As we hit the midway point of 2019, industry insiders have been looking at some of the meeting trends for the year so far.
Diversity and inclusion at events, food and beverages, and safety and security are among the most pressing issues.
According to the Meeting Professionals International (the world’s largest meeting and events industry association), inclusion for all is arguably THE most important consideration today. However, a phenomenon that they have labelled “diversity fatigue” has created a negative influence on the genuine movement.
The MPI claims diversity advocates have used tactics based on “blame and shame” in a misguided attempt to increase awareness and gain support for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This has caused a backlash in some quarters.
Efforts are now underway to repair the damage caused by the misguided tactics and illuminate the case for inclusive practices in the correct way. Event planners have turned to neuroscience to ensure delegates are open to the concept of inclusion.
Science-based tactics reveal a “defence mechanism” can be triggered in our brain when confronted with a “blame and shame” culture. The MPI reports that this is a barrier to progress, as it causes people to shut down conversations about the topic in question.
When a select few are empowered to make the decisions, this suggests a lack of cognitive diversity. The delegates who don’t feel included in the decision-making process may switch off. Industry experts say it’s important to include people who have different styles of problem-solving in the debate because they can offer a unique perspective.
Food and drinks
Another hot topic is catering. Increasing pressure is on the chefs to create a menu that is locally grown and caters for anyone with a food allergy, or who is a vegan or vegetarian. It’s no longer enough to roll out a buffet where there are simply a few vegetarian options.
There are increasing demands on event planners to satisfy many dietary needs. The challenge is to keep within budget, as specialist foods and organically grown fare can be more expensive. Careful planning is the key, as some prior research, such as emailing out a questionnaire, will give you an idea of the dietary needs of the delegates.
It is reported that market prices for buying the food are on the increase, as are the labour requirements. This seems to be a sign of the times, as event catering becomes more complex.
In terms of sustainability, there is also pressure on the event planner to ensure the whole food chain meets this requirement. As environmental groups are increasingly urging people to cut down on plastic waste, as it’s having a disastrous effect on our oceans, there’s a growing trend to organise plastic-free events.
This can include banning plastic bottles and single-use products, such as drinking straws or plastic cutlery. At the same time, there are demands for creative and attractive presentation, or for new and innovative ideas, such as the vegetable garden – otherwise known as the “build your own salad station”.
A creative chef can lay out a stylish salad bar that’s designed to look like a vegetable garden, with increased freshness being the key to success. Having a chef at the salad bar, to help delegates create their own personal salad on the spot, is a good way of making sure a long queue doesn’t form.
Safety and security
It appears to be a sign of the times that event organisers are stepping up their duty of care among delegates. There have always been general emergency procedures and a communication plan in place in the event of a crisis. Now, event planners are increasingly making themselves aware of the local news in areas where they are staging an event.
They are looking for any signs of unrest or demonstrations that might put the delegates at risk. In addition, some companies are creating their own travel app as part of the conference planning. Attendees can download it on to a mobile device and will receive real-time travel alerts of any problems, whether it’s bad weather or any kind of incident.
Arriving at functions, delegates may find themselves having to complete more stringent checks before being admitted. The bottom line is that the organisers have a duty of care to everyone who is attending and must have a security plan in place that will cover any eventuality.
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