Our predictions for 2020 in the world of conferences and events

The Summary

2020 is now well underway.

With January now behind us, we creep ever closer to Spring and the re-emergence of those old favourites that we welcome every year.

That’s right, the predictions for what people are talking about in 2020 and what we at Purple Monster are concentrating on this year when designing events and conferences.

Over the last 4 weeks we’ve covered:

The environment and global concerns.
The pull for life-long learning
Consideration of diversity, equity and inclusion as authentic subject matter.
The desire to put physical and mental health on the agenda.

This week we give you the highlights of all these topics.

Giving you the opportunity to consolidate everything we’ve said and, as a bonus, you don’t have to read the other four articles. 😊

Here are the headlines…


Environmental sustainability

Everything that occurs in large-scale events has an environmental as well as a financial impact. With a more conscious approach to the planning of your conferences you can make huge reductions in those environmental and budgetary costs, with little or no visible effect on the delegate experience.

Our top tips

1. Take active steps to promote responsible transport options.

Ways you can reduce this impact:

  • Use systems to calculate the ideal location minimising travel for all your attendees.
  • Challenge the attendee list – the fewer people attending, the less travel. Can you do one main event, then a series of more local events to capture more people but reduce travel?
  • And finally – avoid people travelling at all – it is now possible to create highly engaging and interactive virtual events.

2. Provide alternative options to single use plastic water bottles and disposable coffee cups.

Ensure single use bottles, disposable cups, plastic cutlery etc are simply not available at your event. Insist that your venue takes responsibility for this and make it part of your policy that you won’t book venues that use such materials.

3. Demonstrate steps to reduce waste i.e. remove venue notepads from tables, minimal merchandise.

  • Be considerate around what needs printing – can agendas, slides and information be provided on an app or website rather than physically handed out?
  • Ask your venue to remove any notepads or printed material from the rooms you are using.
  • Be thoughtful when deciding merchandise or giveaways. We are not saying ban it all together but do people really need another branded pen or stress toy?

10 years ago recycling was not that widespread but it is common practice now. So we can do it. Think about it next time you are planning a conference and meeting.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

We talked about the inequities we’ve all grown up with, and how despite our best intentions ‘to be good’ it is a constant challenge to ourselves and to everyone to ‘check our privilege’ and consciously take time to consider a new and more diverse approach.

Our top tips

1. Ensure all panels, speakers, contributors have diverse backgrounds and thinking.

Consider these questions when planning whose voice is upfront at your conference.

  • Have you consciously considered who should be on your panel?
  • Are various levels of the organisation represented?
  • Are you hearing from your suppliers, partners and customers?

2. Be mindful about designing sessions that include everyone

Consider the less than obvious:

  • How far are the distances between sessions?
  • Is there good access for people with mobility issues?
  • Are icebreaker sessions considerate of the introverted?

3. Food is important – Remember to respect peoples’ choices around diet.

  • Ask the venue to provide fresh fruit as well as other more traditional sweet snacks
  • Ensure there is always plenty of water on offer
  • Consider the impact of a ‘heavy’ lunch on afternoon sessions


Physical and mental health

We always say that our main job is ‘to look after the delegate experience’ from the minute they walk into the venue until they leave at the end of the day or week.

Now we cannot be made responsible for each individual’s mental health or indeed their physical conditioning but as thoughtful conference designers we do want to create an experience that will be beneficial to people in terms of their physical and mental well- being.

Our top tips

1. Try and do something that is physically energising without being exclusive to others

  • Leave space in the agenda in the morning and at the close of the day for people to fit in their own way to re-energize.
  • Offer a gentler alternative. Yoga or Pilates is a great way to start the day. It doesn’t suit everyone but for the less physically competitive it can be a great way in to physical wellness.
  • Always ensure that there is plenty of water on hand throughout the days (in a reusable bottle of course)

Factor in well being sessions into the design. As well as the physical, include mentally stimulating options as a way to kick off your days.
Look outside of the ordinary. There are wonderful restful options out there like Street Wisdom and Zentangle and TED talks. Think about Including these in your conference design; Either share links to them or base your actual sessions around them.

Lifelong learning

In our article we looked at the difference between training and learning.

Highlighting these key points.

  • Training is normally short-term and focussed on a specific goal
  • Learning is much more long term and the goals far reaching
  • Training is either a skill or information presented to a student to understand and practice
  • Learning is more about self-discovery than copying or repetition
  • Training normally focusses on improving understanding and skills required for your role
  • Learning is much more about understanding yourself as a person
  • Training programmes are often group orientated
  • Learning is a personalized experience
  • The article was not designed to decry training and trainers. They play a crucial role in maintaining and improving organizational and individual capability.

On the contrary, we are certain that the best way to facilitate learning is to have committed and passionate teachers and trainers, but to go beyond the immediate knowledge and skills requirement and look holistically at the development of the individual.

So this year when you are thinking about your next meeting or your next workshop or conference, consider how much time you are able to dedicate to your delegates’ learning.

  • Allow plenty of time for reflection, after any session. The temptation will be to move onto the next piece of content rather than allow people the time to reflect on what they have just heard or experienced.
  • Ensure that your agenda includes experiential sessions where your delegates can feel what it is like to experience the shift in mindset. Yes, the content is important but how people react and respond is where the learning happens.
  • Be open to change. It’s the surest way we can think of to ensure you might learn something new.

So, there you have it; our BIG items to consider when planning your meetings and conferences this year.

  • Challenge your own thinking
  • Consider if you can shake things up a little
  • Make it about the attendee not about the content.

And if you need a little nudge in a more creative direction, please give us a call.

Good luck!

Download our updated planning canvas or get in touch with the Monster team to help you!