards a particular option. Digital Nudges are the same idea, but specifically to the online experience.”

The info graphic below by Monica Parker from hatchanalytics.com sums it up.


However we connect and do business, the psychological, the online (virtual if we must) and physically being together is what we must embrace. This is the time for strategic alliances and staying connected.

On a final note on this article, “the truer you lived in 2020 the greater the trust the tribe will have in 2021”

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