Megan Diaz is the director of Business Development at Minneapolis Northwest Tourism, where she works to connect corporate groups and associations with the appropriate venue and resources for their meeting and event needs. She has an extensive background in hospitality and currently serves as the director of education for Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Minnesota.
It’s that time of year again: professionals across industries are making predictions for how to be successful in 2020; and the event industry is no exception. From technology and sustainability to food options and activities, there are a lot of moving pieces in today’s meetings industry and the trends are always changing.
Looking at the biggest trends in 2019 and forward to what’s to come in 2020, as director of Business Development at Minneapolis Northwest Tourism, I’ve rounded up a few tips to help leverage these trends and incorporate them into meetings and events in the future.
Let’s face it, we’re all glued to our phones and over-stimulated by apps, social media, the 24-hour news cycle and more. Most attendees will be bringing their own experiences, plus meeting new people and learning a lot of valuable information about their industry, so they could use a break for self-care and to re-focus. Some conferences have added meditation lounges or incorporated mindful breaks, where attendees are truly encouraged to unplug. Some other fun ideas include adding an oxygen bar or offering laughter yoga. Better yet, add a ‘puppy cuddle,’ and you can combine therapy/self-care and giving back by working with an animal rescue.
Keto, gluten-free, paleo, clean, etc.; it can be hard to keep up with all the fad diets and healthy eating movements out there; but it’s really best to just embrace it and use it to your advantage. Incorporate some of these trends into organized food breaks, by having a keto break or gluten-free break. Offering options like these makes it easy for those who are following those trends or dietary restrictions, but also makes it accessible to those who don’t or may be interested in eating healthier in general. It’s also important to make sure you are using sustainable practices with any foods served. Are you monitoring how much food you put out and offering compostable utensils? Do you have a plan for how to use/donate any unused food? Is the food locally sourced?
Conferences and events are a fun time to showcase what’s new and exciting. Bring in vendors that are upcoming, especially in technology. I’ve seen name badge companies, vendors who make a 3-D cast of attendees and others who put your face on a cookie. Think of it as a fun learning opportunity.
Conferences with a cause are all the rage — and for good reason. Everyone benefits from helping out an important and worthy mission. Take the recent Connect Marketplace Conference. During the opening party, they held a special program about the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and provided permanent tattoos for attendees with a donation to the cause. This is a great way to kick off a conference, by inspiring attendees and making them feel empowered. In Minneapolis Northwest, we are lucky to have one of the largest food banks in the nation — Second Harvest Heartland. The location in Brooklyn Park has a new volunteer center, offering numerous shifts for food packing, plus ample meeting space. Check out what’s available near your next event and help your attendees find unique ways to give back and engage in the local community.
From choosing a sustainable venue to planning an eco-friendly menu, making it a green event will not only benefit the environment, but will leave you and your attendees feeling empowered about making a positive impact. Start by selecting an environmentally minded community for your event. Look for a community that has more robust infrastructure, services, recycling programs, energy use, public transportation, etc. Once you’ve narrowed down a community for your event, connect with the area’s CVB to get general event recommendations and contacts, along with information on the local vendors’ sustainability initiatives and programs.
Bleisure — travel that combines business and leisure — is becoming increasingly popular, and it’s widely predicted to be one of the top travel trends in 2020. In fact, 90% of millennials reported having taken a bleisure trip in the past year in the 2019 National Car Rental State of Business Travel Survey. Understanding this growing trend of blurring the lines between work and play can help meeting planners develop events that allow attendees to get the most out of a business trip, while also leaving time for fun. It also means it’s more important than ever to pick event destinations that will entice attendees, including destinations with attractive elements like distinctive restaurants and breweries, natural sightseeing and unique activities.
Who says you can’t enjoy the great outdoors and take your next meeting or event outside the conference room?. Every event can use some crucial icebreaker or team-building opportunities that offer a change of pace and some much-needed fresh air. Luckily, in Minneapolis Northwest we have endless acres of nature, miles and miles of biking and hiking trails, and spectacular views of the Mississippi River with plenty of paddling adventures.
One of the main reasons for attending a conference is to better oneself and learn best practices, so why not extend that motive and offer additional professional development opportunities? Bring in vendors that can help attendees thrive and reach their future career goals. Speakers or vendors that can help with building resumes, establishing and improving their LinkedIn presence and various additional educational opportunities.
Planners are reaching out to CVBs and using us as a resource. Once you’ve landed on a city for your meeting, conference or event, I can’t stress enough how beneficial it will be for you to connect with the CVB or DMO. In my role as director of Business Development at Minneapolis Northwest Tourism, it’s my job to provide meeting and event planners information about hotels, facilities, attractions, restaurants and activities that will best fit your group. We can help lead you to planning your most successful experience that’s within your budget. And, best of all, we’re a completely free resource.
The keys to an event’s success are the takeaways from the attendees. Are they leaving feeling inspired and educated, with exciting new experiences worth sharing? Choose your speakers carefully and only get speakers that will draw people in and make the event more interactive. Offer fun and meaningful activities. Select a venue with a ‘wow’ factor. Promote your event with creative marketing collateral and social media. Show thoughtfulness by offering goody bags to attendees. Incorporate a fun theme and/or color scheme to match. C&IT