The year was 2009. Captain Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger saved the lives of 155 passengers on board a U.S. Airways Airbus that crash landed over the Hudson River, Bernie Madoff was on his way to prison, the Motorola Droid was all the rage and “Mad Men” reigned on television.
A lot has happened since 2009, and the meetings and events industry has also seen its share of changes. Here’s what some of the best in the business had to say about then and now industry trends since the last time we moved to a new decade.
Menus from the Academy Awards Governors Ball Menus that Barbara Brass, Vice President of Culinary Sales at Wolfgang Puck Catering and her team prepared reflect the gastronomy era. Everyone turning something into a powder, sphere or gel, Brass recalls. “Ten years later, we’re more refined than that. We’re still using molecular gastronomy, especially in catering, but it’s more understated and enhances the food.”
Brass also recalls the rise of fancy burgers, farm-to-table influences, fancy pizzas, fried eggs on everything, elaborate street food and novelties like edible gold. Today, the trend is pointing back to high-quality authenticity. “Menus had wordy, 15 to 20-word descriptions. Today it’s more like five simple words.”
Today, Brass sees a growing trend in using CBD oil directly in dishes, even at fast food chains, as well as diet-based catering. In addition, Brass also sees caterers and chefs using exotic herbs like chervil and sorrel and unique fusions like Israeli-Mexican cuisines, as well as “ugly” produce like the leafy parts and roots to vegetables we once threw away as not quite good enough is trending today.
Chef John Herdman from Éilan Hotel & Spa thinks back to the celebrity chef craze. “We have seen countless trends in the last ten years, but one that stands out the most is the beginning of the interactive cooking demo,” he says. “From ‘Iron Chef’ competitions to cooking classes, these were very popular, and I attribute this to the rise in popularity of the Food Network.
Pádraic Gilligan, chief marketing officer at SITE, says travels trends are a product of a generational shift. “Millennials now constitute more of the workforce. What floats their boat is decidedly different from what floated the super-yachts occupied by the Boomers!” he says. “Now qualifiers want authenticity and local experiences ”
Jenn Glynn of Toronto-based agency, Meeting Encore and President-Elect at SITE added, “The longer incentive programs of seven nights that we saw 10 years ago have been reduced to four or five. Similarly, many programs that ten years ago booked longer haul to Asia are now staying closer to home.”
Glynn also says “there’s a greater openness to destinations off the beaten path that offer unique, authentic experiences, and because of changing demographics family-friendly destinations are on the rise now. Ten years ago, it was all about couples.”
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“We really only had Facebook 10 years ago—sharing on Instagram and Snapchat, and influencers telling their stories were never a thing,” says Jeff Consoletti, founder and principal of JJ|LA. A decade ago, his company were only considering making offers to big A-list celebrities to promote an event. Today, talent budget could be spent on influencers like a college kid in Ohio with a million followers and a market share on a particular video game.
Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, DES, MS, owner of Corbin Ball & Co., sees the biggest driver for gadgets in the last decade was the release of the iPhone that helped model all smartphones. “Before that, we didn’t really have the concept of a mobile event app,” says Ball. “I use to call the onsite meetings ‘the black hole’ of event data management because you’re flying blind during the event as a meeting planner. You had paper surveys, but couldn’t do it in real time.”
Ball also sees the emergence of beacon technology to track attendee movement and help in networking and exchange leads is a rapidly growing trend.
Lectures are out and experiential learning is in at meetings and events, says Kristin Veach, president and principal of Trio Creative Communications. “Millennials want to contribute and be an active part in their learning at meetings,” says Veach.
She adds, “With the popularity of TED talks and dwindling attention spans, planners in 2019 are embracing and respecting different learning preferences and styles. Quick, bite-sized content keeps learning retention and interest high. Plus, millennials like different methods of content delivery.”
“Ten years ago, you needed to make sure you had enough easels with paper and markers or projectors with a big enough screen” recalls Miguel Diaz, director of sales and marketing, Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach. Now programmable LED chandeliers that change colors and light patterns at the touch of a button are commonplace.
“Registration has also changed,” adds Diaz. “What used to be a manual task of checking in attendees at a table, has shifted to being done online and simply picking up their badges and welcome packets upon check-in.”
Amy Popper, senior marketing manager at Marriott's Convention & Resort Network adds “Two hugely popular trends among groups that we're seeing is the need for health and wellness elements incorporated into meetings/events and the art of personalization.”
Christina Fischer, director of national accounts at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas, builds off the same theme. “Healthy food options have become the forefront of menus and accommodating dietary restrictions, whether allergies or preference, are now a norm in both restaurants and banquets,” says Fischer
“Ten years ago it was the chili cook-off and Iron Chef” says Mike Tidewell, Director of Sales & Marketing for Seaview, a Dolce Hotel. “They are both still fun, but there is so much more to do now, from socially responsible teambbuilding like filling backpacks for kids or building bikes.”
Jamie Huckleberry, Event Service Professionals Association President and Director of event services, of David L. Lawrence Convention Center, adds “Teambuilding in 2019 includes activities like axe throwing and Painting with a Twist sessions. In 2009, we saw minimal team building and when we did it, was in a meeting room.”
“Ten years ago we saw influences of farm to table, whereas now it’s more specific buzzwords like plant-based or local ingredients,” says Brass. Brass also says words like “lab-grown meat” and even “keto” and “gluten-free” weren’t on many people’s mainstream radars, whereas today that style of diet-based catering is in high demand.